UK’s Frieze art fair opens in New York

UK’s Frieze art fair opens in New York

LONDON - Reuters
UK’s Frieze art fair opens in New York

Britain’s successful Frieze Art Fair opens its inaugural U.S. edition with high hopes, just weeks after the established Armory Show closed its doors to collectors. REUTERS photo

New York’s contemporary art scene is undergoing a major shake-up this year, with Britain’s hugely successful Frieze Art Fair opening its inaugural U.S. edition on Friday just weeks after the established Armory Show closed its doors.

Organizers of both events sought to play down the element of competition, although the Armory admitted it had felt obliged to up its game this year, knowing a rival upstart was moving in on its turf.

“I don’t see it as a problem,” said Noah Horowitz, managing director of Armory, when asked about what threat Frieze posed.

“It’s caused us to really react in a positive way,” he said in a telephone interview.

“Competition can bring out the best in people. The fair we put on this year was our strongest edition in many years.”

Around 60,000 people visited Armory in March despite a reduction in the number of participating galleries to 225 from 275 in response to criticism the show had become too big.

New York is arguably the most important city in the world for contemporary art collecting, and the global market for the finest works is booming, so perhaps there is room for two fairs in the city during the spring rather than one.

But the risk is that key galleries and buyers will gravitate towards one or the other.

For Matthew Slotover, co-founder of Frieze in London that has quickly become one of the key events in the increasingly crowded art market calendar, the element of rivalry is new.

When he and business partner Amanda Sharp launched their first Frieze Art Fair in a giant marquee in London’s Regent’s Park in 2003, they were alone.

“It’s an odd situation for us because we’re not aggressive,” he told Reuters.

“In London there was nothing comparable and so it was a much more comfortable situation. The reason we are doing a fair in New York is because many significant galleries asked us to.

“I don’t like talking about competitors as I don’t want to bash them or praise them either.”

Frieze runs from May 4-7 and will be held in a temporary snake-like tent on Randall’s Island -- the location across the East River is a potential barrier to attracting the large and affluent crowds necessary to a fair’s success.