Frieze New York 2014 highlights: from a restaging of Al’s Grand Hotel to artful boat trips round Randall’s Island

Frieze New York 2014 highlights: from a restaging of Al’s Grand Hotel to artful boat trips round Randall’s Island

As far as art fairs go, the Frieze franchise knows how to deliver. Despite being dampened by drizzle, the London fair’s younger New York sibling got off to a good start yesterday with visitors venturing over choppy waters to Randall’s Island for a first look at what the weekend has in store. Officially opening today, Frieze New York (9-12 May) touts a more cohesive programme this year, along with its consistent roster of big name contemporary art gallery participants.

There may not have been many surprise additions to the line-up, but Frieze has taken pains to create a memorable experience for art aficionados and casual gallery-goers alike. Its Frieze Projects programme of specially commissioned artworks is a particular highlight this year. The series of site-specific projects take place all over the island, even on water, with New York-based artist Marie Lorenz offering fairgoers the chance to join her in a makeshift rowing boat and tour Randall’s Island’s surrounding shores. Extending her previous concept, for which she led people around New York Harbour by boat, Lorenz’s tour offers visitors a rare, fresh perspective of viewing Frieze.

Another Frieze Projects triumph is the restaging of Allen Ruppersberg’s mythic project, Al’s Grand Hotel. Back in 1971, the artist created and opened a fully functioning hotel for six weeks. The seven rooms were functional, themed installations and provided a place to congregate and generally have a good time. Despite being asked repeatedly over the years to reprise the hotel, Ruppersberg refused, until now. The persuading factor came in the form of Public Fiction, an Los Angeles-based gallery and publication run by Lauren Mackler, who produced an iteration of Ruppersberg’s concept for her own exhibition back in 2011. Says Mackler about the project: ‘I was inspired by Al’s concept and reached out to him. We had several conversations and he gave me a box full of ephemera from the original hotel – photographs, receipts, postcards, the original letterhead, everything.’

After several attempts over the years to return the ephemera to Ruppersburg, Mackler finally tracked him down again in 2013 - good timing since the older artist had been asked by Frieze Projects’ curator, Cecila Alemani, to recreate the hotel. Together, Ruppersburg and Mackler have re-staged the lobby and two rooms right in the middle of Frieze. Complete with hotel stationery, a seating area, a front desk, the new hotel has been recreated to impressive detail. Even the backdrops and textiles have been contributed by Maharam. Best of all, it will receive guests in both rooms, each night of the fair.

On scoring this coup, Alemani said, ‘I think [Ruppersburg] really liked the idea that this fictional space would only be around for five days, and then cease to exist. It really is in keeping with the spirit of his original concept.’

Elsewhere around the fair, we were particularly struck by Modern Art’s series of pixilated paintings by British artist Mark Flood, which each depict a familiar icon, and Andrew Krep’s installation of large, wood-framed tapestries by Goshka Macuga. David Zwirner packed a punch with its combination of Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd pieces, while Gagosian Gallery played it cool with a series of new lithographs from Ed Ruscha.

Even the food at Frieze is worthy of acclaim. This year’s selection sees pop-ups from some of the New York’s most loved and fashionable names, such as Danny Bowien’s Mission Cantina, Carroll Garden’s Court Street Grocers, Roberta’s in Bushwick, Momofuku Milk Bar, The Fat Radish and Marlow & Sons. We’re not ones to go hungry, even for the sake of art.

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