It’s a Bus! VIPs Are Raving About Red Grooms’s Monumental Sculpture at Frieze New York

Climb on board this incredible soft sculpture at the big fair.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.
Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

It’s a familiar sight: Busy New Yorkers lining up to board an MTA bus. You just usually don’t see it inside the big white tent at Frieze New York. The life-size sculpture, aptly titled The Bus (1995), is the work of Red Grooms presented by London’s Marlborough Gallery in the fair’s Spotlight section, dedicated to solo presentations of work by overlooked figures. The work, listed at $550,000, sold to a museum during the VIP preview on Wednesday.

“It’s the ultimate Instagram showstopper,” Marlborough associate director Max Lefort told one fairgoer. He then gamely snapped a photo of the visitor posed onboard the bus, seated alongside the sculpted passengers, carved from foam and brightly painted.

“The structure is almost like a tent. There’s leather bits, there’s textiles, there’s foam and wood,” Lefort told artnet News. The mixed media work measures nearly ten feet tall and over 22 feet long. The details are impressively on point, from the New York license plate to the old-school token machine (back then, before the dawn of the MetroCard, a single ride was just $1.25). There’s strip of ads below the ceiling, touting quirky products imagined by the artist, plus his take on “Poetry in Motion,” dedicated to the ubiquitous New York pigeon.

The sculpted straphangers, some reading books or newspapers, others dozing off or chatting with one another, aren’t portraits. “They’re inspired by all the weird and wonderful people you meet in New York,” explained Lefort.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Crafting all this took Grooms months—and it isn’t even his most ambitious work. New York has been a source of inspiration for the artist for decades. In 1975, he created Ruckus Manhattan for Creative Time, a more than 10,000-square-foot recreation of New York City between Battery Park and Times Square.

The Bus, which debuted at Marlborough New York in October 1995, reflects a similar love and appreciation of this hectic, non-stop city. It was last in New York at Grooms’s 2011 show at Marlborough, and was most recently on view at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in “Red Grooms: Travelling Correspondent” in 2017.

In the fair’s early hours, plenty of art lovers were boarding the bus—but unlike real mass transit, capacity is limited to just four commuters/collectors at a time.

See more photos of The Bus below.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, <em>The Bus</eM> (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Frieze New York is on view at Randall’s Island Park, New York, May 1–5, 2019.


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