Is That a Sausage at Your Art Fair, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Kerstin Brätsch, “Ham and Pearls” (2012). (Courtesy Paper Monument)

Sausages have been a popular form of meat transportation since the days of hunting and gathering, and they make an appearance in literature as early as Homer’s The Odyssey, but 2012 is proving to be arguably the most important year in the history of sausages because of their ubiquity at the inaugural Frieze Art Fair in New York.

Our first encounter with sausages at the fair was at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, who had the most sausage-centric booth of any art dealer. Rirkrit Tiravanija, known for making art installations that also serve as large meals (like a curry lunch staged recently at MoMA), made an edition of 60 sausages that sold out at $500 apiece on the first day of Frieze. Installed in Mr. Brown’s booth was a large metal sculpture, also by Mr. Tiravanija, of sausages hanging from a meat rack (the piece was on reserve, so we were asked by the gallery not to print the price, but let’s just say these were by far the most expensive sausages at the fair, and possibly the most expensive sausages in the history of sausages, unless you consider sausages to have been worth more in the days of cavemen because “worth” means something more esoteric to you and you are able to separate the concept of value from the capitalist marketplace, which is a totally reasonable argument to make about sausages).

Then, on the day of Frieze’s VIP opening, Mr. Brown himself put on an apron and started cooking actual sausages in his booth with the actor Mark Ruffalo (he was rallying support for his anti-hydrofracking campaign, called Water Defense). We thought this was pretty neat because they both have great beards and we thought Mr. Ruffalo was alright in The Kids Are Alright (coincidentally, he plays a chef in that film), but the next day we saw Mr. Ruffalo become the actual coolest person ever in his role as the Hulk in the film The Avengers and we deeply regret not being able to properly nerd it out with him over a sausage. Those sausages were free, by the way, and delicious.

Sausages made their tastiest appearance, however, at Biergarten, the New York City restaurant that had set up a stand on an outdoor patio connected to the tent that housed the fair. Those sausages were $8 and, like most sausages, tasted great with a beer.

The art journal Paper Monument was selling an edition of a color Xeroxed photo book by Kerstin Brätsch that included a two-page photo spread of sausages. Ms. Brätsch happens to be represented by Mr. Brown, which is suddenly making us suspicious that the dealer might be staging some kind of sausage coup on the contemporary art world, as he has most certainly positioned himself as the Sausage King of the Frieze Art Fair. He, in fact, sent us an e-mail saying his sausage fry was “in tribute to and in memory of  Dieter Roth and David Weiss and all the other great absurdist sausage artists” (who knew “sausage artists” was a thing?) and boasted his wares (“hot edible fresh sausages”). Well played, Mr. Brown. Well played. You have a real future in sausages.

So, sausages, we salute you. We would eat you at a fair, we would eat you in a pair; we would eat you on a bike, smoked and sliced the way we like; we would eat you in a car, we hope we’ve not taken this joke too far. Nope. We definitely have. As you were, everyone. Is That a Sausage at Your Art Fair, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?