A couple of centuries ago, when the Revolutionary War was in full swing, the British commandeered a patch of farmland in the East River and used it to launch amphibious attacks on Manhattan. Today we know it as Randall’s Island, and a new crop of Brits have seized it for friendly, aboveground purposes: an international contemporary art fair. The first edition of Frieze New York opens Friday in Randall’s Island Park. Nearly 200 galleries will showcase works inside a light-infused temporary structure designed by New York-based Solid Objectives–Indeburg Liu (SO–IL).
“We build a very big fair and to try and find a spot for it isn’t easy,” Frieze New York co-director Amanda Sharp tells us. “It has to be a space that is accessible, that has a little bit of romance and panache about it, that feels in tune with the idea that perhaps Frieze is more of an innovation.” Determined to avoid setting up shop in a hangar on the Hudson, Sharp and co-director Matthew Slotover scouted fresh locales, including one they had never heard of: Randall’s Island. “I go out there, I get out there very easily, and I’m basically standing on the river, in this beautiful open green space, looking back at this fantastic view,” says Sharp, who also discovered “a bit of grittiness” reminiscent of ’70s New York and films such as The French Connection, which was shot on the island. “So it is unknown, but oddly enough, it’s very familiar. It has a little bit of magic about it, and that’s what we were looking for,” she adds. “If you build a fair with really good galleries, I assume that really good collectors will come because they like to see good art, but if you make it an event, perhaps you open art up to more people, and that really excites me.”
Above: A rendering of the fair’s temporary structure. (Courtesy SO–IL and Frieze New York)