The Downward Spiral: Frieze Diary

Column
 Lara Schnittger, SUFFRAGETTE CITY
 Kaikai Kiki Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Anton Kern Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Galeria Marilia Razuk Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Gagosian Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Casey Kaplan Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Tyler Rollins Fine Art Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Adam Pendleton Black Dada Flag (Black Lives Matter) , Pace Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Various Small Fires Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Société Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Gavin Brown's Enterprise Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 303 Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Frieze New York 2018 Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Renée Green, Live Section Galerie Nagel Draxler Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Galerie Thaddeus Ropac Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Empty Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Raul de Nieves with with Erik Zajaceskowski, Company Gallery Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Frieze New York 2018 Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Édouard Montassut Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Galerie Joseph Tang Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Mitchell-Innis & Nash Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Dave McKenzie, Live Program Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 Almine Rech Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze
 VI, VII Photo: Mark Blower, Courtesy Mark Blower/Frieze

For Frieze New York Spike columnist Dean Kissick didn't look at any art. Instead he drank with strangers to gauge the mood of the city. 

 

Saturday, April 28th

I go to a party in a painter’s house in the East Village. Everybody there is youthful and beautiful. The invitation requests that guests only bring natural wines. I bring a bottle of unnatural Malbec and just pretend that it’s natural; so much so that I begin to believe my own lies and wake up the next day without a hangover. My friends take some magic mushrooms right before going home to sleep. The next day one tells me that she had very vivid dreams. “What were they about?” I ask. “Work,” she says. This feels like a very Manhattanite approach to the visionary experience.

 

_______INSERT_______

 

Sunday, April 29th

I’m invited to dinner in Williamsburg, where I meet a man who’s made millions working on cryptocurrency projects in Berlin. He’s so rich he’ll never need to work again. He’s visiting New York because he’s about to launch a decentralised religion with a successful young Cubist painter. This virtual religion comes with a token that can be bought, like an old Catholic indulgence, but can also be earned by performing rituals like confessing to your sins. It begins with no tenets or gods, but these will be decided by consensus. “So, we’ll create a new code of ethics through a decentralised online voting system?” I ask. “That could get really dark really quickly.” We all laugh. It strikes me that if American Psycho were written today, Patrick Bateman would probably be working on something like a decentralised religion with a painterly edge. But then, if you’re really so evangelical about the blockchain, you might as well just start your own cult.

I also meet a geneticist who runs an avant-garde art and technology magazine in his spare time and we have a very enjoyable conversation about making chimeras. I came to dinner in this same restaurant, hosted by the same friend, when I first moved to New York. Six months on, it’s interesting how quickly the conversation has moved on from decentralised protocols to new religions, mythical beings and the Dark Enlightenment. But I guess we’re all looking for meaning somewhere in this godless wasteland.

 

_______INSERT_______

 

Wednesday, May 2nd

I go to the collectors’ preview day at Frieze. It’s 50 years exactly since the beginning of the May 1968 riots in Paris. As part of the fair’s Live program, Lara Schnitger is staging a protest performance titled Suffragette City. It takes the form of a procession of mostly young women, and some longhaired men, dressed in robes and carrying handmade totems, a flag embroidered with a picture of a black lady and banners bearing slogans like “Love Your Boob” and “My Body, Proud Slut”. A pair of Asian women lead the performers through the crowd ringing a bell. “We are sexy!” they chant over and over again. There’s something dispiriting about this aestheticized, simulacral mirage of political protest at the heart of an art fair. I wonder if some of the Frieze Live artists are Russian collusionists, Surkovian cognitive dissonants dedicated to undermining the conditions of reality. Or maybe it’s part of some larger, more elaborate joke. Maybe the middle class no longer believes in anything apart from high art and decentralised religion. I complain to my friend about the protest performance. “Nobody involved in this gives a fuck about anything,” I say, “the middle class doesn’t care about anything.”

“No, you’re wrong,” she corrects me, “there’s no such thing as the middle class anymore!”

My friend writes to say that he’s just seen a fake news story on Facebook claiming that ISIS have won the Turner Prize. Everybody in the comments is outraged about this – understandably so, I suppose. Although they do have very good graphic designers.

I take the ferry back down the shimmering East River. I wonder if this is the ferry that an American art dealer threatened to throw my conceptual artist friend off of some years ago. My friend told me he was tossing chicken bones to the dealer’s dog and the dealer accused him of trying to murder it. My friend made no effort to try and convince me of whether he was or wasn’t. Later, one of the spaces that the dealer helps support became embroiled in a huge gentrification controversy that led to a prolonged campaign against it. Everybody says that he’s a great guy and would never do anything to displace the Latino community – but I always think, what about that time he tried to throw my Latin American friend off a boat?

 

_______INSERT_______

 

We disembark in Murray Hill. I’m with an editor who loathes Murray Hill. “Nothing goes on here except mid-afternoon sex parties,” he comments.

I ask him who goes to these.

“Bankers,” he says.

We go to a Diego-Rivera-themed hotel bar with some of his colleagues. One tells me about a teacher from the Städelschule who refused to ever look at his students’ work; he would instead judge how good of an artist they were by the conversations they had in bars. That’s my approach to fair week also. It’s probably better not to look at any of the art, but just to go out and drink with strangers and try and gauge the mood of the city.

Much later that night, as everybody’s pouring out of the Frieze party at Ludlow House, I meet a loquacious drug dealer – let’s call him “Agnolo” – handing out samples of coke, molly and weed on the street. I want some but know from personal experience that accepting complimentary samples from gangs of drug dealers in the early hours can lead to unpleasant, frightening situations that escalate with a bewildering pace. Agnolo and his friends gaze admiringly at one of the party guests while making a well-informed inventory of his outfit. “That shirt’s from Louis Vuitton. $2,000,” they say. “Those are the Virgil Abloh Air Force 1s, those cost $1,000,” they say. Finally, one of Agnolo’s friends suggests it’s better to spend that kind of money on a belt rather than a shirt: a shirt wears out, but a belt lasts forever. His is a different approach to luxury. Not only do art dealers have more money than drug dealers these days; they’re also more flashy.

 

_______INSERT_______

                                        

Thursday, May 3rd

We go to some Fitzcarraldo Editions readings in a private dining room in Chinatown. We go to the Frieze party and stand on the roof of the Boom Boom Room wishing upon the bright Manhattan skyline. Afterwards we go to the Lomex party, which is in a very dingy Bulgarian nightclub with a wet floor. Lithe youths are dancing to techno on poles. Strangers are fucking in the toilets. Everybody’s smoking cigarettes indoors and sticking their keys up one another’s noses. Three people gave me their cards this week. I think of the dealers on the streets, the bankers with their mid-afternoon sex parties, cryptomillionaires with dreams of apotheosis, the celebrities-turned-politicians, the return of Cold War politics, the flashy designer shirts and garish figurative paintings, and wonder if the 80s really are coming back to New York.

 

DEAN KISSICK is a writer based in New York. A new installment of The Downward Spiral will be published online every second Wednesday a month. Last time he wrote about fashion predicting the future and why today's technologists are much like Parisian designers.

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______

 

_______INSERT_______