At Frieze New York 2023, One-Person Shows That Shine

Holland Cotter, The New York Times, May 18, 2023

Exciting work from emerging artists exploring environmental change, and proof that much of the most innovative work of the past half century has been by women.


At its debut in 2012, Frieze New York, a spinoff of Frieze in London, came off as an imperious enterprise. The fair commanded an island in the East River. Getting there could be difficult and expensive. And once there, negotiating the miles of pedestrian aisles formed by some 120 galleries made for a humbling degree of exertion.

This has changed. The fair, which is on view till Sunday, is now reachably moored in Manhattan, a block or so from the Hudson, at the Shed on West 30th Street. At roughly half its original size — 69 galleries this year — it makes for a quite doable walkabout spread over three floors. Apart from now-standard “V. I. P” perks, highfalutin’ is downplayed.

Which, of course, makes sense. Art fairs are trade fairs. On the supply side, professionals gather to market and mingle, to compete and compare, to roll out product and hope that it sells. On the demand side, collectors get a one-stop scan of new retail and a chance to drop cash if they like what they see.


Even for those who aren’t in the business of selling or buying, fairs are transactional events. For the admission fee you put down — and it’s a lot of money now, $55 and upward just to get in the door — you expect a vitalizing viewing experience. And Frieze New York 2023 delivers that, specifically in the form of a baker’s dozen of solid one-person shows, and in a historical group whose quietly impassioned spirit threads through the fair.


Mary Lovelace O’Neal, who has a show of six large paintings at Jenkins Johnson is from Whitten’s generation and also Southern-born. At an early point she felt compelled to turn gestural abstract, to which she was attracted, into a political as well as personal medium, and the two are inseparable in her art. The young African American artist Naudline Pierre, who shows at James Cohan, follows O’Neal’s expressionist lead but moves it in a mytho-spiritual direction, turning Cohan’s booth into a grotto-like chapel of rich colors and swirling figures.

It’s exciting, walking through the show, to experience this slow-building choral effect, worth the price of admission. Now what should change is the current steep price, which puts Frieze New York beyond the reach of a wide audience — including a crucial audience of young artists — just as surely as its island location did years ago.