Music Invades Art Fairs: Frieze New York Will Stage a Female-Centric Festival This Year

The Frieze New York Art Fair on Randall's Island May 9-12 is adding music to its third annual event. Seventeen local and international acts, from indie rock duo Christy & Emily to soul singer Suzi Analogue, will greet - or confront - art lovers as they enter the fairgrounds as part of the female-centric mini-music festival Without, created by Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based artist Naama Tsabar.

The bands of Without include Noveller, the stage name of Sarah Lipstate, a filmmaker-musician who has scored Radiolab's live-staged show and collaborated with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, and pop-rock group The Suzan, which has toured with Peter, Bjorn & John and had its song "Come Come" featured in a Verizon Wireless ad.

"Saturday and Sunday are going to have a tight lineup, with a band every hour. There's going to be food vendors and [merchandise] tables," says Tsabar. "We're trying to get as 'festival' as possible." Last year, Frieze New York, a satellite of the 11-year-old uber-popular Frieze London, drew approximately 60,000 visitors. The 2014 edition will showcase 193 of the world's leading contemporary galleries, including The Gladstone Gallery in New York and The Box in Los Angeles.

The Without fest is another sign that fraternization between the music industry and art fairs is on the rise. Pop-R&B act Blood Orange performed for the Armory art fair's opening-night party at MoMA in March. Last year, Kanye West - who is part of a new wave of artists including Jay Z, Solange Knowles, Usher and Swizz Beatz that are becoming serious art collectors - debuted tracks from his 2013 album "Yeezus" at Art Basel's Switzerland fair. The presence of music at Art Basel Miami Beach has been growing ever since Iggy Pop played on the beach to a bewildered art crowd in 2007. Last year, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Busta Rhymes and indie rock duo Tegan & Sara performed for the Miami crowd. And Frieze London has had everyone from Hercules & Love Affair and The Kills to composer Karlheinz Stockhausen perform in recent years.

Often, though, music at art fairs is presented on a different level than the art itself, as an after-thought at a showing or gallery's afterparty. Tsabar, on the other hand, intends to equalize things by making the musicians on par with the artwork, presenting performances at the same time patrons are browsing the wares at the fair.

The sounds that will waft through the air at Frieze New York will be diverse - performers run the gamut from a jazz trio to indie rock groups - but they have something in common: Each has a female percussionist. Helping to find 17 bands that fit that bill was Mindy Abovitz, editor of the quarterly magazine Tom Tom, a publication dedicated to female percussionists.

"I love that the idea for this Tom Tom magazine-curated music festival sprung out of Naama Tsabar's concept of an architectural intervention for her Frieze Art Fair booth," says Lipstate.

"It was important for me to open this window," says Tsabar. "When I went to see all these shows in Brooklyn [as research], it was male-dominant. I'm more interested in putting to the forefront the female voice that is there, but it is not always given the stage. In the context of the art fair, probably 70 percent, if not more, of what's going to be displayed inside will probably be [created by] men."

-Maxwell Williams


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