Since its debut in 2003 the London based Frieze Art Fair has become one of the most recognized contemporary art events in the world but only last week the well-respected art fair crossed the Atlantic for the very first time. More than 180 galleries from 30 countries took part in the inaugural edition of Frieze New York, May 4–7.
Although Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, the organizers of Frieze Art Fair, had talked about expanding their sensational art fair for a couple of years now, no one was quite sure what the end result of Frieze New York was going to look or feel like. To get an “insider’s view” of the much-anticipated event, Arterritory.com spoke to the representatives of four Scandinavian galleries – Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Johan Berggren Gallery, Crystal and Standard (Oslo), which were amongst the pioneers of the significant momentum.
“I was concerned that they couldn’t get the same quality here but they did. I think that they have done an amazing job and they must have worked very hard to get the right people to make the structures,” said Nicolai Wallner, the director of Galleri Nicolai Wallner (Copenhagen). “For a gallery and for a dealer it’s very important that the structure – the walls, the floors – can show your works in the most suitable way and I like that the organizers, Matthew and Amanda, have had their eyes on every single detail. Everything has been taken care of in an extremely professional and well organized way,” continued Wallner.
It was the gallery’s previous experience at FriezeArt Fair in London that persuaded Nicolai Wallner to take part in Frieze New York. “We have been part of the Frieze art fair for about 9 years. It convinced me that they could do a similar job here – to make an extraordinary fair. We have not been taking part in any New York fairs for several years so I wanted to come back and this was a great opportunity to do so.” When asked to share the gallery’s insight of any distinctions that this new edition has displayed, Wallner confessed that what he liked about the fair was the fact that it was actually not that different from Frieze Art Fair in London – “It has the same very high standards. The quality of the galleries is the same as in London and the works brought here are of a very high class.”
Jonathan Breggren Gallery (Malmö). Photo: Arterritory.com
“From my perspective Frieze New York had a very high level curators and collectors attending the show. That’s very different from what I have previously experienced,” explained Johan Berggren, who runs an emerging art gallery in Malmö (Sweden), which was participating at Frieze Focus section, where only galleries opened in or after 2001 and showing an arrangement of up to three gallery artists were selected to exhibit. Established in 2009, Jonathan Breggren Gallery has already explored such art fairs as Art Brussels (First Call section) and Liste Basel. “Usually it is a younger gallery context and people view the fair as such. Here, however, it is a mix of very highbrow galleries and a gallery like mine, which I think is one of the youngest. But people treat it the same way – with respect and interest. That’s nice.”
Katarina Sjögren co-director of a Swedish gallery titled Crystal was also very pleased with the outcome of Frieze art fair’s solo project section Frame, where the gallery was representing a Swedish artistic duo called Goldin+Senneby. “We had previously wanted to participate at the Frame in London but somehow we didn’t apply to that. However, once we saw that Frieze was coming to New York, we felt that it would be very exciting to be part of the first edition of this fair. We are really glad to be here and we are so thrilled that we got accepted.”
“When we did the Armory Show, we were part of the Nordic section, which mainly focused on where the gallery was from but here we are together with younger galleries, our international peers, which is very interesting,” said Sjögren. When evaluating these two experiences of Frieze New York and the Armory Show, Katarina Sjögren explained that – “I think that the whole atmosphere is very different. I am not saying that one is better or worse than the other but being here in a tent on in island feels very different than being in a darker pier. Both of them have been good but they are very different.”
Although the inaugural edition of Frieze New York took place in a bespoke temporary structure, designed by Brooklyn-based architects SO – IL, its location on the less-travelled Randall’s Island (Manhattan) was initially deemed as inappropriate.
“If about half a year ago you told New Yorkers that you would be part of a fair at a place called Randall's Island, they looked at you like you were insane and tried to explain that nobody would go there. Randall's Island was only for people to take their kids to play softball,” said Nicolai Wallner. “They also made it sound like it was really impossible to enter. But recognizing that there is a highway going directly to the island (laughs) and that the fair has arranged water and bus shuttles, I think everyone has found it easily accessible,”the gallerist continued. “I think New Yorkers have been digesting the idea of leaving Manhattan for the last six months. They have organized themselves and recognized that it was not than difficult. Most of the people we deal with travel around the world so if you can go from Manhattan to Basel, you can also go from Manhattan to Randall's Island. I think that everyone realized that.”
“It makes sense that it is outside of New York, that you actually make an effort to come here,” shared a representative of the Norwegian gallery Standard (Oslo).
Katarina Sjögren from gallery Crystal even said that – “coming here is like an adventure – you go on a ferry and it’s in the park. We couldn’t be happier.”
It seems that the day before the fair was about to close all four Scandinavian galleries were very pleased with their experience at the inaugural edition of Frieze New York. They had received an overwhelming interest from the visitors and the response regarding their expositions and represented artists had been very promising.
“You always do a lot of consideration before taking part in a fair. We planned this for a long time,” admitted Nicolai Wallner, whose gallery at Frieze New York was showing a variety of artists including Jeppe Hein, Joachim Koester, David Shrigley, Chris Johanson, Alexander Tovborg, Jonathan Monk and Elmgreen & Dragset. “It’s hard to say why we brought exactly these artworks. It’s a combination of what we thought was suitable to represent and what was interesting to show together.”
When asked about the salesWallner confessed that regarding this topic he is very conservative. “I only confirm a sale when the money is in our bank account. There have been a lot of “I would like to buy this” but for me it’s a sale when the invoice is paid. But we do have a few definite sales.” One of such was Jeppe Hein’s pavilion priced at 100’000 USD.
Standard (Oslo). Photo: Arterritory.com
Standard (Oslo) confirmed that they too had had some very successful sales including Matias Faldbakken’s Box Sculpture, which was purchased for 30’000 EUR.
“I have sold number of things from the exhibition booth and from the gallery’s books, from the gallery storage so to speak,” Jonathan Breggren was delighted to say. The dealereven mentioned that regarding some of the artworks by Fredrick Værslev, Andrei Koschmieder and Allison Katz, on the displayed at the gallery’s booth, the attention had been so intense that “it’s now a question of who is actually going to move first. As you might say in English – the bottle is about to pop. We will see.”
Katarina Sjögren was also close to closing a deal. “I am nervously updating my phone because at the moment I am working on a sale. We are excited but we cannot celebrate yet.” The unlimited edition of Goldin+Senneby’s artwork – an instruction manual and furnace, which gallery Crystal was showing at the art fair, increases by 20% in price with each sale. During the Frieze New York it was priced at 35’000 USD.
Some of the high-value transactions that did take place at the first edition of Frieze Art Fair included Metro Pictures selling a Cindy Sherman photograph for 950’000 USD; Galerie Gisela Capitain shifted a work by Martin Kippenberger for over 1’000’000 EUR;Victoria Miro reported selling four ‘Infinity Net’ works by Yayoi Kusama priced 535’000 USD each; David Zwirner parted from a piece by John McCracken for 750’000 USD and two works by Donald Judd priced 500’000 USD each; and Anish Kapoor’s mirrored sculpture was purchased at Lisson for 500’000 GBP.