New York soaks up al fresco culture at Frieze Sculpture

The fair’s public art initiative pitches up at Rockefeller Center for its inaugural New York edition

Behind the Walls, 2019, by Jaume Plensa
Behind the Walls, 2019, by Jaume Plensa, presented by Richard Gray Gallery and Galerie Lelong. Courtesy of Frieze
(Image credit: Timothy Schenck)

‘I was thinking about scale, verticality and horizontality; for some works you have to look up and some works you have to look down, and these also become strategies of engagement,’ Littman told us, adding, ‘What I didn’t want to do with this installation is fight against the urban backdrop, the architecture, and the crowds too much – that would be a losing battle in space like Rockefeller Center.’

Kiki Smith’s bronze female sculpture, Rest Upon (2009), dozes with a lamb at the plaza’s flower-lined entrance on Fifth Avenue, creating an interesting juxtaposition between the figure’s demure posture and its position amid the dense crowds. Elsewhere, Nick Cave’s Untitled (2018) morphs from a tenacious Black Power fist into a larger-than-life gramophone.

Arguably the most striking intervention is Ibrahim Mahama’s jute flags, waving in lieu of the 192 UN flags that normally encircle the Rockefeller Center’s iconic ice skating ring. The specially commissioned installation of fifty flags, crafted by the artist in his native Ghana from used cocoa bean bags, delivers a strong political punch, touching on themes of slavery, economic disparity and oppression. 

Pace Gallery, Frieze Sculpture

Rest Upon, 2009, by Kiki Smith, presented by Pace Gallery, Frieze Sculpture.

(Image credit: Timothy Schenck)

Frieze Sculpture New York

Archetype of Joint Effort, 2019, by José Dávila. © The artist. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York

(Image credit: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano)

Frieze Sculpture New York

Untitled, 2019, by Ibrahim Mahama, presented by White Cube.

(Image credit: Timothy Schenck)

y Ibrahim Mahama, presented by White Cube

Untitled, 2019, by Ibrahim Mahama, presented by White Cube. Courtesy of Frieze

(Image credit: Timothy Schenck)


Metnedaruth, 2009/2014, by Aaron Curry.

(Image credit: © The artist. Courtesy of Michael Werner Gallery)

Frieze Sculpture New York

Cannibal Junkie, 2016, by Rochelle Goldberg. Courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

(Image credit: Joerg Lohse)


Frieze Sculpture is on view until 28 June. For more information, visit the Frieze website


Rockefeller Center
45 Rockefeller Plaza
New York


Osman Can Yerebakan is a New York-based art and culture writer. Besides Wallpaper*, his writing has appeared in the Financial Times, GQ UK, The Guardian, Artforum, BOMB, Airmail and numerous other publications. He is in the curatorial committee of the upcoming edition of Future Fair. He was the art and style editor of Forbes 30 Under 30, 2024.