Another year, another success! With all of its new programming, this year’s edition of Frieze New York brought new energy to the fair, from a change in layout to a more curatorial feel. When reflecting on our favorite works, we realized most of them were a result of these efforts! Here are a few standouts:
Our first stop was the highly anticipated Shady by Kapwani Kiwanga, winner of New York’s inaugural Frieze Artist Award. A recent interview revealed the site-specific work’s ties to “the intersection of colonialism and nature via the land.” This connection is best reflected in her use of shade cloth, which is a key tool in African agriculture. Likened to Mondrian for its visual simplicity, there is no questioning the work’s conceptual complexity and its lasting impact on fairgoers.
Where we found ourselves walking around Kiwanga’s piece to take in its message, other works invited direct audience interaction. One such work was Ana Mazzei’s Espetáculo. By presenting her wooden sculptures as chairs, it was Mazzei’s desire that “inviting audience intervention will bring people closer to the work.” In a setting where keeping your distance from works of art is good practice, using physical proximity to evoke a deeper connection was a powerful tool.
The power and austerity of Dave McKenzie’s Furtive Movements was almost indescribable. The work takes its name from law-enforcement vocabulary associated with New York’s own contested stop-and-frisk campaign. McKenzie’s performance was originally billed as the meditation of a “magician,” a description as innocuous as the gestures examined, like placing a hand in one’s pocket. The reality of the harmful consequences of these visibly harmless actions lingered well after the performance.
Other performances included Suffragette City, led by artist Lara Schnitger. Several times over the course of the fair, a crowd dressed in suffragette-inspired outfits designed by Schnitger staged a procession. The soft chanting, bell ringing, and reverential lifting of sculptures and textiles representing the ways in which women have been shamed transformed the act of political protest into an almost religious experience.
Last, but certainly not least, is Adam Pendleton’s Black Dada Flag (Black Lives Matter). Frieze New York’s first six-month installation, this work will remain on Randall’s Island until November 1. The site we’ve come to associate with music festivals and art fairs holds a controversial place in this city’s history of race relations. Who better than Pendleton, who created through “Black Dada” a theory by which to examine history through an African-American perspective, to reclaim it? The feeling of seeing Pendleton’s flag fly against the city’s skyline will stay with us for quite some time.
Needless to say, we’ll be thinking about this fair for a while. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store!