A Final Look Back at Frieze Week 2013

  • Every second counts during Frieze Week, and so last Wednesday, the evening before the fair opened, you could see people getting visibly nervous in front of David Zwirner as 6 p.m. came and went, and the doors for Jeff Koons’s first show with the dealer did not open. There was a lot to see that night: Rob Pruitt’s psychedelic installation at the old Passerby space, with its promises of ice cream and T-shirts, and Tobias Rehberger’s bar at the Hôtel Americano and—Mr. Zwirner finally swung open the door to one gallery at a few minutes before 7, gamely holding it for the masses as art handlers continued to work on the installation inside.

    Tate Americas Foundation

    A few blocks uptown, as the Vito Schnabel/David Rimanelli affair was getting underway in a disused space on the south end of the James A. Farley Post Office, guests for the Tate Americas Foundation’s triennial artists dinner—Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bravo’s Andy Cohen and an array of artists (Lawrence Weiner, Julie Mehretu, Frances Stark and Charline von Heyl) and their dealers—were streaming into the Skylight event space on the north end for cocktails.

    “Art matters—art changes lives, it changes opinions, it changes points of view—and you all have changed Tate and all of us for the better,” the foundation’s chair, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, told the hundreds of guests. Nicholas Serota, Tate’s director, credited Ms. Fisher with insisting, “even in the middle of what in Europe we continue to regard as a recession, to do an evening of this kind.” And then Simon de Pury, perhaps missing his days as an auctioneer, put in what was, even for him, a positively relentless performance for the charity auction, selling off a variety of experienced-based lots.

    The chance to have Nathan Carter assist with Christmas decorating sold for $11,000. A “career-guidance lunch” with the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Glenda Bailey (“that’s something I’m particularly keen on having!” Mr. de Pury crowed), made $15,000.

    The next lot was a day of shopping with Sarah Jessica Parker, plus a $5,000 gift certificate for Dior, a big Tate sponsor. “Sarah Jessica Parker is a person oooozing, oozing, oozing unbelievable charm,” Mr. de Pury offered. “I mean, it’s incredible. I once had the privilege in my previous life…to spend a split second with Sarah Jessica Parker in a reality TV show, Bravo, which changed my life.” (The two were on Work of Art together.) That topped out at $45,000, with Ms. Parker agreeing to two shopping trips.

    For the last of the six lots, Mr. de Pury turned to Greek collector Dakis Joannou and his wife Lietta: “You know what’s good, you know what’s important, you know what’s beautiful, and you know it long before anyone else! What you have done over the years is nothing short of amazing. And, amongst other things, you have an incredible yacht, the 115-foot yacht Guilty. Now, you know, there are one or two people who have even longer or bigger yachts than yours, but nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody else in the world has a yacht that was designed by Jeff Koons!” A week aboard the boat sold for $170,000. “The Phelans and the Rachofskys are going to have a divine, unforgettable time all aboard the Guilty!”

    Curatorial travel donations were hammered off at $20,000 one by one. Suddenly R. H. Quaytman was out of her seat and making a donation, bringing the whole artist theme of the dinner full circle. Using Mr. de Pury’s mike, she dedicated her donation to Tate curator Mark Godfrey. “But I don’t think you should auction off curators!” she said, completely deadpan.

    “No, no, we’re not auctioning off curators, we’re auctioning off tickets for curators,” Mr. de Pury said. He brought his hammer down on Ms. Quaytman’s table and then bounded away.

    “Thank you so, so much, Madam. Another $20,000. Thank you!”

    A Second Anniversary for Artspace

    On Thursday, Frieze opened at 11 a.m. to torrential downpours that quickly cleared, and by mid-afternoon the sun was shining over the East River, as the first groups began decamping by ferry and car from Randall’s Island for openings and celebrations around town. Mr. Koons’s show at Gagosian’s West 24th Street space opened right on time, a line stretching down by the block by half past 6.

    In the stately James Burden Mansion on East 91st Street, the newly minted strategic director of Artspace, collector and patron Maria Baibakova, hosted a dinner in honor of the art-commerce site’s second anniversary. At the risk of sounding naive—I’ve seen lots of beautiful things!—it was easily one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever been in in New York. Warren and Westmore, the architects of Grand Central Station, designed the building in 1901, which is now home to the Sacred Heart school.

    Ms. Baibakova toasted the crowd of dealers (Marc Glimcher, Thaddaeus Ropac, Dominique Lévy), museum directors (Thelma Golden, Chris Dercon, Philippe Vergne) artists (Wangechi Mutu, Angel Otero, Ryan McNamara) and investors. Husband-and-wife artists Rashid Johnson and Sheree Hovsepian had made a special print for the occasion. Artspace is all about collaboration, Ms. Baibakova said, “and what’s a better collaboration than a marriage?” Artspace, she added, “combines the good will we want to create with a viable business.” And after two years at Harvard Business School, she said she’s excited to be “coming back to the art world.”

    The crowd lingered over chocolates. There were still four more days of Frieze. No doubt there would be more reunions to come.

    Artists Space Toasts Douglas Crimp

    The Artists Space gala honoring Douglas Crimp on Saturday night was broken into two parts, the first held at the nonprofit’s storefront space at 55 Walker Street, where multiple copies of multiple volumes of In Search of Lost Time sat just behind the bartender’s heads.

    After a performance by Suzanne Sachsse and Marc Siegel, Cindy Sherman, Gabriel Orozco and Lawrence Weiner mingled at the back of an exhibition on André Cadere. Up by the front was Michael Stipe, who wanted to talk about the sculptures he’s been making, but was clearly trying not to ruin some kind of exclusive he had with Vanity Fair, or wherever.

    “It’s just something that happened,” he said. Recently? “No, seven years ago.” Big or small? “Big.” Had he ever shown them? “No.” Was he going to? “I can’t tell you that now, but I will be able to tell you where I’m going to show them in November of this year.”

    Then it was time to go two doors down, where we were to eat. This required everyone to head out to the sidewalk. Some weren’t sure it was time to leave yet, they thought there would be some kind of signal. “Maybe Irving Sandler heading over there is the signal,” a colleague speculated.

    “Is this where we go?” asked Clarissa Dalrymple, near a door.

    “No, those are the steps to the basement,” said Stefan Kalmár.

    Everyone had to cluster outside at the second door as they waited for admission, and seemed equally obliged to smoke a cigarette as they did so. Inside the second space they ate duck and carrots and drank red wine.

    The artist, writer and AIDS activist Gregg Bordowitz then gave a passionate introduction for Mr. Crimp which began, in part, “I am who I am today because of Douglas Crimp.”  He’d introduced Mr. Crimp to those fighting the spread of HIV in the city, and Mr. Crimp taught him how to be passionate about art.

    “This is a man who once reported that he desired to lick the surface of a Brice Marden painting,” Mr. Bordowitz said.

    Mr. Crimp gave his speech afterward, which mostly thanked people like Mr. Bordowitz and Helene Winer, a former director of Artists Space. “I’ve been extremely lucky in my life with my friendships,” he said.

    Mr. Crimp curated the “Pictures” show at Artists Space in 1977, which featured Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Philip Smith, and led to the development of the term “Pictures Generation.” The show’s legacy still surprises him, he said at his table, especially since most people didn’t even see the show, but only read his catalogue essay for it in October.

    “It was a time when there wasn’t really a sense of direction in the art world and there had been up to that point, this movement followed that movement,” he said. “I guess it was my  understanding of the task of criticism at the time, which was to say, ‘this follows this,’ so I guess I gave it some kind of coherence. But also the artists were doing something legitimately new.”

    “To tell you the truth I wouldn’t even presume to answer what the role of art criticism is anymore,” he added. “I’m working on a memoir so I’m more interested in how I became a critic. Plus the art world is way, way, way, way, way bigger and there’s way, way, way, way more money. I don’t think there is such a thing as an art world. I think we can say at that time it felt like there was, but now there are hundreds of art worlds.”

    It was certainly the week for that sentiment. Robert Longo gave the evening high marks, saying he normally avoided Frieze-related events, and had only gone to one other one in the past week. What did he think of the fair itself?

    He looked at me over his tinted lenses and said, “Artists don’t go to art fairs, bro.”

    ‘Expo 1′ Arrives

    The main room of the Museum of Modern Art looked like it was underwater Saturday night, illuminated by cyan lights and studded with round tables that glowed like bioluminescent jelly fish. Perhaps the effect was intentional, given the ecological slant of “Expo 1,” for which the dinner was being thrown by Klaus Biesenbach, Glenn Lowry and Volkswagen’s Hans Dieter Pötsch and Jonathan Browning.

    A series of speeches began after the guests—James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Adrian Villar Rojas and Doug Aitken—took their seats. Mr. Biesenbach discussed the urgency of the exhibition. “CO2 levels are at an all-time high in three million years,” he said, eliciting an ironic cheer from artist Meg Webster. It wasn’t until the end of his speech that he explained why a bright yellow plastic flower was dangling around his neck, which earned giggles from the crowd whenever the half-dozen flat screens installed around the room showed  it close up. It turned out to be a solar-powered Little Sun designed by artist Olafur Eliasson, who is distributing them in off-grid areas of the world (and to MoMA’s dinner guests as party favors). Mr. Eliasson’s work in “Expo 1″ consists of 850-year-old chunks of Icelandic glacier. “I like to call them our little ice cubes,” said Mr. Biesenbach.

    Once the crowd worked its way through dinner, Martha Wainwright took the stage in cat-eye makeup and a black jacket bedecked with sparkly orange birds. “We tried to find three songs that fit with the theme of the show, which was hard because most singers tend to sing about themselves,” she said. Not even the wonky acoustics of the space could detract from her voice as she belted “Country Roads” for her final number.

    Dessert was paired with another performance, this one from an artist who more than a few people thought was Mr. Biesenbach’s niece after his slightly accented introduction. Her name, in fact, was Mileece, and she sang ethereal vowel sounds while controlling loops by stroking fake flowers equipped with sensors. “I hope this exhibition is as fantastic as it’s expected to be,” she said in conclusion.

    By the time dinner ended, a crowd was already swirling around the sculpture garden for the after-party. Volkswagen logos were visible everywhere, even at the bottom of the shallow pool leading to Aristide Maillol’s sculpture of a falling woman.  “It’s like Gatsby,” said one guest, of the highly visible sponsorship. As the hour grew late, party-goers slipped out one by one to visit the Rain Room, before heading off into the night.