From afar, when drifting out of the East River’s fog and closer to the sprightly groomed lawn of Randall’s Island, Frieze New York 2014 looks like a massive wedding party. There is a band playing just outside the 250,000 square foot tent hosted by Naama Tsabar, and Marie Lorenz is along the shore, inviting guests on boat trips. But as you walk a bit farther and see a man contorted into a ball on a fragmented jungle gym, you start doubting human anatomy and remember that you are at an art fair, after all.
Inside the winding structure are flecks of neon and steel artworks, unnervingly similar to that of the Armory Show, which took place only two months before on the opposite edge of Manhattan beside the Hudson River. The proximities of the trade shows makes it ludicrous to demand a drastic change in galleries’ rosters or market trends, and raises the question of why there are two shows so close together at all.
Site-specific curating truly seems to have made a difference as incoming skylight drew out the subdued color of neon as a contemporary prototype of pastel rather than the customary, electrified fluorescence of signage. The citrus-colored acrylic sculpture by Berta Fischer at Galerie Karin Guenther, for example, was carved in a way where the edges glowed entirely by natural and external lighting independent from the work itself.
The bubble-like luminosity suspended throughout the fair and traveled back in time for “Al’s Grand Hotel,” a revival of Allen Ruppersberg’s seven-room lodge on Sunset Boulevard, which was open as a fully operating hotel for six weeks in 1969 during the Conceptual art movement in California. For four days during Frieze, two rooms — a bridal suite and the Jesus Room — were constructed between neighboring galleries’ booths and rented out to guests for $350 or $375 a night.
By the end, like most other art fairs, the hyper-inundation of art within one temporarily constructed space caused hints of queasy, dulled apathy. But the great part of Frieze was that this fate was wholly accepted and playfully treated, as artificiality extended even beyond the exit and through the fog, to a gigantic lawn converted into a surreal soccer field by Eduardo Basualdo.