London Frieze braves backlash to fly the flag of British culture in Manhattan.
The fair faces the threat of protests by the Occupy movement against art commercialisation as it makes its first trip abroad.
The Frieze art fair is set to plant the flag of British culture and commerce on Manhattan soil in its first overseas expansion of the brand.
But while organisers plan to shake up the cosy world of New York art fairs, and draw thousands of buyers and fans of contemporary art to a snaking, architecturally unique tent on Randall’s Island, Frieze arrives as art critics and curators detect a significant shift in art practice away from the overtly market-orientated and commercial.
At the same time Frieze is drawing the attention of the Occupy protesters. The movement, gearing up for a city-wide day of demonstration, has vowed to picket Frieze over its use of non-unionised labour, as well as stage a general protest against art as a luxury for the rich. Members of the subgroup Occupy Museums plan to protest at what it calls “the rampant financialisation of art”. Part of their objection, the group says, is that fairs such as Frieze benefit a small number of artists but not the larger arts scene. “We want to un-Frieze art,” says representative Noah Fischer.
Besides waving placards, they plan to trade art for objects in kind, even tickets for the fair itself. Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp says she’s not necessarily against the Occupyers, but senses the protest is based on false expectations.
“Over the last 10 years, the art world has tracked global economic change. In America there is a more politicised awareness of inequality between class and wealth. At the same time, more people have decided that art can be a career. They’ve seen art reality TV shows and they think they can make a career purely out of their work. That’s an unrealistic expectation so a lot more people feel disenfranchised,” she says.
The fair features 180 galleries from around the world in a tent designed by New York-based SO – IL Architects. Among attractions are a sculpture park featuring works by Cerith Wyn Evans and sound installations by Marin Creed and writer Rick Moody that VIP guests will listen to as they are ferried to the fair in cars provided by sponsor BMW.
Occupy’s positions are not far from an emerging view among New York curators and critics sounding the death knell for the era of conspicuous art consumption in which wealthy collectors were celebrated for spending money.