Photography Highlights from the 2024 Frieze New York Art Fair

While there is always a degree of positive “what might appear” anticipation around the springtime arrival of the Frieze New York art fair, there were few photographic surprises to be found at this year’s event, which in itself isn’t altogether unexpected, given the heavier tilt towards painting and other mediums in the current contemporary art market.

For dedicated photography collectors like ourselves, there were only two photographic solo presentations to be uncovered (Stanley Stellar at Kapp Kapp and Sara Cwynar at the Poiret skincare booth), and when some of the most intriguing contemporary photographs on view show up in one of the luxury sponsor setups, we know we have reached some kind of ominously ironic milestone. Often the photography to be found was largely predictable fare, the kind that fits well at an art fair, like a Jeff Wall lightbox (at White Cube) or a Doug Aitken transparency (at 303), with a smattering of other works by Zoe Leonard (at Hauser & Wirth), Isaac Julien (a still from his excellent recent film, at Victoria Miro), and Simon Starling (a series of daguerreotypes, at the Modern Institute), and a few performance images by Seung-Taek Lee (at Gallery Hyundai) sprinkled in here and there, none of which rose up to generate much need for further discussion.

The slideshow below gathers together a small selection of the photographic highlights worthy of some additional thinking, starting with the booths on the 2nd floor of the Shed, and moving upwards through the 4th, 6th, and 8th floors. As is the case with all of our art fair reports, each image is supported by linked gallery names, artist names, prices (as available), and a short discussion or commentary. It’s a relatively short list this year, but not without flashes of photographic brilliance.

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (here): This 2007 triptych by Uta Barth traces the light as it moves across an apartment, in both positive and negative tonalities. The hanging light fixture, the edge of the couch, and the framing of the window provide compositional anchor points, but it is the subtle movement of the shadows that provides the understated drama. Priced at $50000.

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (here): Tucked into a back corner, this brand new image by Lisa Oppenheim finds the artist extending her investigation of missing Nazi-looted artworks into the realm of abstraction. No reproduction of the lost oval shaped work was available, so Oppenheim has improvised with silvery darkroom chemicals, creating the hint of a landscape horizon within a gestural wash of movement. Priced at $14000. (Apologies for the dark blotches near the edges of the image, which are flared intrusions not part of the very reflective work itself.)

Anton Kern Gallery (here): Anne Collier’s comic book enlargements of women crying have become an art fair staple, with their bold graphic qualities seemingly always able to hold their own with whatever artistic cacophony might be nearby. This seductive all-blue image was one I hadn’t seen before, the insistent black marks of hair, eyebrow, and eyelashes becoming slashing and nearly abstract. Priced at $28000.

Perrotin (here): During the pandemic, Sophie Calle was asked to prepare an exhibit of her work at the Musée Picasso in Paris. In considering what to do and how to use the space, she discovered that many of the paintings hung in the museum had been covered by craft paper or Tyvek to protect them from dust, light, and other contaminants while the museum was closed. These covered works became the subject for a new series of one-to-one scaled photographs, this one of an obscured portrait of Dora Maar, which of course has some resonances with Maar’s complex relationship with Picasso himself. Priced at €65000.

Hauser & Wirth (here): Photo-based collage seemed to be having a small artistic resurgence at Frieze, at least as seen in photocollages by Romare Bearden, Wangechi Mutu, and Sterling Ruby on view in various booths. This 2023 work by Lorna Simpson was the most compelling of these offerings, the enveloping cosmic star map covering the body of the woman to her eyes like a veil, floating against the expressive blue/black background. Priced at $50000.

Proyectos Ultravioleta (here): This photograph by Regina José Galindo documents a performance in Guatemala, where local residents protesting for water rights carried a ribbon of blue fabric nearly a mile long. As seen in the image, the community-based intervention had a lyrical quality, the fabric moving and undulating like the precious water which had been displaced. Priced at $18000.

Carlos/Ishikawa (here): These four recent works by Rose Salane restage the aftermath of city hall wedding ceremonies. The artist has scooped up the flower petals, confetti, streamers, and other celebratory debris left on the ground outside the doorway to the marriage office in downtown New York City (where many newlyweds pose for photos), and then recreated the piles in her studio. Each has a sense of deflated energy, exhausted but happy, with perhaps a hint of overlooked wistfulness. Priced at $8000 each.

Kapp Kapp (here): This booth was a solo presentation of the color photography of Stanley Stellar, taken at the West Side piers in the 1970s and 1980s. While a number of notable photographers made images in and around the piers (including Peter Hujar, Alvin Baltrop, and David Wojnarowicz, among others), color images from that time are somewhat less common. The booth is filled with a range of posing and comfortable relaxation, documenting both the rotting architecture and the charged environment of desire. A modern print priced at $8500.

Andrew Kreps Gallery (here): Playful surrealism returns in this 2023 commissioned work by Roe Ethridge, made for Vivienne Westwood. Lush flowers and shiny red fingernails surround an elegant blue vase, with the face of the model distorted behind by the shimmery rippled glass. Priced at $22000.

Stevenson (here): Mame-Diarra Niang’s elegantly blurred imagery deliberately pushes away from documentary specificity toward the elusiveness of memory. Figures drift toward shifting color abstraction, like dissolving dreams that stay just out of reach. Priced at €11800.

Up on the 8th floor of the Shed, in among the luxury sponsor displays, the Poiret skincare booth hosted a selection of recent works by Sara Cwynar. This 2024 image returns to the artist’s investigation of the complexities of measuring and rephotography, with each floral image (perhaps drawn from garden magazines or seed catalogs) touched by a finger. Even with a ruler provided at the bottom, the scale is constantly shifting, leading to a categorical arrangement that feels pleasingly unstable. The disembodied finger provides a sense of “look here” physicality, which pulls the viewer into a more intimate dialogue with the process of observation. NFS.

This somewhat earlier work (from 2017) by Sara Cwynar was also on view in the Poiret skincare booth. It reverses the measuring concept, starting with the suit of armor book plate, which is then broken into component images, each rephotographed with a hand holding an object. Again the scale wanders, from an iPod and a hand mirror to necklaces and an old school phone handset, creating a composite construction filled with tactile allusion. NFS.

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Read more about: Anne Collier, Lisa Oppenheim, Lorna Simpson, Mame-Diarra Niang, Regina José Galindo, Roe Ethridge, Rose Salane, Sara Cwynar, Sophie Calle, Stanley Stellar, Uta Barth, Andrew Kreps Gallery, Anton Kern Gallery, Carlos/Ishikawa, Galerie Perrotin, Hauser & Wirth, Kapp Kapp, Proyectos Ultravioleta, Stevenson Gallery, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Frieze New York

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