Casey Fatchett

Frieze New York 2019

In pictures: Frieze Sculpture takes over Rockefeller Center in New York

Pieces by 14 international Modern and contemporary artists are dotted around the famous plaza's indoor and outdoor spaces

This year, Frieze New York has extended its reach beyond Randall’s Island and into more familiar—and transit-friendly—territory: Manhattan’s Art Deco mecca, Rockefeller Center. Organising a presentation of sculpture projects on the site “is like being given the keys to a Rolls-Royce and [being told], ‘Go drive this for a while,’” says the sector’s curator Brett Littman, the director of the Noguchi Museum in Queens.

The public initiative, long a part of Frieze’s programme in London, opened at the end of April and is due to remain on view through June. Pieces by 14 international Modern and contemporary artists, including Kiki Smith, Joan Miró, Nick Cave and Sarah Sze— whose galleries are showing in the fair—are scattered across the site’s indoor and outdoor spaces.

News, Isamu Noguchi’s massive 1940 stainless steel bas-relief of five journalists placed above the entrance of what was then the Associated Press Building at 50 Rockefeller Plaza, inspired the project, and many of the pieces resonate with permanent works of art on site.

Sarah Sze, Split Stone (7:34) (2018). Gagosian Gallery. The US artist Sarah Sze’s first outdoor sculpture uses a split natural boulder as a canvas. “This piece has a very complex image that’s actually painted directly into the stone, although it looks a little bit like a hologram or some kind of computer-generated image,” Littman says. “It’s a small piece, and I like the idea of playing with scale.”
Casey Fatchett

Sarah Sze, Split Stone (7:34) (2018). Gagosian Gallery. The US artist Sarah Sze’s sculpture uses a split natural boulder as a canvas. “This piece has a very complex image that’s actually painted directly into the stone, although it looks a little bit like a hologram or some kind of computer-generated image,” Littman says. “It’s a small piece, and I like the idea of playing with scale.”

Ibrahim Mahama, Untitled (2019). White Cube. The sole new commission on view—Littman had a tight turnaround, approached to curate the sector only in December—the Ghanain artist Ibrahim Mahama has replaced the flags of the 192 UN member countries hanging around the famous skating rink with 50 jute flags, made in Ghana of used cocoa bean bags. “I think it will change the whole feel of Rockefeller Center,” Littman says, due to the more muted colours and the weight that prevents the flags from fluttering. Mahama’s work deals with themes like trade, slavery and economic inequality, and the piece nods to Diego Rivera’s radical mural Man at a Crossroads, made for 30 Rockefeller Center but destroyed because it depicted Vladimir Lenin.
Casey Fatchett

Ibrahim Mahama, Untitled (2019). White Cube. The sole new commission on view—Littman had a tight turnaround, approached to curate the sector only in December—the Ghanain artist Ibrahim Mahama has replaced the flags of the 192 UN member countries hanging around the famous skating rink with 50 jute flags, made in Ghana of used cocoa bean bags. “I think it will change the whole feel of Rockefeller Center,” Littman says, due to the more muted colours and the weight that prevents the flags from fluttering. Mahama’s work deals with themes like trade, slavery and economic inequality, and the piece nods to Diego Rivera’s radical mural Man at a Crossroads, made for 30 Rockefeller Center but destroyed because it depicted Vladimir Lenin.

(left to right) Rochelle Goldberg, Cannibal Junkie, 2016, Hungry Hungry N, 2016, and Intralocutor: While watching the grass grow and die and grow again, thinking it was green, 2018.
Casey Fatchett

Rochelle Goldberg, Hungry Hungry N (2016) | For Every Living Carcass (Baseline) (2017) | Cannibal Junkie (2016) | Intralocutor: While watching the grass grow and die and grow again, thinking it was green (2018). Four distinct, semi-abstracted animal sculptures by the Canadian, New York-based artist Rochelle Goldberg, presented by Miguel Abreu, shown together in a garden, “are like a menagerie of a post-apocalyptic Noah’s Ark”, Littman says. “I like the idea of placing them back in nature.”

Goshka Macuga, International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, Configuration 26, Before the Beginning: Stephen Hawking (2016) | International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, Configuration 25, First Man: Yuri Gagarin (2016). Andrew Kreps. Placed in front of Dean Cromwell’s monumental 1946 mural The Story of Transportation in the lobby of 10 Rockefeller Center, the Poland-born, London-based artist Goshka Macuga’s sculptural heads of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking bring transport to the conceptual notions of space and time travel, Littman says.
Casey Fatchett

Goshka Macuga, International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, Configuration 26, Before the Beginning: Stephen Hawking (2016) | International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, Configuration 25, First Man: Yuri Gagarin (2016). Andrew Kreps. Placed in front of Dean Cromwell’s monumental 1946 mural The Story of Transportation in the lobby of 10 Rockefeller Center, the Poland-born, London-based artist Goshka Macuga’s sculptural heads of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking bring transport to the conceptual notions of space and time travel, Littman says.

Jose Dávila, Joint Effort (2019). Sean Kelly. “It’s like a Walter de Maria meets Michael Heizer,” Littman says of this sculpture by the Mexican artist Jose Dávila, which has “post-Modern, Minimalist sensibilities”. Made of two concrete volumes sandwiching a boulder, wrapped with a canvas strap, “it looks like it will fall apart, but obviously it’s a perfectly structurally sound object”.
Casey Fatchett

Jose Dávila, Joint Effort (2019). Sean Kelly. “It’s like a Walter de Maria meets Michael Heizer,” Littman says of this sculpture by the Mexican artist Jose Dávila, which has “post-Modern, Minimalist sensibilities”. Made of two concrete volumes sandwiching a boulder, wrapped with a canvas strap, “it looks like it will fall apart, but obviously it’s a perfectly structurally sound object”.

Pedro Reyes Jaguar (2018) | Seer (2018). Lisson Gallery. The Mexican artist Pedro Reyes is “culturally and spiritually a descendent of Diego Rivera”, Littman says, and these volcanic stone sculptures, inspired by pre-Columbian art, are shown in 30 Rockefeller Center where Rivera’s 1930s unfinished fresco Man at a Crossroads was meant to be installed. They serve as “sentinels, in a way”, Littman says, “providing a witness to an important moment of censorship of art in this country”.
Casey Fatchett

Pedro Reyes Jaguar (2018) | Seer (2018). Lisson Gallery. The Mexican artist Pedro Reyes is “culturally and spiritually a descendent of Diego Rivera”, Littman says, and these volcanic stone sculptures, inspired by pre-Columbian art, are shown in 30 Rockefeller Center where Rivera’s 1930s unfinished fresco Man at a Crossroads was meant to be installed. They serve as “sentinels, in a way”, Littman says, “providing a witness to an important moment of censorship of art in this country”.

Kiki Smith, Rest Upon (2009/16). Pace. “I wanted something in the channel gardens that would be kind of silent and quiet,” Littman says of the US artist Kiki Smith’s life-sized sculpture, which depicts a woman lying down with a lamb on top of her. “I felt like it was such a beautiful juxtaposition.”
Casey Fatchett

Kiki Smith, Rest Upon (2009/16). Pace. “I wanted something in the channel gardens that would be kind of silent and quiet,” Littman says of the US artist Kiki Smith’s life-sized sculpture, which depicts a woman lying down with a lamb on top of her. “I felt like it was such a beautiful juxtaposition.”