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From Pussy Riot to Baby Heartbeats at the Frieze Art Fair in New York

From Pussy Riot to Baby Heartbeats at the Frieze Art Fair in New York

By Silicon Allee’s international correspondents Don Oparah and Roy Malkin in New York

Around 200 exhibits from the world’s finest contemporary galleries rubbed shoulders with audio installations and interesting talks at the third annual Frieze Art Fair in Manhattan last weekend. The event took place in a custom designed 250,000 square-foot temporary structure on Randall’s Island.

Established in 2012 by the founders of Frieze Magazine, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, Frieze New York aims to create the ultimate art fair experience, focusing on influential contemporary galleries and living artists.

Keynote speakers at the event included Stedelijik Museum director Batrix Ruf alongside exciting young artists Helen Marten and Jordan Wolfson. Orit Gat chaired a panel discussion with Tyler Coburn, Gene McHugh and Christiane Paul on the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web looking at its impact on the world of art.

Operating Under the Constraints of Censorship

On the Friday, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Remnick spoke to Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina of feminist art collective Pussy Riot, three of whose members were jailed for a protest in a church in Russia in 2012. The interview covered topics including Pussy Riot’s motivation and how political artists operate under constraints of censorship. Tolokonnikova, speaking in her native Russian, explained that wider censorship has arisen in Russia to limit the use of obscene words in public following a widely popular soccer chant insulting the Russian leadership.

“If you start talking seriously about what is happening to us in Russia, it’s really grim,” she said, “What you can expect as an art activist in Russia is anything from jail, to being beaten up or murdered.”

Elsewhere, the Stand Prize 2014, awarded to the most innovative gallery stand at the fair, was won by Greengrassi from London. The small boutique gallery took home a cheque for $15,000 (€10,950) and will now look to advance its exhibitory repertoire which has recently included installations from Allen Ruppersberg and Lisa Yuskavage.

Frieze also invited hip local restaurants to display their own artworks – albeit of the instantly consumable, eminently tasty variety. The big hit of the event was Momofuku Milk Bar’s irreverently named and decadently tasting Crack Pie; a salty sweet delight with an oat cookie crust that seemed almost as addictive as its namesake.

A Relentless Quasi-Futurist Thrum

In order to sate all the artistic senses, Frieze Sounds featured specially commissioned audio installations from international artists Keren Cytter, Cally Spooner and Hannah Weinberger. Cytter’s piece, Constant State of Grace, was a hypnotic, otherworldly work aiming to provide a moment of self-awareness in the crowd, and a respite from the high-energy atmosphere at the fair. The relentless, quasi-futurist thrum reminded the listener of a science fiction movie, with overlapping male and female voices recanting absurdist, almost brainwashing instructions.

Weinberger’s new composition, Hey, was a less disconcerting work, but heavily layered with ambient field recordings overlaying a bass line provided by the sound of a heartbeat from the artist’s unborn baby with the aim of exploring the “sensorial landscape of the fair, transforming immaterial ambience into a symphony of social interaction.”

A major returning feature from Frieze 2013 was the Frieze New York Education program, hosting an instructive and entertaining array of tours and workshops aimed at the artists of tomorrow from public school groups in New York – maybe some of the kids learning about contemporary art today will be the curators and art critics attending in the future. For students already studying art, New York’s Florian Meisenberg presented a multimedia installation to illustrate the concept of transitional space.

With the value to the local economy estimated to again be close to the $100 million mark, excluding purchases of artworks, it’s clear to see that this young fair has a bright future as part of New York’s thriving modern art scene – and it will be back next year.

About Silicon Allee

Silicon Allee
Silicon Allee is an independent English-language news website which has been covering the startup scene in Berlin and across Germany since June 2011. It is foremost international news source for the exploding startup scene in the German capital.

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