Another month, another art fair. Now in its third year, Frieze New York continues to get it right. With airy spaces, comfortable floors, and better food than your average fair, Frieze New York always feels pleasant.
There was a sense that everything “good” was going to sell within the first hour, yet it didn’t feel frenetic like most fairs the moment they let the VIP cardholders past the velvet rope. Perhaps it was Sudafed-induced, as I was determined to see and conquer the fair even though I had the typhoid, but I was actually able to contemplate as I perused the galleries. With Mother’s Day approaching, I had female artists on the brain. While I never considered myself a feminist, I am wondering if I am in fact an undercover Gloria Steinem. Not only do I get bizarrely emotional about art produced by the female greats, I also feel a sense of pride when supporting them.
My favorite has always been Louise Bourgeois. It was at an art fair at my friend Tina Kim‘s booth where I first realized my connection to Louise. There, Tina had Louise’s teensy and magnificent Maman sculpture on a web, nestled perfectly in a corner. Though no one puts baby in a corner, anyone who has enjoyed even a moment with a Maman can feel the deep love Louise had for her own mother and for the multifaceted role of all women. Cheim & Read represents L.B.’s estate, so I do tend to go to the source for her work. That said, Hauser & Wirth and Tina Kim always have magnificent examples as well.
Another one of my most beloved women is Tracey Emin. She is a sassy one who, to me, is a modern-day Louise Bourgeois. In fact, the two actually collaborated on a few brilliant projects before L.B.’s death. Tracey’s neon work is sexy, gorgeous, and fun. Her quilts, paintings, works on paper, and sculpture are more cerebral and often dark, but beautiful nonetheless. While it seems Tracey is popping up in several places around the world, the best sources for her work are Lehmann Maupin and White Cube galleries.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Well, first off, Mary Heilmann is not contrary. This amazing woman, who came of age with California artists like Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari, is the kindest artist out there. I know this because she had me to her studio, which is in a barn on a working farm. The farmer grows the gardens! Anyway, I have always loved Mary’s abstract, colorful, and geometric art. Her work often represents places she has lived and traveled, or channels other historical artists. Mary Heilmann is pure genius, but historically her work has been undervalued relative to her peers because she is a woman. A new day has dawned for sure!
My very first piece of contemporary art was a Yayoi Kusama work on paper. She is most well known for her infinity-net paintings and sculptures with polka dots (her flowers can be found in the park in Beverly Hills). Historically, collectors have exclusively wanted to acquire her earlier works of the 1950s and ’60s. Not so long ago, we all turned up our noses at a recently created infinity net. I was shocked to learn that 2014 infinity nets are valued at about $400,000. When I questioned this number, the dealer pointed out that an older painting is now worth millions, and they are not so readily available. That, collectistas, is art market 101 in nutshell.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo, Egypt, but spends most of her time in the United States. Her beautiful work conveys feminism and sexuality, but my favorite pieces are those with her signature threaded embroidery. Her embroidery always has images of women on the underlying canvas. These images are often so subtle that one can easily miss them without careful examination. Whether it’s her sculpture or canvases, the attention to detail is stunning. You can see more of Ghada Amer’s work at Tina Kim Gallery and Cheim & Read.