Whitehot Magazine

Frieze Art Fair 2024 Kicks Off In New York: Don’t Miss These Five Artists

Frieze booths at The Shed during the show's press preview. Photograph by Elizabeth Freeman.


By J. SCOTT ORR May 2, 2024

NEW YORK – The art world’s elite, breathless after a strenuous few months of globe trotting, heads blue-faced into New York May, the art calendar’s most essential month, when art fairs, gallery openings and auction house extravaganzas ignite the Gotham cityscape.

And opening today is the 12th iteration of Frieze, New York May’s signature event, an art fair so important, so transcendent, that for a few short days the hulking Hudson Yards edifice known as The Shed overshadows everything as the art world’s cosmic epicenter.

Sure, March had Frieze Los Angeles, Art Dubai, and Art Basel Hong Kong, and April was made loud by the venerable Venice Biennale along with big art fairs in Brussels, Chicago, and Dallas. But it’s New York May, with Frieze and a coattail crush of related events, that consumes most of the art world’s springtime oxygen.

The city’s auction powerhouses, which first propelled New York May to the forefront of the contemporary art calendar, are adding to Frieze’s ample thunder again this year. Expected to bring bids in the tens of millions of dollars this month: Francis Bacon's 1966 masterpiece "Portrait of George Dyer Crouching" at Sotheby’s, Brice Marden's 2007 abstract work "Event" at Christie’s, and a trio of masterpieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Phillips.

The Frieze frenzy comes at a time of uncertainty in the art market. Bank of America’s Art Service says the market has yet to steady itself after the highs of 2021: “Collectors can expect auction estimates to come down and galleries to bring lower-priced works to fairs as discretionary sellers wait until market conditions improve,” it said.

In 2023, the art market contracted for the first time since the pandemic-induced malaise in 2020, with global auction sales across all fine art categories decreasing by 27% from 2022, and the average price of an artwork sold at auction decreasing by 32%. This marked the largest single-year decline for average sale prices in over seven years.

Still, there was palpable optimism on The Shed’s floors as the show opened. Christine Messineo, Frieze’s director of Americas, said Frieze LA was a smashing success, suggesting that Frieze New York may do likewise. “Following a strong preview day, galleries continued to report sold-out booths, seven-figure sales, and notable museum acquisitions across the weekend [in LA],” she said.

Frieze opened here with 60 galleries from 25 countries providing a global snapshot of art trends and market potential. As usual, New York City steals the show with 38 of the galleries operating spaces in the city.

Here are five gallery spaces at Frieze that should not be missed:


Holly Hendry, Stephen Friedman Gallery. Photograph by Jamie Lubetkin
Holly Hendry, Stephen Friedman Gallery

Brought to Frieze by Stephen Friedman Gallery, British artist Holly Hendry's site-specific sculptures draw inspiration from myriad sources including food, machinery, and anatomical blueprints. By unraveling familiar structures and exposing their inner workings, her works offer a glimpse into intricate systems that lie beneath the surface. Infused with a vibrant palette of colors, Hendry's visual vocabulary exudes a whimsical charm and an unspoiled sense of humor.

At Frieze, Hendry reshapes the banal image of an office cubicle cluttered with notes and reminders to delve into the intricate dynamics of the human body. Drawing on a diverse array of media including blown glass, Jesmonite, ceramic, steel, wood, cast bronze, stone, and aluminum, Hendry invites viewers to witness the collision between the mundane and the extraordinary.

“The approach is to kinda take the mundane and ordinary and pull it to the lively and the bodily….I want it to be sort of a cross between an X-ray and things that have very much become a part of our daily lives,” she told Whitehot.

The Earth (close-up), Bright Ideas, Sylvie Fleury, Karma & Spruth Magers. Photograph by Jamie Lubetkin
  Sylvie Fleury, Karma and Sprüth Magers

Karma International and Sprüth Magers present a shared solo booth spotlighting the visionary artistry of Swiss pop-art purveyor Sylvie Fleury. Through her distinctive visual lexicon, Fleury delves into the complex tapestry of desire, exploring its myriad manifestations with a critical eye. Simultaneously, she challenges the entrenched paradigms of art history, particularly their male-centric narratives.

Fleury's artistry transcends conventional boundaries, encompassing sculptures, paintings, neon installations, and videos that challenge traditional categorizations. Drawing inspiration from the realm of advertising, Fleury navigates the intersection of commerce and creativity, shedding light on the inherent ambivalence of the original medium in the transformative journey to art.

Though Fleury is known for her installations, sculpture, and mixed media, the large-scale 2016 painting Bright Ideas stands out for its Warholesque assault on commercialism and nihilism. The piece consists of two frames, one containing outlines of pocketbooks, the other outlines of women’s high-heeled shoes. These outlines are marked in paint-by-numbers style, daring viewers to match the purses on the left with the similarly numbered shoes on the right. Not only does the piece's reliance on simplicity and repetition mimic Warhol, the high-heeled shoe itself is a veritable symbol of the pop art progenitor’s early career.

Stanley Stellar photographs in the Kapp Kapp booth. Photograph by Jamie Lubetkin 
Stanley Stellar, Kapp Kapp

In a solo exhibition brought to Frieze by downtown Manhattan’s Kapp Kapp, renowned Brooklyn photographer Stanley Stellar takes viewers back to the salad days of gay life on the then-abandoned Chelsea Piers, just a few blocks from The Shed.

Known for his evocative black-and-white compositions, Stellar took the opportunity of a Frieze appearance to present a series of 10 previously unreleased color images capturing the essence of New York City's gay piers during the vibrant decades of the 1970s and '80s—a locale he reverently deemed his "studio."

“It’s always been my goal really to see men as art,” Steller said in a video preamble to the Frieze opening. “We’re in New York City, we’re not even allowed to exist. And here we are in New York City and year by year (the piers) became a place to meet, a place to get sun, a place to be naked with each other,” he said of the long-ago Chelsea pier ethos.

Stellar's exhibition weaves a poignant narrative that explores the rich tapestry of queer history in the city. The photographs worthily capture a fleeting era of queer utopia before the ravages of the HIV/AIDS crisis, while simultaneously propelling this legacy forward, bridging the exuberant moments of joy and sexual liberation depicted in Stellar's images with the ongoing narrative of contemporary queer empowerment. As one of the few photographers to embrace color in capturing the essence of the piers, Stellar offers a unique perspective, vividly portraying the vitality of the physical structures and the vibrant personalities that once inhabited them.


The Earth, Elias Sime, James Cohan Gallery. Photograph by Jamie Lubetkin 
Elias Sime, James Cohan Gallery

Ethiopian artist Elias Sime brings a suite of new works that at once amplify and update his existing oeuvre, rife, as usual, with symbolism, wonder and eclat. The exhibition at Frieze comes as Sime’s fifth solo show is underway at James Cohan Gallery in lower Manhattan.

As in his previous work, Sime intricately combines mundane materials to create compelling abstracts that evoke landscapes, figures, and vibrant color palettes. Drawing from a diverse array of everyday items, Sime transforms electronic components such as circuit boards, computer keys, and telecommunications wires into intricate compositions that transcend their original forms.

The seamless interplay between two-dimensional and three-dimensional realms is a defining feature of Sime's work, likely shaped by his architectural practice in his native Addis Ababa. The new works serve as a reflection of the tensions between tradition and progress, human interaction and digital networks, the natural world and human innovation, as well as the juxtaposition of physical presence with the intangible realm of the virtual.

 Pow, Wow, Now, Leo Valledor, Silverlens Galleries. Photograph by Jamie Lubetkin
Leo Valledor, Silverlens Gallery

Silverlens, of Manila and New York, showcases four paintings and two previously unseen drawings by the late Filipino-American painter Leo Valledor, whose innovative contributions to minimalism span decades of creative exploration and evolution. Crafted during the twilight years of his career from 1980 to 1982, these works offer a glimpse into Valledor’s profound artistic odyssey.

A luminary among Filipino American artists, Valledor emerged as a central figure in the blossoming art landscape of his community during the 1960s. His oeuvre, while drawing inspiration from the tenets of precise color-field minimalism, stands out for its distinctive interplay of shape and space. His creations exude a vintage retail allure, through a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues reminiscent of the neon-lit world of advertising. 

The work also highlights Valledor's fascination with shaped canvases and geometric abstraction, showcasing his knack for manipulating sensory perception and blurring the delineations between art, design, and the ethereal. Two previously unseen studies corresponding to the exhibited works, "Pow Wow Now" and "Straight & Still," provide insight into his artistic process.

Frieze New York runs through Sunday, May 5, at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. WM


Scott Orr

Scott Orr is a career writer, editor and a recovering political journalist. He is publisher of the East Village art magazine B Scene Zine. He can be reached via @bscenezine, bscenezine.com, or bscenezine@gmail.com.

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