Photography Highlights from the 2023 Frieze New York Art Fair

For committed photography collectors like ourselves, the run of spring contemporary art fairs here in New York can often feel a little like a frustrating missed opportunity. We enthusiastically look forward to the fairs, and then proceed to systematically work our way through the aisles, eager to visit with gallery owners (and other collectors and curators) from far off locales and to get caught up with the photography they are supporting. And yet, more often than not, the reality is that when we do arrive to see what they’ve brought, they’ve largely left the photography home, in favor of big (and forgettable) paintings.

Photographically, this year’s Frieze New York Art Fair was perhaps no different than the last few more edited iterations held at the Shed, so maybe we just need to reset our consistently overly optimistic expectations for the photographic magic that might take place. Out of nearly 70 booths across the three floors of this year’s fair, there was just one photographic solo presentation (Nan Goldin at Gagosian), one more solo with a decent dose of photographic (digital collage) work (Lauren Halsey at David Kordansky), and a handful or two of scattered notable photographs elsewhere, with not one gallery in the more emerging Focus section deciding to show photography. Perhaps we are indeed in a somewhat hidden ebb cycle for the popularity of contemporary photography, which might explain the pervasive feeling of treading water. What we likely need is just a few more knockout, attention grabbing bodies of new work (by bigger names or up-and-comers) to remind everyone of the power of the medium, and these doldrums will quickly be forgotten.

As is the case with all of our art fair reports, the slideshow below gathers together a cross section of notable photographs found at the fair, starting with the booths on the 2nd floor of the Shed, and moving upwards through the 4th and 6th floors. Each image is supported by linked gallery names, artist names, prices (as available), and a short discussion or commentary.

Goodman Gallery (here): One of the only self-portraits in Shirin Neshat’s acclaimed Women of Allah series (from 1995), this elegantly reserved image features a garland of ivy and a backdrop of Persepolis, regally centering the artist within Iranian history. Priced at $125000.

Goodman Gallery (here): There is something furtive and anxious about this 1996 lightbox image by Alfredo Jaar. When we find out the backstory includes a Rwandan woman searching for her lost family, the anguished mood slips further into place, with the lush colors of her blue dress and the flowers in the background falling into elusive blur. Priced at $150000.

Victoria Miro (here): Dense jungle vegetation is reinterpreted in delicate pencil drawing in this hybrid work from 2021 by Alex Hartley. Of late, Hartley has continued to explore the intersection of photography and various other materials and substrates, like etched glass, marble, and translucent plastics. This work feels like a deliberate exercise in copying and reseeing, where a moment in photographic time is stretched out into meticulously hand-crafted memory. Priced at £25000.

Victoria Miro (here): This large-scale photograph is actually a film still from Isaac Julien’s recent commission at the Barnes. The moment features a work by the Black sculptor Richmond Barthé, and explores interwoven facets of history, beauty, and Blackness. Priced at £35000.

Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel (here): This two sided work by the Brazilian artist Mauro Restiffe takes Philips Johnson’s Glass House as both its subject and its inspiration. Using the stand alone metal pedestal display approach used for paintings in the house, the work offers views taken from the outside, merging the reflections of the nearby trees with the strict elemental geometries of the architecture. Priced at $60000.

Perrotin (here): This 2022 multi-part work by Sophie Calle merges black-and-white photographs she made in the 1980s at the abandoned Hotel d’Orsay in Paris with recent images made in the now adjacent museum, creating a paired meditation on time and location. The text panels add Calle’s own reflections and recovered notes to the hotel’s handyman to the images of various artworks in the collection, including a darkly moody shot of a starry Van Gogh sky. The effect is a soft melancholy, with the rooms echoing with quiet emptiness in both cases. Priced at €75000.

Gagosian Gallery (here): This booth was a brand-building solo presentation of Nan Goldin’s gridded works from a decade or so ago. Organized by color or by echoes of formal attributes, the works reshuffle Goldin’s photographic archive into impressionistic systems, where red seethes in the shadows of night. Goldin’s consistent mastery of photographic color is perhaps under appreciated, and many of these grids force us to acknowledge how color has informed her vision. Priced at $85000.

Galeria Vermelho (here): Shafts of light stream into the darkness of a village hut in this 1974 image by Claudia Andujar. As Andujar’s massive photographic archive of the lives of the Yanomami people in Brazil continues to be organized and investigated, new images are surfacing, like this one, which wasn’t included in her recent retrospective at the Shed. The child hangs amid grainy greyness, looking directly at us as the streams of light puncture the ceiling. Priced at $15000.

David Kordansky Gallery (here): With her successful installation on the roof of the Met, Lauren Halsey is having an artistic moment. This booth was a solo presentation of her work, including more of her etched stone slabs, as well as a number of digital collages like this one. The works mix Black culture, Los Angeles, ancient Egypt, and Afrofuturist outer space references, creating dense gatherings of Black symbolism. Priced at $60000.

François Ghebaly (here): It’s hard to read but those purple squiggles of cabbage actually spell out the word August, as this work is part of series of images made by Magali Reus for each month. Surrounded by plastic debris and bent wire, the letters feel like a hidden code, which is then echoed in the sculptural steel frame adorned with more letters and wire accoutrements. Priced at $15000.

François Ghebaly (here): This playful set of open-mouthed self-portraits by Farah Al Qasimi can be read several ways. Covid-era mouth examination? Horror screams and shouts? Sequential formal study, with mirrored reflections in the frames? The work is many things at once, simple but still conceptually rich. Priced at $17000.

Carlos/Ishikawa (here): If you’ve ever absently picked up a stray stone at an archeological site and felt guilty about it later, these works by Rose Salane will feel particularly pointed. While on an artist’s residency at Pompeii, she uncovered a cache of objects sent back to the museum with notes of apology. Of course, these shards and rocks can’t be replaced with any certainty, so they have been caught in a kind of permanent limbo. The confessional notes seem to seek forgiveness, for cultural thefts and disruptions that linger. Priced between $8000 and $12000 each, based on the place in the edition.

Andrew Kreps Gallery (here): This Roe Ethridge still life comes from a series of works made on commission for Tiffany that were included in his recent gallery shows (here). This picture wasn’t included in those exhibits, but is still a winner. The plastic-wrapped bananas with the pinned bee in the upper right hand corner are pure still life brilliance, with the mirrored silver objects creating reflections and doublings of the cherry and melting ice cream, and a self-portrait of the artist hiding underneath the scoop. Priced at $28000.

The Modern Institute (here): This work is a recent example from Anne Collier’s ongoing Women Crying series. Drawn from pulp romance novels and comics, the works isolate crying eyes and tears, magnifying the cropped areas to reveal the halftone printing dots. Here the black outline of the eye is particularly dramatic, with the skin tone dissolving into overlapped arrays that feel almost textural. Priced at $28000.

The Modern Institute (here): This portfolio of images was drawn from Luke Fowler’s recent documentary project on the Scottish filmmaker Margaret Tait. The images document various pieces of ephemera, from old photographs and scripts to journals and test shots. The image in the middle right, with colored blocks of light cast across a script (perhaps from a stained glass window in a church) is particularly delicate. Priced at $25500 for the set of 12 prints.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (here): This booth was entirely crafted from artworks made in 1973, including these three photocollages by Jay DeFeo. Playing with cutout shapes and unexpected juxtapositions, the works find uneasiness in the everyday. Priced at $75000 each.

Modern Art (here): This recent work by Frida Orupabo is a strong addition to the artistic momentum she is building. Here a stoic face peers out from under a man’s body, with a blackened Renaissance-style demon hovering above the coupling, the bed covered in patterned fabrics and a blue ruffled skirt. The work feels altogether unsettling, the woman’s expression filled with grim resignation. Priced at $44000.

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Read more about: Alex Hartley, Alfredo Jaar, Anne Collier, Claudia Andujar, Farah Al Qasimi, Frida Orupabo, Isaac Julien, Jay DeFeo, Lauren Halsey, Luke Fowler, Magali Reus, Mauro Restiffe, Nan Goldin, Roe Ethridge, Rose Salane, Shirin Neshat, Sophie Calle, Andrew Kreps Gallery, Carlos/Ishikawa, David Kordansky Gallery, Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, François Ghebaly Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Galeria Vermelho, Galerie Perrotin, Goodman Gallery, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, The Modern Institute, Victoria Miro Gallery, Frieze New York

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