Artwork: Dora Budor, MANICOMIO!, 2017. Courtesy the artist. Image courtesy of Frieze.
The beauty of the avant garde is the way that it prefigures the times in which we currently fund ourselves. The best artists are both of their era and one step ahead, like psychics able to perceive where we are heading. Many of the works on view in the 2017 edition of Frieze New York were eerily prescient of the world in which we find ourselves today.
Consider the works from the “America” series of Andres Serrano, one of the most controversial artists of our times, which were displayed at Galerie Nathalie Obadia in a booth dedicated exclusively to his work. Made in the three years following 9/11, Serrano created a series of portraits that depict the face of the nation in its many facets, from Snoop Dogg to Donald Trump, a Boy Scout to an FBI agent, a Native American to a pimp.
Each portrait is rendered with the same stature and significance, with a respect and tenderness that Serrano gives to his subjects no matter who they are and what they represent. The result is complex, confusing, and compelling—what does “equality” truly mean? Is it a matter of law, morality, or something far more abstract, a level of idealism few can achieve in mind, let alone practice.
Taking it back to the old school, Crave fave P.P.O.W. won the Frieze Stand Prize bringing classic New York back to the forefront of the fair. The booth, which features works by Charlie Ahearn, Chris “Daze” Ellis, Anton Van Dalen, David Wojnarowicz, and Martin Wong, evoked a period of the city’s history long gone.
The brilliance of the works is the way in which they capture a period of life that was a quintessential part of the city’s fabric—until that fabric was gentrified. Now that the city is being whitewashed, it’s history erased, the art becomes more significant as it transforms into an artifact of what once was.
Prefiguring the present is what artists do best, as Tribute to Il Teatro Delle Mostre (1968/2017) most certainly attests. During Thursday’s VIP preview, Frieze Projects presented a restaging of La Spia Ottica (The Optical Sky), artist Giosetta Fioroni’s original work, which ran for an entire month in 1968.
Here, viewers were turned into voyeurs, a transformation they happily embraced as they were invited to look through a convex peephole into the entry door of the gallery and watch an actress perform the artist’s daily habits in a reconstruction of her bedroom. Much like the webcams that would capture the attention of every closet Peeping Tom, Fioroni’s installation revealed the desire for people to simply stare at women living their lives on their own terms.
Dora Budor’s MANICOMIO! (2017) set the fair ablaze by playing into the obsession with celebrity that has become de rigeur in this day and age. Her piece included in Frieze Projects, featured three men dressed as Leonardo DiCaprio characters from the films The Revenant, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Catch Me if You Can, each of whom roamed through the fair, playing into people’s unmistakable obsession with celebrity.
Given the fact that DiCaprio is a known art collector and art fair attendee, the performance played into the increasingly blurry line between fantasy and reality, revealing the desires people have to connect with status through mere proxy. One can imagine this as a harbinger of things to come, an era not too far in the future where cloning is not just possible, but profitable.
Ahh, the sweet smell of success—how it triggers so many people in ways that has them quick to play their hand. After Barack Obama accepted a $400K speaker’s fee from Wall Street bank Cantor Fitzgerald, the Internet was up in arms, with Senator Elizabeth Warren stepping to the fray, saying she was “troubled” by this.
And yet, the Internet hasn’t made a peep about the $500K sale of Robert Longo’s charcoal drawing Untitled (Obama Leaving) (2017) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac during the fair. Art imitates life, and life imitates art but let’s face it, the standards of judgment are arbitrary at best—or as Jenny Holzer wisely observed, “Symbols are more important than things themselves.” To a particular personality, it should be added.
Crave has compiled a slide show of other great works from Frieze New York for your viewing pleasure.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.