The avalanche of art making up Frieze Week 2019 may be different from that of years past, but that hasn’t changed the fact that, as usual, the vast amount of it is overwhelming. Even if there weren’t nine other fairs in the city that pop up along with it, that’s especially true of its titular mainstay, Frieze New York. Luckily, it’s also become a guarantee that those unwilling to take the ferry to and from Randall’s Island for a closer look can get a virtual tour of the fair through those who had the stamina to wander the nearly 200 booths that make up its 2019 edition.
With the exception of Jenny Holzer’s latest edition of her “Redaction Paintings,” which tackled the Mueller Report, much of those exhibiting at this year’s Frieze seemed to be playing it safe.The most exciting works were those that broke free of the booths, like a completely life-size recreation of a New York City bus that visitors were free to board for a closer look at the its many details, many of which were softer than they appear. Somehow, it blended right in with all of the other Instagrammable works on display; the only giveaway that the artists Red Grooms and Tom Burckhardt made it back in 1995 is a sign showing the cost of the fare, $1.25. (Ownership of the bus altogether, on the other hand, will cost you $550,000.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be an art fair without some sort of reflective surface from Yayoi Kusama. The orbs that make up Narcissus Garden served as a welcome mat of sorts for those who entered the fair’s north entrance, which also featured Chris Ofili’s largest canvas to date. Galerie Lelong also chose to take up some floor space, in the form of a rainbow painted by Sarah Cain, which spanned the entirety of its booth.
P.P.O.W also played with the fair’s format; there were practically no white walls in sight at the cash-only stand where Steve Keene was selling paintings he’s been making on plywood at the fair for as little as $10—though purchases came with the price of wading through the constant hordes of those also looking to take home a piece of the fair for themselves. It was certainly this year’s most affordable hit; works like Olivia Erlanger’s three sculptures of mermaid tails trailing out of washing machines, on the other hand, cost $12,000 apiece.
Meanwhile, the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) had taken over the Park Avenue Armory, bringing many of the galleries who typically show at Frieze along with it. Some of the most exciting works could be found above the fair, like an amorphous pink sculpture by the artist Aljiosha hanging over the booths, and a custom neon installation by Frida Fjellman in the Moose Room, on the Armory’s upper level. Of course, there was plenty to take in downstairs, too, including a sizable terracotta and raffia sculpture by Simone Leigh.
Last but not least, this year saw 1-54 make the leap from Brooklyn to Manhattan, bringing its namesake blend of works from the 54 countries that make up the Africa continent along with it. It’s a testament to just how vibrant the works are that there, unlike practically every other fair, two-dimensional works were the biggest hits on Instagram, including paintings by Nirit Takele, Richard Mudariki, and Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga.