Randall's Island, a small islet on New York City's East River, has historically been a place for outsiders - once home to an orphanage, asylum, and a reform school - however this weekend, the island was very much a destination for the inside. Boat-loads of art lovers descended on the island for the Frieze art fair's inaugural New York edition, where a 250,000 sq ft serpentine-shaped tent, designed by SO-IL (Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu), held pop-up booths for 180 of the world's top galleries.

The expected blue chip gang were in attendance, and appropriately situated near one another: at London's Victoria Miro, generations of talented female artists were represented, including Alice Neel and Yayoi Kusama, and Sarah Sze; while White Cube gallery dominated in the British male lot, offering up a Hirst case filled with fish in formaldehyde; Antony Gormley's concrete Room II sculpture, and a glass paint-on-aluminium 'painting' by Gary Hume.

Across the corridor at Sprüth Magers, Barbara Kruger's 2012 work 'Too big to Fail' seemed to be a nod to the fair itself while a quartet of Astrid Klein collages from the 1980s recalled a freewheeling past. Meanwhile, New York's David Zwirner Gallery devoted the entire booth to Minimalism, with works by Fred Sandback, John McCracken, and Donald Judd, among others.

On the other end of the tent, big guns Hauser & Wirth and Lisson Gallery were on form: in Hauser & Wirth's immaculate booth (featuring works by Matthew Day Jackson, Subodh Gupta, Roni Horn, and more) a bright blue dwarf by Paul McCarthy giggled at passer-bys, while across the corridor, a beguiling and monumental yellow Anish Kapoor disc at the Lisson Gallery stand kept the uplifting colour scheme going.

While big galleries brought out their best, it was some of the smaller galleries that stole the spotlight: works by Gillian Wearing, Dirk Stewen, and David Salle made Maureen Paley gallery a draw; cow-hide loveseats by Richard Artschwager and intricate drawings by recent Guerlain Drawing Prize-winner Jorinde Voigt had Mayor Bloomberg lingering at David Nolan Gallery's booth; and a space-station like geometric sculpture by Buster Graybill at Jack Hanley Gallery had adults and children alike enthralled.

The fair was not just a visual feast, but also a literal one. On the its opening night, dealer Gavin Brown and actor Mark Ruffalo 'performed' a Rirkrit Tiravanija-inspired piece, cooking and serving sausages to the crowd; at Breeder Gallery's booth, fair-goers could crack walnuts between the legs of Jennifer Rubell's life-sized reclining nude Barbie figure; and in the booth of Andrew Kreps Gallery, Darren Bader's sculpture offered guacamole out of a French horn. Gallery booths were flanked by food stands (both inside and outside) from some of the hippest downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn eateries, including Roberta's Pizza, Fat Radish, Frankies Spuntino, and the Standard Hotel Biergarten.

Playing to the island's history, curator Cecilia Alemani invited eight artists to use the site as inspiration for the Mulberry-sponsored Frieze Projects, resulting in a carnivalesque shadow puppet theatre by Ulla von Brandenburg; a collaborative work by local schoolchildren with Tim Rollins and KOS (Kids of Survival), painted on (appropriately) Thai mulberry paper and inspired by the story and score of A Midsummer Night's Dream; a commissioned short story by American novelist Rick Moody; and a chance to have your own bust cast by artist John Ahearn (a reconstruction of a legendary 1979 exhibition 'South Bronx Hall of Fame').

Despite the overcast weather for the start of the fair, the airy tent was flooded with natural light and this, along with the spacious booths and generous corridors, made for a very uplifting art-viewing experience.

This up-note rippled across the East River, with dozens of art-related events taking place in Brooklyn and Manhattan. In West Chelsea, the NADA fair took over the former DIA building on 22nd Street, with galleries like Nicelle Beauchene, Ana Cristea Gallery, Gavlak Gallery, Lisa Cooley, and IBID Projects showing top works. Meanwhile gallery shows like Richard Avedon and Lucio Fontana at the Gagosian, Liam Gillick at Casey Kaplan, and Dana Schutz at Friedrich Petzel, were crowd-pleasers.

Downtown, the New Museum opened shows by Phyllida Barlow, Tacita Dean, Klara Liden, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Burg, and Ellen Altfest; and Lower East Side galleries were brimming with visitors for 'Downtown' night. Over in Brooklyn, the collaborative indie fair seven @ SEVEN, located in a former industrial boiler room, was as wildly popular as its Miami edition.