Monday, May 7, 2012

Frieze Art Fair : NADA New York : Karen Kilimnik at The Brant Foundation

Frieze Art Fair, Randall’s Island, New York

The first ever Frieze Art Fair on Randall’s Island is a bona fide success.  The large white tent that is the fair is as massive as it is impressive and it feels like you are at a giant art wedding.  The tent is more than generously high and natural light creates a humanizing glow to the whole scene.  The height of the tent also makes sound dimmed and muffled like thought clouds above. I wonder how much thought fair organizers put into acoustics.  If I ran a fair, I would pay a great deal of money for an expert in acoustical engineering.  Oh yes, the art.  There was plenty to see, it was conventionally good and pro and laid out with generous allotments for the blue chips galleries from around this globe.  There were introductions to many new artists as well, well at least for me, and this was nice, although not astonishing.  What struck me the most were New York’s very own larger established galleries and also the smaller, young hip ones really brought it.  It was if they were saying, “You are in New York, don’t forget it.”  What makes this fair a success is that it changes things in New York’s art fair land.  It shows that New York can do something on par with fairs in other cities and the fact that it is in New York doesn’t make it redundant.  It is open today as well, if you have not gone, go.  Take the ferry, it’s a lovely way to see how big and yet how small this city is. 

NADA New York, 22nd Street Chelsea, New York

Piggy backing on the Frieze glow, NADA quickly set up camp at the old Dia building on 22nd Street in Chelsea, the same building that hosts the Independent and frankly far too many things at this point.  The galleries and the artists on display were entirely NADA but this time they looked more ready to sell than usual.  This is not a fault of any, but an understandable necessity.  The fair being in this building was its biggest detriment.  The booths and the layout were entirely practical but they were tight, cramped and felt more like horse stables then most fairs.  If there were more than four people in a booth, it felt too packed.  Also, being in this building gives no surprise or curiosity to the whole thing.  Yes, one wants to go to see the goods of the many very good galleries there but things feel stale even with the most fashionable galleries when the variables are so known.  NADA has a branding power and a consistency that is hard to rattle and this fair barely kinks that armor, next year though they should seek another locale, or at least a different arrangement of the space.  Stand out booths were Honor Fraser, Nichelle Beauchene Gallery and Callicoon Fine Arts.

Karen Kilimnik at The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut

Rich people, sigh.  The Brant Foundation is a generous thing in many ways.  Peter Brant has a massive, I mean massive estate in Connecticut which is deceptively close to New York City, and on this estate there is a large stone and wood building that hosts shows by big name artists like Urs Fischer, David Altmejd and now Karen Kilimnik.  The space is large, not grossly so but large enough to have a full-fledged show that contains many parts.  Kilimnik’s work has never bothered me very much nor has it made me do anything but vacantly absorb.  This show did more of that, with a tinge of sadness and vapidness.  Her work isn’t “vapid” per se but the intellectual subtext of the whole show and its setting picked at my overly sensitive political hot spots.  The show did have some elegant minuets.  The chinoiserie room with wallpaper, umbrellas, paintings and small objects was very nice to experience.  There was a cluttered effect throughout the show, both in the work and its installation.  It felt somewhat like an all-nighter sort of installation.  Well intentioned but a sense of relief and incompleteness in its final arrangement.  Her paintings range from great like the one with the Leopard to good, various portraits, to flat like the ones in a room with fake shrubs and fountain.

This show is also a situation of contexts.  The context of Peter Brant, his influence and prowess in the art world is massively impressive and also stingingly influential.  This too had a large white tent, topped with Camelot like white flags and it was open to the pastoral setting.  There was a spit of splayed lambs (minus the heads), looking crucified and too revealing in their anatomy.  Their morsels were served nicely under the tent with various plates of yummy foods and drinks.  Surrounding this were large soft pink circular couches and also blankets on the floor with giant fluffy pillows in the same color.  There were children romping, curators, musicians, other art stars, collectors, press, pretty young men and women, the Greenwich elite and a bevy of handsome strapping serving men all basking in the exclusivity of it all.  It was all very pleasant but it made me think that maybe this art world and me weren’t meant to be because to me, there is something dangerous about this scene.  There is a desperation to it and in the end a tradeoff being made.  I am not judging the Brant’s, how they function in the arts is their prerogative and necessary in various ways, but what has me still so unsettled is all that influence and how it effects art and those that are in the art world.  It’s all a bit touchy I know, and I can’t even really go fully into it as it is unresolved in my own head but I cannot shake the feeling it left with me.  The Kilimink show may have been a bit of a flop and the whole leisure of art made me act like a sour puss but good art was certainly seen.  The Richard Serra in the lawn was great; the Urs Fischer was unseemly from afar but impressive to stand next to and Jeff Koons’ floral Puppy, just absolutely marvelous.