NEW YORKWith Frieze New York now in its third year, Louisa Buck assesses how the fair has taken its place in the art scene of the city.

To launch a new art fair in what was already the world’s major contemporary art marketplace was always going to be a challenge. Putting it in a tent on an island raised the stakes even higher – especially when the fair in question was not local in origin. However three years on, the gamble seems to have paid off, and Frieze New York has been embraced by both Americans and global players alike, with nearly a third of the 190 galleries participating in its third edition hailing from the Big Apple as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. The remaining galleries come from across the globe from India to Lebanon, from Romania to South Korea, as well as from throughout Europe. “I think a fair takes a while to mature,” says Frieze co-Director Amanda Sharp,  “but this year it’s feeling very much like a fair of North America, which was really our goal.”

According to Sharp “all the major stakeholders are beginning to take the fair very seriously” with such big names as Marian Goodman, David Zwirner and Luhring Augustine taking part, with many presenting solo artist projects which Sharp remarks “is not something we’ve seen in any other fair, anywhere in the world.” A major Manhattan player making her debut at Frieze New York this year is Barbara Gladstone, who is following the solo artist trend by planning a retrospective of drawings by New York artist Carroll Dunham for her booth. “Drawing is a huge part of Carroll’s practice and it’s something we probably wouldn’t be able to do in the gallery,” she reveals, adding that, “I like to have a reason to do a fair, and I think this is what we will do in the future, solo shows and projects that seem interesting to us.” 

Amanda Sharp, Frieze Co-Director. Photograph by Mike Gold. Image Courtesy of Frieze.

So how does Frieze see itself in relation to The Armory Show, New York’s long-established contemporary art fair, which for the last fifteen years has taken place in central Manhattan and which many feel has had its nose put somewhat out of joint by the newcomer arriving from across the pond? “They are very different fairs: certainly less than 20 percent of our exhibitors are in the Armory as well,” says Sharp, choosing her words carefully. “What I feel we have achieved is to bring a very high quality international fair to New York and I think that with the Armory you get the nuts and bolts of a conventional local art fair. With Frieze you get something more adventurous: Randall’s Island, this crazy serpentine structure and all these magical restaurants as well as a very well-curated fair.” 

Barbara Gladstone agrees that “the tent is beautiful and the experience is really lovely, Frieze doesn’t have that art fair convention feeling – it feels festive to me,” but she also adds a note of caution. “New Yorkers are very married to their convenience and the Armory is right in the city and easy to get to – not that Frieze isn’t – but it is more of a commitment. If I were a German or an Italian gallery I’d probably do both!” And does she see Frieze New York impacting the city’s art scene in the way that its transatlantic counterpart dominates the London art world in mid-October? “London is still growing in terms of an international scene but I don’t think any one thing can have such a big impact in New York: it’s too big, too developed and too diverse – New York itself is always an art fair!”

Louisa Buck is a contemporary art correspondent for The Art Newspaper.

Frieze New York will take place on Randall's Island from 9–12 May.