Ferrying to Frieze? Artist and Dealer Joel Mesler Will Paint Your Portrait On the Way to the Art-Fair Island

Riders can commission a portrait for $100 a pop.

Joel Mesler painting Henri Neuendorf's portrait at Independent 2019. Courtesy of Henri Nuendorf.

Those who ride the ferry from Manhattan’s 35th Street to Randall’s Island next month to attend Frieze New York could be treated to an on-deck portrait session, courtesy of the artist and dealer Joel Mesler.

Mesler, who currently runs Rental Gallery in East Hampton, is a veteran of the New York art market, but has been revisiting his own creative inclinations since moving away from the city a few years ago and embracing a new sober lifestyle. The idea to stage impromptu portraiture first came to Mesler two years ago at NADA Miami. “I had sold out my booth of paintings of my own work at NADA two years ago and while I was talking to [publicist] Adam Abdalla about being bored with nothing to do for four days, he suggested painting portraits for people for me to stay busy. The rest is history.”

Ranging from a mere $100-250—less, perhaps, than an evening of cocktails and dinner in New York—Mesler is offering buyers a unique, on-the-spot portrait (available for both humans and non-humans.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” said one sitter, Henri Neuendorf—who happens to be a specialist at artnet Auctions—of his experience sitting for Mesler during the 2019 Independent art fair. “You can’t see what he’s doing, and he’s painting, and then looking at you quite intensely, and you get very curious. There were lots of people walking by, and so you could sort of tell by their facial expressions if the painting was turning out any good… and Joel was very open about saying it might turn out bad, that he’s not technically a portraitist.”

Joel at work during Independent New York 2019.

One attendee remarked that Neuendorf’s portrait looked like Queen Elizabeth, but Mesler claimed it was one of the best he’d done all day.

For those not attending Frieze, Mesler will also be painting portraits in the lobby of the Mark hotel on April 27 and 28.

Ferry riders will pay $100 for a bespoke watercolor portrait done on the cover of Mesler’s new book, which is based on past “live sessions,” featuring more than 80 portraits of fellow fair-goers, published by Harper’s Books and White Columns.

Joel Mesler will be in the lobby of the Mark hotel, 25 East 77th Street, New York, April 27–28, 2019, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Paintings are $250 each on a first-come-first-serve basis. 

Portrait sessions on the Frieze Ferry will be available on May 1, 2019, 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. and will be $100 watercolor works on the front of his new book. 

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