Frieze 2023 – The Good and The Very Good

by Anne Avramut
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Memorial weekend is on our doorsteps and everyone in NY is breathing out after the May art fair season. And what a season this has been! After Tefaf, Independent, Frieze, Volta, Nada, Future and 1 54 you’ve seen it all – who’s in, who’s hit and what changed from last season. 

My personal favorite this May was Frieze. One way or the other Frieze always delivers. With 68 galleries, ranging from the usual suspects in the Alpha category to small emerging galleries, from altogether 27 countries, the 11th edition of Frieze NY is a snapshot of what the art world’s status quo is. 

This is the 2nd edition at the Shed and the proximity to the city and especially to Chelsea has the advantage, that the fair visit can be extended by visiting lots of the galleries showing at Frieze in their close-by locations. 

The first display that immediately caught my eye on the main floor is the retrospective like solo of Jack Whitten’s work at Hauser & Wirth.  Titled “Not Just a Formal Exercise”, after a quote by the artist, H &W has shown works that were predominantly black and white, with a few grey tones thrown in for the good measure, ranging over a few decades of production.

Another outstanding piece that I couldn’t get enough of is an exquisite play with form and texture, with softness and hardness, in metal and sponge by Jannis Kounellis, from 1997, shown by White Cube.

Just opposite the aisle Goodman Gallery presented a powerfully emotional self portrait of Shirin Neshat, whose piercing eyes practically looked into the depths of your soul.

Alexander Gray Associates had one of the most outstanding pieces of the whole fair on display: an intricate “Bandaged Grid” by Harmony Hammond.

Gagosian pulled a trump card up their sleeve and showed a Nan Golding solo with a series of thematic collages. The one living in my head rent free is a piece showing varying back of torsos, moving between a Greek Aphrodite, the sleeping Hermaphrodite, Renaissance men and contemporary photos. 

A beautiful surprise was the piece “The Ghost of Orsay – The Stary Night” by Sophie Calle at the Perrotin booth. Calle recollects her memories around her history with the building thatz used to be a hotel and now is a museum and the notes she took at the end of the 70s when she was exploring the abandoned building. 

My favorite booth by far was the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery one. The theme of the booth was women of 1973 – the year the Supreme court ruled in the “Roe v. Wade” case that the Constitution of the USA generally protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to have an abortion. The political statement was underlined by “Keep abortion legal” pins the gallery was distributing for free. The booth showcased an impressive line-up of female artists (Hannelore  Baron, Lee Bontecou, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Nancy Grossman, Louise Nevelson, Alma Thomas to name just a few) and works they have all created 1973. The piece-the-resistance was Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Kolo I/Orchidee I.

Words by Anne Avramut

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