Koki Tanaka, one of the six international contemporary artists invited by curator Cecilia Alemani to participate in this year’s iteration of Frieze Projects, began his creative process with an apt observation: “I guess usually we don’t [think] much about a site where an art fair is happening.” Cocooned in the bright excitement of the fair itself, it is easy to forget about the place outside its borders, in this case, Randall’s Island. Tanaka, together with Darren Bader, Eduardo Basualdo, Eva Kotátková, Marie Lorenz, and Naama Tsabar, aim to bring a bit of the island into the Frieze New York tent with diverse, site-specific projects heeding Alemani’s call “to react to the exceptional location of the fair—Randall’s Island—and to create new spaces of participation and social interaction.”
Each in their own way, these artists will evoke the island’s history as a destination for games and recreation, as evidenced, in particular, by its rich assortment of sports facilities. Basualdo has laid claim to the capacious lawn fronting the fair, which he plans to turn into a surreal soccer field, while Kotátková will erect a sculpture-cum-playground on the waterfront, and Lorenz will ferry passengers around the island’s perimeter. Back on dry land, there will be a music festival organized by Tsabar, booklets detailing Bader’s playful, absurdist, impossible proposals for the fair, and a cohort of island residents, invited by Tanaka, interspersed among the temporary booths.
But before indulging in, or, sometimes, stumbling upon, these play-inspired interventions, visitors will need a place to stay. Thanks to the celebrated conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg, in collaboration with the team of experimenters at Public Fiction, Al’s Grand Hotel (1971/2014) will be open for business. A tribute to Ruppersberg’s original Al’s—in which the artist transformed a bungalow in Los Angeles into a temporary house of gatherings, parties, performances, installations, and overnight stays, in, for example, “The Jesus Room,” halfway filled with a roughly hewn wooden cross—this re-staging of that legendary, entrepreneurial, and, ultimately, ephemeral project will feature a new set of experiences, a lobby, and two rooms, available for booking by the art-adventurous. These will be slotted directly into Frieze’s grounds, challenging afresh, as Al’s first did in 1971, our conceptions of what art is and can be. How fitting for this most contemporary of fairs.
Allen Ruppersberg, Neon sign for Al’s Grand Hotel, 1971, image courtesy the artist; Allen Ruppersberg, The Jesus Room, 1971, image courtesy the artist; Eva Kotátková, Educational Model, 2009-2010, courtesy of Meyer Riegger; Marie Lorenz, Tide and Current Taxi (East River with Yutaka Sho), 2010; Marie Lorenz, Tide and Current Taxi (East River with Frederick Hayes), 2011; Photograph of Tom Tom Magazine by Brad Heck.