NEW YORK - The first day of Frieze New York was alternately rainy and sunny outside, but inside it was all smiles as the five-day event kicked off. There’s something about the ferry ride to the remote and green Randall’s Island that seems to put a spring in the step of collectors—maybe it's escaping the concrete canyons of Manhattan—and the mood was upbeat.


The fair clearly made a splash in its debut last year, and the positive buzz has helped it get its sea legs. The Frieze folks have a way of making it feel like the cool kids are running the show, but the vibe is friendly and not too Mean Girls.

A few galleries dropped out for this edition, but a few top names came on as well, including Marian Goodman. The number of people streaming through seemed about the same as in 2012, but Marc Payot, a partner in Hauser & Wirth, told me it was the quality that mattered this time—the big-time collectors came in right out of the gate. And he was quite happy about that.

Overall, there was less emphasis on photography and more on painting this round, though every art fair is something of an unpredictable stew.

The setting certainly helped flatter a lot of the pieces. The light coming in through the serpentine, translucent tent that houses Frieze New York did wonders for Tony Feher’s (Singer of Many) (2008), at Sikkema Jenkins, one of the artist’s “water line” works; the orange, blue and yellow colors of the liquid in the lined-up bottles really popped. Katy Grannan’s dozen or so huge photographic portraits held the walls with great confidence at Salon 94, and lots of people were snapping iPhone pics of the impressive lineup.

Ryan Sluggett’s Wig Sip (2013) is on view at Telles Fine Art.

Those artists are known quantities, but I was also happy to make some discoveries on Day 1. At Telles Fine Art I was beguiled by the big paintings of young Ryan Sluggett—they are the love child of Matisse and Stuart Davis canvases, without being derivative of either. Sluggett has a great sense of color.

Servet Koçygit’s Sunset (2012) is exhibited at Rampa, Istanbul. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMY KISCH.

The elaborate crocheting—crocheting!—of Turkish artist Servet Koçygit also caught my eye in the Rampa Istanbul booth. Sunset (2012) is nothing more than the words "Fuck You Sunset," crocheted, mounted and framed. But the elaborate quality of the work, in addition to the tension between the frilly red detailing and the tart statement, gives even the most jaded art world observer a smile.

I also had to try some of the high-end grub at this most food-obsessed fair, of course. Not only have organizers lined up restaurants like Roberta’s, Mission Chinese (try the pastrami kung pao, it’s great!), Saint Ambroeus and the Fat Radish—certainly a lot classier than the average fair selection—they also have gone to great lengths to reboot FOOD, the famous 1970s artists collective/restaurant founded in SoHo by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carole Goodden.
One artist will be cooking each day, including Goodden, and yesterday was Matthew Day Jackson’s turn. His seemed to be the most arty and high-concept meal of them all; a focus on “astronaut” and “survival” foods, as he told me earlier this year. So I received a plate of beef jerky, pickles and a glass of Tang, among other things. To Jackson, this relates to the idea of mature, cohesive work in the arts marketplace—a connection I entirely failed to fathom.  

But I really liked what he had to say about FOOD’s history as a collective. “The art world’s myth of solitary artistic genius has never really happened—it doesn’t happen in a bubble,” he told me. “Artists thrive in relation to each other and each other’s work. I like the idea of food as a meeting place. It’s nice that FOOD will exist in a visible format, rather than as just a memory.”

Food for thought, you could say. And now I’m off to the fair again, so check this space for further updates on Monday.