The 10 Best Booths at Frieze New York 2021
Installation view of Gagosian’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.
Nearly 14 months after New York City’s last major art fair turned out the lights—and, within days, the city went into lockdown—the art world is easing back into some of its pre-pandemic habits. Granted, New York’s first fair back is necessarily smaller, with Frieze scaling back from its usual offering of nearly 200 exhibitors to just 64. This year’s event is also notably more accessible compared to the usual expedition to Randall’s Island, taking up residence instead at The Shed on Manhattan’s west side. Health and safety protocols have been beefed up, too, with negative COVID-19 tests or vaccine proof required in order to gain strictly timed entry, so that even at the height of Wednesday’s opening day, the mood was subdued.
While the overall atmosphere of Frieze’s opening day might have been muted, many gallery presentations were anything but. Some opted for a maximalist approach with plentiful hangings or booth-swallowing installations. A number also tailored their presentations to Frieze’s special program in tribute to professor Sarah Elizabeth Lewis’s Vision & Justice Project, showcasing artists who are wrangling with the thorny relationship between race and citizenship in the United States. Here, we take a closer look at 10 standout booths at this year’s Frieze New York.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash and Esther Schipper
Main Sector, Booth A8
With works by General Idea
General Idea, installation view in Mitchell-Innes & Nash and Esther Schipper’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. © Estate of General Idea. Courtesy of the Estate of General Idea; Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York; and Esther Schipper, Berlin.
The cross-Atlantic partnership between New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash and Berlin’s Esther Schipper has resulted in an excellent booth devoted to the output of General Idea, the collective formed in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal. The presentation features some of their most distinctive works, like their paintings and drawings of frollicking, frilly poodles (priced between $15,000 and $168,000), and their darkly comic 1992 group self-portrait Playing Doctor (priced at $150,000). The work was created at the height of the AIDS crisis that would ultimately claim Partz’s and Zontal’s lives. The booth’s centerpiece is the set of nine abstract panels El Dorado Series (1992), an abstracted interpretation of 18th-century Spanish caste paintings that sought to establish a hierarchy among ethnic groups in South America.
“This is a body of work we’ve been wanting to show for some time, but after living through the tumult of the last 14 months, it seemed even more necessary to return to a live fair with a presentation that addressed the concerns and ambitions of the recent past with those of the present,” Lucy Mitchell-Innes and Esther Schipper said in a joint statement. “What we love about General Idea is that the work is never overly didactic or overtly critical. It makes its statement through the language of parody, humor, and, of course, camp, allowing for a kind of criticism that is intellectually unpretentious and coolly, if not ambiguously, unmoved.”
Marian Goodman Gallery
Main Sector, Booth B4
With works by Annette Messager
Annette Messager, installation view of Petite Babylone, 2019, in Marian Goodman’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Alex Yudzon. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman
Possibly Frieze New York’s most elaborately constructed booth, Marian Goodman Gallery has devoted the lion’s share of its presentation to a single sculptural installation by the French artist Annette Messager. Installed in a dim grotto of sorts, Petite Babylone (2019), priced at €190,000 ($228,000), consists of dozens of small black sculptures (casts of hands, geometric shapes, etc.), stuffed animals, and lights mounted on turntables. The resulting effect is vaguely prehistoric, casting shadows that dance across the booth walls and evoke how, millennia ago, cave paintings might have appeared to come to life under firelight. The booth’s exterior wall features a recent wall installation of drawings and 42 sculptural effigies—En même temps (At the same Time) (2021) priced at €160,000 ($192,000)—and a selection of more than a dozen of Messager’s alternatingly grim and playful works on paper, priced between €12,000 and €55,000 ($14,400–$66,000).
“We’ve long felt that Annette Messager was underrecognized in the U.S. and had planned to show her work at Frieze New York in 2020, but obviously that didn’t happen,” said Jessie Washburne-Harris, executive director at Marian Goodman. “This is a slightly different presentation than what we’d originally envisioned, incorporating some works on paper she made during the past year; we really felt like the drawings reflected the concerns of the current times.”
Main Sector, Booth B7
With works by Rachel Feinstein and Ewa Juszkiewicz
Installation view of Gagosian’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.
Opting for a middle ground between the maximalist “all-our-artists” fair booth and a solo presentation, Gagosian went with an art historically tinged pairing. The figures in Ewa Juszkiewicz’s portrait paintings look like Renaissance sitters, but their heads have been obscured by textiles or flower arrangements. Rachel Feinstein’s newest ceramic works resemble melted Rococo furniture, their white contours punctuated by kintsugi-like golden fissures and colorful period shoes (also ceramic). The works’ bulging, billowing forms match the translucent walls of The Shed’s enclosed McCourt improbably well.
“The surreal nature of Rachel’s and Ewa’s works relocate the ghosts of women past firmly in the present,” said Andy Avini, a senior director at Gagosian. “The collaboration was a natural fit, and ties in with the themes explored in ‘Daydreams and Nightmares,’ our digital exhibition viewable at our online Frieze viewing room and Gagosian.com.”
James Cohan Gallery
Main Sector, Booth B8
With works by Trenton Doyle Hancock
Trenton Doyle Hancock, installation view in James Cohan’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.
The focus of James Cohan’s Frieze presentation is a new body of work by Trenton Doyle Hancock that is uncharacteristically monochromatic. The series of paintings and prints are all rendered in stark black and white, melding Hancock’s distinctive, comics-influenced iconography with that of one of his longtime sources of inspiration, Philip Guston.
“Drawing is very much the backbone of Trenton’s work, so black and white have always been important elements of his practice,” said gallery director Paula Naughton. “But he was also interested in exploring this palette because of the very binary nature of our society and public discourse these days.” In most of the works, priced between $5,500 for a set of four prints and $38,000 for a canvas, Hancock’s superhero surrogate Torpedoboy interacts with a hooded figure based on Guston’s controversial renderings of Ku Klux Klansmen. The booth’s central work, a large canvas in which the negative space is covered in black synthetic fur, was acquired by an institution on the fair’s first day.
Garth Greenan Gallery
Main Sector, Booth C6
With works by Derek Boshier, Al Loving, Howardena Pindell, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Installation view of Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Courtesy of Garth Greenan Gallery.
“We wanted this to be a triumphant return, so we kept it simple, which is what we do,” Garth Greenan said in his booth toward the end of the day on Wednesday. “It’s sort of a greatest-hits booth.”
By then, two of the four large-scale works on view had already sold. The first, a large black-and-white tapestry by Derek Boshier, takes up the motif of duality and divisiveness also present in Trenton Doyle Hancock’s new work at James Cohan, juxtaposing scenes of nostalgic Americana with contemporary social justice movements. The second is an arresting, apocalyptic painting by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, War Horse in Babylon (2005).
The two remaining works are equally strong. Autobiography: India (Shiva, Ganges) (1985), by Howardena Pindell—priced between $500,000 and $1 million—is an expansive, light-pink canvas with collage elements that was not included in her recent survey exhibition at The Shed. Meanwhile, Al Loving’s bold, untitled work from 1982, priced between $100,000 and $250,000, features dynamic collaged elements against a fabric backdrop, connecting the booth’s textile- and canvas-based works.
Frame Sector, Booth FR4
With works by Karon Davis
Karon Davis, installation view in Wilding Cran’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Courtesy of Wilding Cran.
Earlier this year, Jeffrey Deitch hosted an arresting solo exhibition of Los Angeles–based artist Karon Davis’s work at his SoHo space. In it, a life-size sculptural diptych represented an iconic moment from the trial of the Chicago 8—an episode in American history to which she had a personal connection through her father. Her presentation in the Frame sector at Frieze—devoted to solo booths by emerging artists—has less of a narrative quality, but is nonetheless bracing. Her L.A. gallery Wilding Cran is showcasing a set of new sculptural portraits rendered in white plaster with details including jewelry and cowrie shells, some of them wall-mounted tondos set against circular backdrops of blue metal leaf (priced at $38,000), others freestanding on pedestals and encased in blue acrylic cases (priced at $40,000).
Karon Davis, installation view in Wilding Cran’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.
“Karon’s been working so hard on these bigger, more narrative shows,” said Wilding Cran co-founder Anthony Cran. “She wanted to do something more intimate with standalone works.” Installed at eye level, the sculptural portrait busts have an undeniable intimacy that’s given uncanny life by their glass eyes.
Helena Anrather and Capsule Shanghai
Frame Sector, Booth FR8
With works by Douglas Rieger
Douglas Rieger, installation view in Helena Anrather and Capsule Shanghai’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Daniel Terna. Courtesy of Helena Anrather and Capsule Shanghai.
Another standout presentation in the Frame sector—and uncanny for different reasons—is the joint presentation by New York gallery Helena Anrather and Capsule Shanghai of recent sculptures and mixed-media works by Douglas Rieger (priced between $5,500 and $30,000). The abstract sculptures on view meld textures and materials in ways that seem to beckon the viewer to touch the art, from the gleaming vinyl upholstery of the wall-mounted works to freestanding pieces whose gleaming, rounded, and punctured wooden forms are teasingly evocative.
“Douglas is obviously a master woodworker,” said Megan Yuan of Helena Anrather. “A lot of the work is about the ambiguity of the body and queering sculpture, pushing us to question why we value certain objects and materials.”
Frame Sector, Booth FR11
With works by Otis Houston Jr.
Otis Houston Jr., installation view in Gordon Rabichaux’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.
In 1997, self-taught artist Otis Houston Jr. noticed a potentially captive audience for his work: drivers stuck in gridlocked traffic on the FDR drive near his apartment in East Harlem. Since then, he’s been performing and showcasing his multifarious practice in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge. His work, which is being presented by Gordon Robichaux in the context of Frieze’s Vision & Justice Project tribute, often borrows physical or textual elements of Houston’s day job working in a Midtown office building that is home to a major advertising agency. The booth features drawings executed on various found supports that repurpose snippets of punchy text or pay homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, plus sculptural assemblages full of irreverent humor, all priced between $5,000 and $15,000.
“When we decided to participate in Frieze this year, we both knew instantly it should be Otis’s work,” said gallery co-founder Sam Gordon. “It’s his moment, the art world has caught up to what Otis has been doing for 25 years.”
Main Sector, Booth D9
With works by John Pai and Minjung Kim
Installation view of Gallery Hyundai’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Photo by Kim Juwon. Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai.
For obvious reasons, New York galleries have strength in numbers at Frieze this year, but an important contingent of international galleries made the logistically complicated trip, including Seoul’s Gallery Hyundai, which is showing a meditative and meticulous booth featuring Minjung Kim and John Pai. Minjung’s works have a cascading, fluid quality that grounds them in traditions of landscape painting. Pai’s practice, meanwhile, is devoted to metal abstract sculptures that he crafts through a meticulous process, soldering together complex latticeworks of steel.
“John’s work is very meditative and repetitive, it gets him into this very focused mental space,” said the gallery’s executive director, Patrick Lee. “He’s also strongly influenced by music and compositional theory.” While some of his sculptures evoke musical notes or the movements of wind, others retain a distinctly anthropomorphic quality. The four examples on view here are priced between $80,000 and $200,000.
Mendes Wood DM
Main Sector, Booth D6
With works by Lynda Benglis, Maaike Schoorel, Paulo Nazareth, Paulo Nimer Pjota, Paulo Monteiro, Rubem Valentim, Paloma Bosquê, Fernando Marques Penteado, Neïl Beloufa, Adriano Costa, Marina Perez Simão, Solange Pessoa, Eleonore Koch, Sonia Gomes, and Vojtech Kovarik
Installation view of Mendes Wood DM’s booth at Frieze New York, 2021. Courtesy of Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo/Brussels/New York.
Among the galleries taking an all-in approach to hanging their booths, none is quite as successful as Mendes Wood DM (François Ghebaly, in booth C3, also gets an honorable mention for making the most of maximalism). With its mix of established and emerging Brazilian artists—including a superb new Marina Perez Simão seascape painting that sold in the fair’s first day; a ghostly white and vaguely elephantine bronze sculpture by Paulo Monteiro (priced at $4,000); and a Paulo Nimer Pjota painting mixing gestural abstraction and intense realism (priced at $45,000)—and international figures like the American artist Lynda Benglis (with a chicken wire sculpture priced at $125,000) and the French artist and filmmaker Neïl Beloufa (with a colorful resin abstraction on offer for $30,000), the stalwart of Brazil’s gallery scene seems to have something for every taste and price point.
“We’ve always taken real joy in creating possible conversations between artists of different generations and cultural contexts,” said Mendes Wood DM co-founder Matthew Wood. “A group exhibition like this allows us to make the connections between the activism of ’60s-era Rubem Valentim and contemporary Paulo Nazareth—or perceive the related topographies of the landscapes of Lucas Arruda adjacent to Lynda Benglis’s brightly contorted sculpture.”