Stendhal syndrome—birthed by Henri-Marie Beyle, incidentally whilst at a basilica checking in with the dead—calls to mind a moment at this year’s Frieze Art Fair New York: Art collector Susan Seelig sojourned at the venue this spring and within 300 seconds dropped $4K on a 12-pound cast aluminum plate, citing its beauty, and remarking to Bloomberg press that she doesn’t “do such things casually.”
What of this particular experience—the Stendhal-esque buzz, that hyperkulturemian flush—that lead Seelig into a realm of casual excess? Was hers one and the same? Did something speak vividly to her soul? First and foremost the art fair is in the business of making money, so how does one elicit this response, strong enough to put down the camera, to crack the wallet? But I digress; this interview takes place before New York’s Frieze, and thus, for all intents and purposes, so does this very article. So here I am, sitting in my car in an empty lot overlooking the blues of the Pacific Ocean, eating a drive-through breakfast while Raphael Gygax, curator at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, writer, savant, teacher, and co-advisor for the Frame section of the 2014 Frieze New York (with a selection of artwork from Frame, featured herein) gets ready for a—likely more sensible—dinner somewhere in Zurich.
Give me an adjective—what sort of experience should attendees expect during this Frieze fair? It’s exciting; it’s a place to discuss ideas to further the efforts of on-the-rise galleries and their respective artists. The fair context offers a very interesting platform for artists starting their careers. I worked with presentations for the Frame section, Frieze’s segment of solo works [featured projects for the event], by galleries eight years old and younger.
And what of the dynamics between yourself and New York-based Curator and Co-Advisor Tim Saltarelli? Tim facilitated the New York base; he has an excellent grasp on the North American scene. Although I travel extensively, with my position here overseas he is better suited for that—I bring the European expertise. Combined, we have facilitated an excellent show. It takes a certain level of strategy to truthfully represent each gallery in an effective way, and I think we’ve done that here.
I understand the exposure benefits of an art fair for young galleries, but are there any mechanisms that must be employed to ensure that the individual artist doesn’t get lost in the enormity of the venue? No, not really. With Frame we’ve had the galleries present solo exhibitions instead of showing five or six different artists. I believe that scenario works best for everyone involved. The exposure is enormous, and to show there is a great benefit really for everyone. Frieze is a force, it stands on its organization to utilize the experience.
In the realm of exposure versus exclusivity, I want to finish by asking you about the state of the art world in general. The gap in wealth continues to grow at an alarming pace, but the 1% has run the galleries plush with money. Does this disparity between the economics of the art world and the economics of the world in general matter? Or has it always been this way in your opinion? It’s an extremely complex situation, you know, I could do an extensive lecture on the subject. It is expensive to run these galleries, to maintain the spaces, and to involve themselves in events such as the Frieze Art Fair New York. For my part, I try to manipulate the system to the extent of understanding where the artists are coming from and to make sure I do my best to get their work out there, to make sure they get the benefits necessary to succeed. Has it always been that way? To a degree, maybe, but there are financial realities in all circumstances. But of course, everyone deserves to enjoy art—I believe in [art’s] transcendent nature.
I’d like to think that I’m a dreamer. I’m not cynical, I’m certainly trying not to be.