Now in its fourth year, Frieze New York is a well-oiled machine, with more than 190 contemporary galleries from 33 countries exhibiting works that are exciting and challenging as well as remarkably cohesive. Striding among the stands, arrayed along an easy-to-navigate north-south axis beneath a vast white tent on Randall's Island, one feels not only the rhythm of the art market (smooth on the surface, frenetic to the core) but also the pulse of art itself: strong and steady, syncopated and addictive.
But Frieze has never been a fair to rest on its reputation. As founders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp prepare to hand over directorial duties to Victoria Siddall, the New York edition also debuts Spotlight, a new section for solo presentations of 20th century art. The 16 participants include Garth Greenan Gallery presenting the work of Howardena Pindell, whose large, encrusted, unstretched canvases evoke the fossilised confetti of an ancient birthday party.
Among the fresh crop of Frieze Projects is a salute to the 1976 installation 'Flux-Labyrinth', joyfully reimagined by Amalia Pica, John Bock and the Gelitin collective. The project of Pia Camil set the strange sartorial tone for Wednesday's VIP preview, during which the earliest arrivals were treated to the Mexican artist's 'habitable paintings' - patchwork ponchos that appeal to a certain type of exhibitionist bargain hunter (they are free to visitors, who are encouraged to wear them in the fair).
As usual, some monumental works quickly gained landmark status ('Meet me near the beer cans!' chirped one preview attendee into her phone, eying Kader Attia's 'Halam Tawaaf' (2008), a thick ring of 2,978 crushed cans that fills the floor near the Lehmann Maupin stand. Other early favorites include Paola Pivi's feather-covered polar bear - 'That's right you better believe it' (2015) - climbing a wall of Galerie Perrotin's stand in the shadow of a Xavier Veilhan mobile. Meanwhile, few could resist the DIY charms of Jonathan Horowitz's paint-a-black-circle challenge at the Gavin Brown's Enterprise stand, particularly because the artist rewarded those who successfully completed the task with twenty dollars.
Stands focusing on the work of just one or two artists often pack a punch. A case in point is David Zwirner's juxtaposition of the work of John McCracken with that of Franz West, the latter accentuated by furniture designed by the artist (Zwirner is now the exclusive distributor of Franz West furniture, selling several pieces at the preview). At Salon 94, the painted-on-eyeball photographs of Laurie Simmons share the spotlight with Marilyn Minter's enduringly intoxicating brand of smudgy glamour, while around the corner the NASA-inspired bricolage of Tom Sachs communes with objects from Anton Alvarez's recent thread-wrapping residency at the gallery's downtown outpost.
Frieze can be an emotional roller-coaster, sending visitors careening from a haunting Michaël Borremans canvas at Antwerp's Zeno X to Fredericks & Freiser gallery's immersive celebration of Gary Panter, whose dense, colorful, and almost rebus-like canvases are hung against a massive, stand-sized chalk drawing created by the artist ('People say 'Great wallpaper!' It's not wallpaper,' notes gallerist Jessica Freiser).
Somewhere between horror and whimsy is the abundance of splendid surfaces on show; from the beaded canvases of Liza Lou and the filigreed brass 'Ghost Vines' of Teresita Fernandez to a large ombré canvas in bright, buzzing purple (achieved with silk dye and powder-coated aluminum) - a new work by Matti Braun. Hung on an outer wall of the stand of Berlin's Esther Schipper gallery, it demands notice and, for some, contextualising. 'It feels like a [James] Turrell, doesn't it?' said one fairgoer to his companion. And then they were off.