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Randall's Island, foreground, as viewed from the north during an airport take-off
Randall's Island, foreground, as viewed from the north during an airport take-off


May 20, 2011

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It’s true. The world's coolest contemporary art fair is coming to New York. London's Frieze Art Fair has finally confirmed the years-old rumor that it is expanding to the Big Apple. Organizers say the New York iteration will be the same size as London’s -- with around 170 galleries participating -- and take place on Randall’s Island in about one year, May 3-6, 2012, in time for the spring contemporary art auctions.

Can New York handle another spring art fair? According to the Art Newspaper, directors of the now-competing Armory Show and the Art Dealers Association of America Art Show, both held in March, insist they welcome the international presence. And at least one New York dealer agrees. “Fewer Europeans are visiting than when I first started, and we need to create that energy that gets people out of their houses,” Tanya Bonakdar told the paper.

New Yorkers might wonder what has possessed Frieze Art Fair founders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp to set up on Randall's Island, an isolated spot of land in the East River known primarily for its sports fields. Accessible via a footbridge at 102nd Street in Spanish Harlem or via the Triborough Bridge, the site is not one that is familiar to most of the fine-art set. Years ago, when queried as to whether Staten Island was a good place for artists to live, critic Brian O’Doherty quipped, “Leo Castelli ain’t gonna take the ferry!”

But the location may well be strategic, in that its inaccessibility may keep out the hoi polloi. Slotover notes that the island is near the Upper East Side, and a growing destination for Manhattanites, with its new golf and tennis centers. Frieze plans to offer ferry rides. New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg was happy to issue an official welcome; whether he is providing any economic incentives is uncertain. As in London, the fair is to be housed in a custom-made tent, designed in New York by Brooklyn architects SO-IL.

Meanwhile, Frieze is expanding back in London as well. The fair is launching the new Frieze Masters fair in October 2012, a move that is designed to capitalize on the market for art from periods other than the 21st century. This idea was adopted by the Armory Show in 2009, with apparently good results. The selection committee is said to include San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier as well as Hauser & Wirth, Thomas Gibson and Fabrizio Moretti, among others.

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