Frieze New York 2021: the highlights

Today, Frieze New York throws open its doors to physical visitors at the new location of The Shed. From immersive outdoor Augmented Reality (AR) to social justice initiatives and emerging talent, here's our curated guide of what to look out for, online and offline from 5 - 9 May 2021

Exterior view of Frieze New York 2021's new venue, The Shed, designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
(Image credit: Brett Beyer)

Today (5 May), Frieze New York will boldly open as planned, the first fair in the city to do so in more than a year. Over 60 international galleries will occupy the brand new location of The Shed in Hudson Yards – a glimmering sign that the city is inching back to normalcy.

In pre-pandemic times, May was undoubtedly one of the busiest months on the New York calendar. Traditionally kicking off with the Met Gala and the concurrent opening of the Costume Institute’s fashion exhibition (both of which will be held in September this year) and ending with the close of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (now scheduled for November), this dynamic confluence of culture means the Frieze New York atmosphere will, no doubt, feel a little different.

With strict health and safety protocols in place, and a powerful social justice message that 50 galleries have chosen to participate in, this year’s edition promises to be like no other. Read our top tips for a safe, immersive, and memorable Frieze New York 2021, whether you're in the physical or digital space: 

Winner of the Frieze Art Prize 2021 Precious Okoyomon 'Earthseed', Exhibition view at the Museum Für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2020

Frieze Artist Award 2021 winner Precious Okoyomon's 'Earthseed'. Exhibition view at the Museum Für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2020.

(Image credit: Axel Schneider)

Frieze New York takes to The Shed 

Frieze New York 2021 is excitingly being staged at The Shed, leaving its Randall's Island venue for the first time since the fair launched in 2012. Specifically designed to produce and foster innovation and creativity in all forms, the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed space is one of the best-equipped venues in the Big Apple to meet the needs of a major event during these times.

The Shed boasts a modern ventilation system that has already been fitted with Merv-16 filtration, and ambient air turns over at least once every hour. Timed entry tickets, along with the requirement for proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours before arrival, a rapid antigen test within 24 hours before arrival, or proof of vaccination, are part of a multi-tiered approach that aims to assure guests and exhibitors of health and safety. Wherever possible, a one-way traffic flow has been instituted and hand-sanitising stations have also been installed throughout the venue. 

‘This is a time for creativity, flexibility and collaboration, all of which have led us to an exciting opportunity to hold a smaller fair at The Shed, alongside Frieze Viewing Room online that will connect galleries and audiences all over the world,’ says Victoria Siddall, Frieze Art Fairs’ global director. 

Awol Erizku, Untitled (Fo rces of Nature #1) , (2014) Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts and the artist

Awol Erizku, Untitled (Forces of Nature #1), (2014), which featured on the cover of the 'Vision & Justice’ issue of Aperture magazine. Public Art Fund, in partnership with The Cooper Union, will present a free virtual conversation between Awol Erizku and curator Daniel S Palmer on 10 May to accompany the artist's JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City and Chicago

(Image credit: Ben Brown Fine Arts)

Vision & Justice Project honoured with commissions by Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas

One of the most significant cornerstones of this year’s fair is the tribute to the Vision & Justice Project, founded by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, associate professor at Harvard University. The educational initiative is dedicated to expanding visual literacy and examining the role of art in understanding the relationship between race and citizenship in the United States.

At its heart are two new commissions by Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas, who have each created homages to the project. Weems’ work comprises monumental images of unique book covers for the artists and scholars originally involved in the Vision & Justice Project in 2016. Thomas, co-founder of artist activist platform For Freedoms, recreates his iconic Who Taught You To Love? (2020), from the group’s billboard campaign, while, also realised with For Freedoms, artist Mel Chin reveals a new billboard in solidarity with the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. 

Hank Willis Thomas x For Freedoms, Who Taught You to Love? (2020) at Frieze New York 2021

Hank Willis Thomas x For Freedoms, Who Taught You to Love? (2020).

(Image credit: Freedoms and the artist)

More than 50 participating galleries in the fair have pledged their support to the Vision & Justice Project’s cause by having their programming respond to the question: ‘How are the arts responsible for disrupting, complicating, or shifting narratives of visual representation in the public realm?’

‘The question of how visual representation functions in a representational democracy to expand our understanding of who counts requires all of us,’ reflects Lewis. ‘So this collective engagement with the mission of the Vision & Justice Project by [this number of] galleries at Frieze feels significant. It is also fitting, since the work of artists is central to the mission. In the end, the tribute raises fundamental questions about the new potential of art fairs for social engagement, and highlights the relationship of the private act of looking, even at an art fair, for the public work of justice.’

Women Are Heroes, Action in Favela Morro da Providencia, Maria de Fatima, day view, Rio de Janeiro, 2008.

JR, 28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes, Action in Favela Morro da Providencia, Maria de Fatima, day view, Rio de Janeiro, 2008. The piece is part of Galeria Nara Roesler's ‘Surpassing margins’ on Frieze Viewing Room, which pays tribute to the Vision & Justice Project 

(Image credit: TBC)

Precious Okoyomon wins 2021 Frieze Artist Award

New York-based multidisciplinary artist Precious Okoyomon is the winner of this year’s Frieze Artist Award, which provides an opportunity to present an ambitious commission at the fair. Supported by the Luma Foundation, Okoyomon will present a performance-activated installation conceived specifically for The Shed. This work extends Okoyomon’s practice by bringing together poetry, sensory elements, sculpture, light and sound in a celebration of self-expression and the value of the collective shared experience. Aiming to create what the artist describes as ‘a portal for a space of fragilisation’, the performance will be filmed and streamed online from the fair’s opening date for viewers around the world to experience.

Precious Okoyomon 'Earthseed', exhibition view at the Museum Für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2020.

Precious Okoyomon 'Earthseed', exhibition view at the Museum Für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2020.

(Image credit: Axel Schneider)

Jenny Schlenzka, executive artistic director at Performance Space New York and one of this year’s jurors, says, ‘Simultaneously playful and critically inquisitive, this singular artist-poet’s work highlights the inevitability of change, decay, death, and rebirth. By extending poetry into the organic world, Okoyomon reminds us that apocalypse and utopia coexist and always have.’

Editor's picks: what not to miss at Frieze New York 2021

Aside from heralding significant milestones, Frieze New York will push the envelope on several other fronts:


The section of the fair dedicated to young galleries and emerging artists has been assembled with the advice of gallerists Olivia Barrett and Sophie Mörner. It sees exciting talents presented by galleries that have been in operation for less than ten years, from Shanghai, Lisbon, Bogota, Los Angeles and New York.

Olga Balema, Interior biomorphic attachment, 2014/2020 Steel, foam, latex at Frieze New York 2021

(Image credit: Gregory Carideo)

La Prairie artist commission

Luxury skincare brand La Prairie, an ardent supporter of the arts, unveils a time-focused work by Hong Kong-based artist Carla Chan, inspired by her artist’s residency at the Monte Rosa Hut near Zermatt in the Alps. The specially commissioned piece celebrates La Prairie’s new partnership with Frieze New York and Frieze London, expanding its commitment to investing in art and culture. 

Carla Chan, Space Between The Light Glows, commissioned by La Prairie for Frieze New York 2021

Carla Chan, Space Between The Light Glows, commissioned by La Prairie for Frieze New York 2021

(Image credit: TBC)

Augmented reality

In a nod to the ever-converging worlds of technology and art, ‘The Looking Glass’, is an exhibition of augmented reality artworks curated by Acute Art’s artistic director Daniel Birnbaum and The Shed’s chief curator Emma Enderby. It premieres works by Kaws, Cao Fei and Precious Okoyomon that spring to life on a smartphone when viewers arrive on site. Also visible through the Acute Art app, these works blend the physical and virtual worlds with an element of surprise.

Cao Fei, RMB City AR, augmented reality, 2020. Courtesy Cao Fei and Acute Art

(Image credit: Cao Fei and Acute Art)

Frieze Viewing Room

For those unable or not yet ready to visit the fair in person, the Frieze Viewing Room, now in its third edition, beams works from 160 galleries from six continents directly to your screen. Built to facilitate discovery and boasting improved image loading times, mobile functionality and user experience, the platform showcases a wide cross-section of works at all levels of the market. 

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Seduction, 1986. Courtesy of the artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Seduction, 1986. 

(Image credit: Altman Siegel)


Frieze New York at The Shed and online, 5 – 9 May 2021


545 W 30th St
New York, NY 10001


Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.