Record heat hits Frieze New York, affecting not just the mood of fairgoers, but sales as well.
A day of record heat that peaked at 90 degrees that served as a summer wake up for New York City made things extremely uncomfortable as Frieze New York got underway. At the insular art fair some 200 galleries typically pay low six-figure sums to sell works of art to moneyed collectors for tens of thousands of dollars. For dealers courting these collectors, the wrong temperature could be a factor in deciding whether or not a collector will stay at the fair.
In the insular world of art, there’s always some sort of wall that needs to be surpassed to gain entry into an even more exclusive space, and that’s no exception with Frieze. The most important collectors and art-world VIPs get to go in at 10am, the earliest entry time on the first day, and from there entry is staggered by just how important you are. When I arrived at the East 35th Street ferry dock around 1:30 pm, I noticed that the boat returning from Randall’s Island was curiously more full than in years past, and people who normally would stay for the majority of the day were returning. I saw somebody I knew and asked him how the fair was. “Hot,” he replied. I didn’t believe that the fair could be that hot. They have to have air conditioning, I thought to myself. As soon as the boat arrived to Randall’s Island, I noted that the line for people to return to Manhattan was also long. I surveyed the line to find somebody I knew. “It’s hot. There’s no air conditioning. You need a fan with a spray bottle of water,” said a fellow writer who I saw waiting in the line.
As soon as I entered the tent, all anybody seemed to be talking about was the temperature of inside the fair. “It’s not Frieze, it’s cooked,” joked one fairgoer. “This is the hottest I’ve ever felt at Frieze,” whined another. People seemed more concerned with the heat than looking at art as they fanned themselves with everything from chic folding fans to Frieze maps, and lines at the fair’s many food vendors were were packed with people trying to get an ice-cold beverage. Fairgoers were even getting testy about the last scoop of Morgenstern’s ice cream. “We were here first,” one couple announced. Luckily I got the last runny scoop of strawberry topped with a tiny bit of salted chocolate at 4:04pm when it was 86 degrees outside. About an hour later a new supply arrived from somewhere, and fairgoers once again lined up for ice cream. After speaking to Frieze representative I learned a shocker: There was indeed air conditioning in the tent, and it was on throughout the night to prepare for record May heat.
There’s a reason why the word comfort is associated with wealth; the wealthy like to be comfortable, and that means at an art fair too. For collectors to comfortably make a purchase, they need to feel comfortable. I’ve seen fairs where it was the heat didn’t work properly, and it was so cold that people walked around in fur coats; collectors left early because they were on edge, and dealers didn’t do as well as they hoped. Last year’s rainstorms during Frieze New York didn’t help the either. A number of dealers were slower than they initially thought, and many blame it on the heat, but word spread that some exhibitors had a great day of sales. Apparently no extreme temperature will stop a collector from buying a work of art, but it certainly doesn’t help the galleries either.