April showers bring May flowers — and more art events. Kicking off the month is the highly anticipated Frieze New York, a fair which runs from May 2 to 5 on Manhattan’s off-shooting Randall’s Island.

The fair is filled with bougie amenities, picturesque springtime scenery, and complimentary cocktails to name just two,  but the real highlight is still why everyone is there — its enormous art selection, with a gallery featuring over 1000 artists from around the world.

Even the most studied art enthusiast would have trouble parsing through it all, so we’ve got a few suggestions.

Below are ten booths you absolutely can’t miss as Frieze New York.

Yayoi Kusama, A5

As you walk through Frieze’s North Entrance, you’re instantly greeted by “Narcissus Garden,” a legendary work by the godmother of Instagrammable art, Japan’s Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of Victoria Miro, the garden consists of several mirrored ball sculptures of differing proportions. The balls debuted in 1966 when Kusama, still many years removed from the pop culture reverence she enjoys today, installed them guerrilla-style at the Venice Biennale.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, F6

The Frame section of the Frieze Art Fair focuses on galleries aged ten years or younger, including Eldridge Street’s Company which brings Frieze works from exciting interdisciplinary artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase. Based in Philadelphia, Chase’s works examine queer black bodies in complex contexts which blend the ordinary with the bizarre. His outstanding use of color, as well as his fascinating study of the human form, leave no doubt as to why his section received a Frame Stand Prize.

Vaughn Spann, D16

Courtesy of Half Gallery are four works by New Jersey’s Vaughn Spann (aka the art world’s new favorite painter). Included are two installments in Spann’s acclaimed “X” and “Rainbow” series — the latter of which was birthed in response to the death of Trayvon Martin. The Yale alum’s blend of abstraction, iconography, and figuration is part of what makes him a rising star of the art world.

Red Grooms, S24

Perhaps the biggest attraction of the fair comes courtesy of Tribeca-based legend Red Grooms, via the Marlborough gallery. It is what you think it is and more; a life-sized bus sculpture, complete with sculpted human caricatures on board. Created in 1995, the work makes use of mixed media, including leather, wood, foam, and textiles. The result is Instagram gold, though you’ll be hard-pressed to get the vehicle alone to take your shots — New Yorkers have never been so excited to get on a bus.

Salon 94, DLG1

Salon 94 makes numerous contributions to Frieze NY this year, including a fascinating installation by Luis Flores for the Latinx-based Diálogos section; however, it’s in booth DLG1 that the gallery finds its most streetwear-friendly pairings, including a shop chair courtesy of contemporary art star and occasional sneaker designer Tom Sachs.

Kaikai Kiki, C21

Participation from Asian dealers rose in this year’s Frieze fair, including spectacular works from Japan’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery, founded by Takashi Murakami. Among the work they bring to Frieze is a gorgeous ceramics section featuring works from Otani Workshop and Yuji Ueda, with the former providing adorable animal sculptures of various sizes and shapes.

Joan Brown, S12

Frieze’s “Spotlight” section, which curator Laura Hoptman describes as “very relevant to the moment, even though the work is sixty, seventy, even eighty years old,” features 20th-century masters such as San Francisco’s Joan Brown. Four of Brown’s paintings are displayed courtesy of New York’s George Adams Gallery, each of which displaying her scintillating use of color as well as her spiritual connections to figures from various cultures.

Firelei Baez, DLG11

Another sensational contributor to the Diálogos section is Dominican artist Firelei Baez, whose works come via James Cohan and Kavi Gupta galleries. The Santiago-born Baez combines figuration, mythological symbolism and calligraphy to pose questions about traditional Western narratives. One notable example is the piece “Untitled (Central Power Station)” which poses the Dominican Ciguapa, sporting massive, tangled hair, over an old diagram of New Orleans’ Central Power Station, a symbol of the destruction— and failures — of Hurricane Katrina.

Lauren Halsey, Frieze Artist Award

The winner of the prestigious 2019 Frieze Artist Award is Los Angeles’ Lauren Halsey, whose work “Prototype Column For Tha Shaw (RIP The Honorable Ernias Nipsey Hussle Asghedom) I & II” serves as a tribute to the late rapper/businessman and the Los Angeles home they both shared. The piece is comprised of two monumental columns (12 feet in height) which feature numerous references to Nipsey Hussle’s lyrics and images symbolic of black LA life.

Ming Smith, JAM06

This year’s winner of the Frieze New York 2019 Stand Prize comes courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery and features the work of Ming Smith, a pioneering black artist. The trail-blazing Smith was the first black female photographer featured at MOMA and the first female member of Kamoinge. The featured works include portraits of James Baldwin and Tina Turner as well as anonymous subjects, making use of blurry shots and post-production techniques to create images that simultaneously feel dreamier and more real than almost anything on display at the fair, even from artists her work predates by decades.

Words by Elliot Sang
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