My VIP trip to the Frieze and Context Art Fair

It was only $10

I am obsessed with anything in the arts. As much as there is so much art in New York City, some access to art is a privilege. When it comes to international art shows, tickets are highly expensive, and you sometimes need to be invited to enter. Since I was a kid, I would always see and hear about art shows that wealthy people attend to, and I always desired to see what is behind the doors. In middle school I would pass by galleries in my neighborhood on opening nights just to envision what would it be like drinking and looking at amazing pieces of art. This year I have been very lucky to obtain two VIP tickets to the Frieze Art Fair & Context/Art NY international fairs. The former is one of the most prestigious art fairs one can attend to in the world.

When I saw ads of the shows back in March 2016, I looked everywhere to get in. These shows do not offer free public viewing days as smaller art shows do. The first week of may I received an email from El Museo Del Barrio the NY Latino arts museum, that as a member I would receive a complimentary VIP ticket to the Context/Art NY show. I was all hyped to attend that I was wondering if they would do the same for Frieze, but unfortunately it wasn’t the case. I recommend everyone to sign up for a IDNYC card where one can obtain membership to numerous arts institutions in New York City, and then as a result you get perks like VIP tickets to other art shows. I did however double check on Frieze’s website to see if there were any discounted tickets. To my luck, the fair was offering a whopping $10 tickets for young adults only available on Thursday May, 5th. $10 compared to a few hundred to attend one of the highly acclaimed shows in the world, HELLS YEA I AM GOING.

On May 5th after my morning class, I took the 6 train to 125 street, and then the M35 bus to Randall’s Island to the Frieze show. I had 50 minutes to see a whole art show before going back to class. When I arrived, I showed my ticket confirmation on my email and I was not allowed inside. I asked why, “I am a VIP holder” I was asked to go to the VIP desk to print my ticket. At first the VIP office couldn’t find my name and then later did. See what happens later!

As I travelled around Frieze, I noticed many renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Sol Lewitt, Gerhard Richter and the entire exhibition was more so who knows who, and what galleries gets to show off their brand named pieces. One thing I hate about these type of fairs is the majority of people who are invited and attend are white upper class people and they come with their straight partners. As someone who is gay, transgender, a person of color from a low socioeconomic background, I know how much I internalize by being the “other”, “minority”and “token artist” in majority of these spaces. If you are not white, upper class, and above 30, you are bound to receive a lot of stares and disrespect from gallery owners who doesn’t see you as equal because they assume you are not buying which means it’s not worth their time to assist you. It is hard for me to find work that I gravitate towards too because most of what is shown are works of European masters and is represented by mostly European galleries.

As a mixed media artist and someone who prefers new, different, and more interactive pieces like sculptures I tend to look for these works of art to fulfill my creative appetite.

Here are some pieces I enjoyed very much.

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Melvin Edwards. “Lynch Fragments” Courtesy of Studio Museum of Harlem (sculpture, metal)

Athena Papadopoulos (sculpture, fabric)

Athena Papadopoulos (sculpture, fabric)

Yayoi Kusama (sculpture, fabric)

Yayoi Kusama (sculpture, fabric)

Besides Yayoi Kusama who is a renowned Japanese artist, the other two I have never heard of. Papadopoulos is a Canadian artist who is in her late 20s and now exhibits and resides in London. Edwards I have learned is America’s foremost Black contemporary sculptor who has exhibited all across the country since 1965. Their three pieces spoke to me because of the texture, material, and mostly expression. For me these sculptures represent a division between freedom and restriction. There was life but also death in the pieces, stuck in the middle, and frozen in time. I admire installation art because it it interactive to the viewer. Many novice art admirers or even non can get sick after seeing 1000s of 2D paintings on a rectangle canvas which you need to see from 5 feet away. Art for me needs to be a part of the artist as well as the viewer. I gravitate towards artists that give me half of their eyes to see and feel their world without that strong communication, art does not have a message and purpose to tell.

Close to the end of my 50 minute stay at the Frieze art fair, I was heading out, and I noticed that VIP holders were receiving gifts. For sure I helped myself to a nice tote bag, fancy tea set, and creams and perfume from Aesop. I then rushed out of the fair heading towards the bus station. To my surprise there was a coach bus taking VIP members back to the city and happened to drop us off right by Hunter College. Life couldn’t get any better, and I couldn’t get any luckier. When I got to class which I was only late by 15 minutes at 3:13, I was checking my emails. I had a reminder to collect my VIP ticket to the Context Art fair. In that moment I froze and realized that I had used my $10 Frieze ticket to gain access to all the Frieze VIP perks. Oh well… You know what? I deserve it, as a low socioeconomic student it is ridiculous that a fair that is sponsored by numerous corporations wants to charge me a few hundred dollars. This is my revenge on capitalism.

Now. On Sunday, May 8th I arrived at the Context Art fair at Pier 94 by the Hudson River The ticket manager (white, cis, straight guy) and gallery owners inside were rude to me because I didn’t fit the ‘profile’ of what a VIP holder looks like. I picked up my VIP ticket, made sure it wasn’t my $10 ticket and proceeded into the fair.

Like I said “why I hate the art industry?” Because it is to corporate and white.

The Context/Art NY fair is smaller in size compared to Frieze but holds a larger amount of galleries and artists from various countries. Diversity in the arts expands my knowledge as to what is out there, and what can I incorporate into my work.

The setting was interesting that it divided both shows into sections of geographic location. I was mostly drawn to artists and galleries of German and Japanese descent. I will generalize but both countries are known to have renowned artists besides being advanced countries in the industry.

** SWOON, (Painting & sculpture, wood) (non- german) **Super famous though!

** SWOON, (Painting & sculpture, wood) (non- german) **Super famous though!

Other pieces I like of unknown artists.

Unknown, (painting)

Unknown, (painting)

Unknown (painting)

Unknown (painting)

Unknown (sculpture, mixed fabric)

Unknown (sculpture, mixed fabric)

Unknown (sculpture, string)

Unknown (sculpture, string)

Unknown (charcoal painted with 1 thumb)

Unknown (charcoal painted with 1 thumb)

I admired these works because of their new way of conducting art. One used their thumbs with charcoal to paint, another used balls of yarn to protest nuclear warfare and capitalistic corporations and another made their piece interactive where one touches the chords and the image is recreated with music and forms a new hand. Different and new techniques is what I like, because heck everything else is boring. I try hard to not selfie everywhere I go and really just allow my eyes and soul record what I see.

As I left unfortunately there were no VIP gifts, BUMMER! Even the VIP lounges nothing at the Bar was free, but for two shows that are worth a few hundred dollars each at the VIP level and all I spent was $10 + $10 in transportation fees, I think I got a good deal, don’t you think?

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