May 5 (Bloomberg) -- Mark Ruffalo, clad in navy-blue work clothes and white butcher apron, was frying pork sausages in the booth of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise at Frieze Art Fair New York Thursday.
The actor, who plays the Incredible Hulk in the new movie “The Avengers,” was there as part of a performance piece by the gallery artist Rirkrit Tiravanija to raise awareness about hydraulic fracking for natural gas.
“Fracking contaminates our water, and without water there’s no food,” the actor-activist said. “We wanted to remind people where their food comes from -- and to feed them some sausages.”
A 20-minute taxi ride from the Upper East Side, the art world elite has converged on Randall’s Island at a tented site adjacent to sports fields, a psychiatric hospital and a homeless shelter. Here, the London-based Frieze fair is making its New York debut, through May 7.
“It’s a pilgrimage,” said Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, daughter-in-law of the financier Felix Rohatyn and owner of Salon 94 gallery. “New Yorkers are seeing a different part of New York.”
Many of the 180 galleries under the translucent white tent reported brisk business Thursday for the VIP reception. They were frequented by Lightyear Capital LLC’s Donald Marron, John Mack, the former chief executive of Morgan Stanley, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation President Jennifer Blei Stockman and Lisa Dennison of Sotheby’s.
“I came early: I wanted to make sure I had the first picks at some things,” said art adviser Elizabeth Kujawski, Ronald Lauder’s curator, declining to be specific.
Was she successful?
“Yes, I was,” she said.
At the booth of Chelsea gallery Cheim & Read, Marron checked out a $2 million hanging beehive-like sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. Margaret Loeb, the wife of hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb, admired Lynda Benglis’s gooey-looking “Quartered Meteor.”
“The first half an hour was like 2007 all over again,” said Adam Sheffer, partner at the gallery. “We brought modestly priced, accessible work and it moved like wildfire.”
Los Angeles-based collectors Herbert and Lenore Schorr stopped by the booth of James Fuentes and studied small paintings and drawings by Joshua Abelow.
‘Good and Uplifting’
“It’s spacious and airy,” Lenore Schorr said of the fair. “It feels good and uplifting.”
“Given we have so many great fairs in the U.S. now, there’s no need to go abroad,” her husband said.
By 2 p.m., the Lower East Side gallery had sold 30 of the works, ranging from $2,300 for a drawing to $45,000 for a group of 72 paintings.
The star of the Salon 94 booth was a 19-foot-long, $250,000 beige custom car, “Trabantimino,” created by Detroit-based artist Liz Cohen. She wowed fair-goers by demonstrating its hydraulic ability to expand and contract and rise and fall.
“It’s a kinetic sculpture,” said Alissa Friedman, a director of the gallery. “It works, it drives. The artist got it up to 60 miles per hour.”
Another hit of the fair was “Too Big to Fail,” Barbara Kruger’s black-and-white painting offered by Sprueth Magers. The word “fail” was upside-down.
By 1 p.m., two collectors had asked to place the $200,000 work on hold.
“So I reckon it sold,” said Andreas Gegner, a director of the gallery, which is based in London and Berlin.
Back at Gavin Brown, paper-stuffed sausages packaged in individual, wood boxes were selling out at $500 each. Proceeds went to Water Defense, a nonprofit co-founded by Ruffalo.
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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.