Frieze New York’s Director on the Fair’s Evolution and Its Armory Acquisition

'Strong material continues to animate the market,' Christine Messineo, a former gallery director, says.

Christine Messineo. Photo by Ramsey Anderson.

Today, Frieze New York kicks off its 12th edition, and its third at the Shed. In the three years since the fair moved from Randall’s Island, both the art market and the fair itself have changed in a number of ways, amid uncertainty about the post-pandemic economy. Earlier this month, it was announced that Frieze’s parent company, the entertainment giant Endeavor, would be taken private in 2025, and last summer, Frieze snapped up two other fairs, the Armory Show in New York and Expo Chicago.

The same year that Frieze New York moved to Manhattan, it also named a new director, Christine Messino, who came aboard after a 15-year career in galleries, as a partner at Bortolami in New York and a director at the Hannah Hoffman in Los Angeles. She has used her experience in white cubes to keep the fair nimble, dynamic, and adaptable. Just ahead of the fair, Artnet News caught up with Messineo to hear a bit about what goes on behind the scenes, and what to expect this year.

Artnet News: What are you most looking forward to this week?

Christine Messino: It’s going to be a phenomenal Frieze Week, both on-site at the Shed and with the events across the city. It all starts with our galleries, and I’m looking forward to the wide range of solo presentations, including Alex Katz at the legendary Gladstone Gallery, Elias Sime at James Cohan, Sterling Ruby at Gagosian, and Haegue Yang at Kukje Gallery.

The Focus section, steered for the first time by curator Lumi Tan, maintains its reputation as a place for discovery. Stanley Stellar’s color photographs centering the queer community of NYC’s piers in the 1980s are being shown for the first time by Kapp Kapp. I’m also excited about two brilliant self-taught artists—Reverend Joyce McDonald, who is in her 70s, showing with Gordon Robichaux, and davi de jesus do nascimento, with Mitre Galeria. I’m also grateful to Stone Island, which supports Focus exhibitors with subsidies alongside Frieze’s own.

Moving on to programming, a major highlight this year is that we’ve worked with four incredible nonprofits to center performance art—from Chella Man’s work at the Shed with Performance Space, to Ellen Fullman’s performances at Artists Space, to Sharif Farrag’s interactive public work for all at Rockefeller Center with Art Production Fund. And, of course, there’s Matty Davis’s site-responsive work on the High Line, a New York institution that we’re proud to call a neighbor, with whom we’ve co-commissioned a work for the first time.

Maureen Connor and Landon Newton of How to Perform an Abortion with the collective's piece Trigger Planting presented by A.I.R. Gallery at Frieze New York. The third member of the collective is Kadambari Baxi. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Maureen Connor and Landon Newton of How to Perform an Abortion with the collective’s piece Trigger Planting presented by A.I.R. Gallery at Frieze New York. The third member of the collective is Kadambari Baxi. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

What have been some of the standout moments from your time running the fair? 

Looking back, some of the most prominent memories are from more socially engaged presentations and the incredible collaborations we’ve done with public institutions. In 2022, A.I.R. Gallery presented Trigger Planting with the collective How to Perform an Abortion and the National Women’s Liberation. The next year, after Roe v. Wade was overturned, a gallery brought a selection of work made around the time of the 1973 decision by significant feminist artists, including Magdalena Abakanowicz and Louise Nevelson.

Frieze New York has a longstanding history of civic engagement, as demonstrated by our continued partnership with, and we feel a responsibility to give a platform to non-profit organizations including Performance Space and Artists Space this year.

Gallerists speaking at Frieze New York.

Jeffrey Deitch at the 2023 edition of Frieze New York. Photo by Alex Staniloff / CKA. Courtesy of Frieze.

How does Frieze New York relate to the Armory?

Frieze New York is more concise, with our 60-plus galleries, while the Armory is more expansive, within the region of 200 exhibitors and with additional curated sections. The Armory acquisition expands our footprint in the global art world’s undisputed capital, allowing us to further grow our relationships and reach. Both fairs attract knowledgeable collectors, but they have their respective audiences. For example, the Armory draws individuals who are beginning to learn about the art market or making their first purchase, alongside insiders and professionals attending to learn from the curated sections, whereas Frieze New York sees a more international crowd.

Why is Frieze New York’s exhibitor list so small?

The scale is dictated by our venue, the Shed, where we have been since 2021, and we maximize the space available. When we chose it as a venue, we were drawn to its connection to the cultural fabric of the art world—adjacent to the High Line, a quick walk to Chelsea, or an easy trip to Tribeca.

Galleries and collectors continue to appreciate and complement that proximity. We are like-minded in our commitment to civic engagement and art, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We can expand our footprint in other ways—the collaborations and performances this year with the High Line, Artists Space, Performance Space, and Art Production Fund activate sites (including the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center) across the city.

After several years now of having Frieze Los Angeles in the equation, what do you see as the biggest difference between the New York and Los Angeles editions of the fair? 

New York is the capital of the contemporary art world, while Los Angeles is currently seeing rapid growth, as more and more people recognize the strength of the city’s artists, institutions, schools, and collectors.

A person looks through a magnifying glass at a tiny sculpture on display at Frieze in Los Angeles.

A sculpture by Curtis Talwst Santiago presented by Rachel Uffner Gallery at Frieze Los Angeles 2024.
Photo: Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.

It’s been noted that we’re in a somewhat contentious moment in the art market. What do you, as someone who used to be an exhibitor yourself, have to say to gallerists who might be worried? 

Frieze Los Angeles was incredibly successful—there was energy and acquisitions throughout the four-day fair, so we know that we have an active audience right now. Strong material continues to animate the market. Another thing to emphasize about the New York fair is that it is truly international. It is a global moment in the art world calendar, and we will see visitors from across the world convene at the Shed. 

I know that voting rights are an important initiative for you. The election is coming up, but I personally haven’t heard much chatter in the art world about it, oddly enough. Do you have anything up your sleeve for this year’s election?

For the third consecutive year, will be on-site at Frieze New York registering voters, celebrating the Plan Your Vote initiative, and distributing water bottles inscribed with the word ‘banned’ to raise awareness about voter suppression tactics, like the Georgia law banning the distribution of food and drinks at polling stations. And don’t worry, there is more to come! 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.