ARTINFO May 13, 2013

NEW YORK — As if the heavens favored art fairs, the rain lashing weather greeting the VIP opening of Frieze New York on Thursday morning at Randall’s Island Park soon turned into clear skies and brilliant sunshine. The spectacular SO-IL-designed tent — a kind of bespoke light box/tethered dirigible, illuminating the 180 or so gallery stands from around the globe with natural light — afforded fairgoers a pleasingly sophisticated structure to transact in. The freshly painted and barely dry battleship-gray plywood floors had a slightly tacky feel as if the organizers wanted you to stick around for a long while.

All the elements conspired to lighten wallets. The impression of fresh commerce was confirmed at a number of stands. Business was rocking at Paris-based Thaddaeus Ropac, with Robert Longo’s impressive “Untitled (after Clyfford Still, 1957-J No.2)” (2013), convincingly executed at an AbEx-scaled in charcoal on mounted paper, selling for $330,000. Another newly minted work at the Ropac booth, Alex Katz’s head-and-shoulders portrait of a dark haired women, “Untitled” (2013), sold for $350,000, while an intricately conceived Tom Sachs, “Untitled (Spider Web)” (2012), in pyrography (as in fire) on wood, sold for $200,000.

As if refreshed after a long siesta from the 1980s Neo-Expressionist bubble, David Salle’s new, large-scale painting, “Age of Reason,” featuring two floating female heads, went for $190,000. Ropac was also offering an older work, the massive Sigmar Polke, “Nachtkappel” (1986), in spirit varnish on muslin, for $4 million, noting, “normally I would keep this for Basel,” referring to the big daddy fair held each June in Switzerland.

A few lower price point sales were also noted at Ropac, as two India ink and watercolor on paper works by Georg Baselitz, identically titled “Ohne Titel” and featuring an upright figure, sold for €35,000. “This is a very contemporary art fair,” said Thaddeus Ropac, “and that’s what I like about it.”

Early business was also brisk at London’s Lisson Gallery, where Haroon Mirza’s complicated “Shelf for Carl Cox” (2013), an assemblage featuring a wooden cabinet, LED, copper tape electronic components, and speakers sold for £30,000, while an untitled Anish Kapoor wall sculpture went for £500,000. In between those price points, a Rodney Graham light box work sold for $90,000.

Though it wasn’t physically at the fair, Lisson also sold an Ai Weiwei sculpture for €300,000. “There’s a strong international demographic to collectors,” said Lisson’s Alex Logsdail, “which extends far beyond those based in New York.”

One of the best things about Frieze is the chance it offers of finding unfamiliar artists who grab your attention (or at least temporarily distract you from more established names). That was the case at London’s Carl Freedman Gallery, where Ivan Seal’s small-scaled and lushly executed memory paintings, such as “19wabim on a shif” (2013), sold for approximately $8,000 (the titles are derived from an automatic writing machine). Five others sold at prices ranging between $6,000-15,000

Similarly, at Lower East Side gallery Canada, Michael Williams’s “Morning Meditation with Mud and Jenny Mac” (2013) sold to London-based collector and emerging artist patron Anita Zabludowicz for approximately $25,000.

At almost every turn, art transactions were popping, as evidenced at New York’s Paul Kasmin, where star photographer David LaChapelle’s “Gas Shell” (2013), an edition of five chromogenic prints, sold for approximately $65,000, and Walton Ford’s unique and quite fantastic painting of a flying tiger, “Tri Thong Minh,” sold to an American collector in the vicinity of the $950,000 asking price. In Warhol-inspired style — but with more humor — Deborah Kass’s “12 Barbaras (Jewish Jackie Series)” (1993), a silkscreen on canvas at 60 by 55 inches, also went for approximately $95,000 at Kasmin.

“All of the serious, major collectors and museum people are here,” said Bethanie Brady, the Kasmin director. As if confirming that impression, storied art collector and former gallery owner Irving Blum sat on one of the chairs in the Kasmin stand, studying the Frieze map, before resuming his travels.

If there is such a thing these days as “good vibes,” that rather antique phrase resonated here at Frieze. The constant shift of natural light and pleasant vistas of the verdant surroundings outside seemingly put fairgoers in a buoyant mood. New York exhibitor Jack Shainman was definitely smiling as all three figurative paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, the Turner Prize candidate, sold at $30,000 apiece, while the intricately conceived “Decagram No. 2” by Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman sold for $35,000.

“So far,” said Shainman, “the fair has been really good. Collectors and museum people love this fair. The light here is beautiful.”

The dealer also sold three Kerry James Marshall drawings, “Untitled (Stono Drawings),” for $50,000. The works feature the vivid likeness of the slaves involved in that first rebellion in the South Carolina colony in 1739.

Another kind of mayhem for on display at New York/London/Zurich gallery Hauser & Wirth as hungry collectors vied for the 40 made-in-China “Balloon Dog” sculptures by Paul McCarthy, which were selling at $25,000 apiece. Each of the friendly looking dogs came in a different color. The one example displayed in the stand was in lipstick pink and seemed lost against the backdrop of the two-artist display of young heavyweights Rashid Johnson and Matthew Day Jackson.

Gallery partner Marc Payout said the entire grouping had sold out but the gallery hadn’t as yet decided who would take away the works at prices ranging from approximately $15,000 to $175,000. “The level of interest is so high,” said Payout, referring to both private collectors and museums, “we thought it would be best for the artists for us to decide who gets what.”

The assembly included a trio of Jackson’s refurbished armchairs, made out of former B-29 bomber pilot seats that were re-powder coated and set on bases resembling the geometry of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes.

There was also considerable museum interest in one of the fair’s standout works, Do-Ho Suh’s “Wieland Str18 2159 Berlin” (2011), a diaphanous structure in a pale green shade of polyester fabric. Set invitingly at Lehmann Maupin’s stand, the asking price wasn’t revealed by the gallery in deference to the otherwise unidentified museum interest.

It’s always good to have a bit of mystery amidst a cavalcade of hard numbers.

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