A New York art fair is coming to your smartphone.
For the first time, Frieze New York — an eight-year-old fair that will be held at Randalls Island Park from Thursday through Sunday — will include a virtual reality component. For fairgoers, this will come in the form of a booth with works visible via high-tech headsets. But it will also be available to curious viewers worldwide, via the free-to-download Acute Art app. All you need is a basic virtual reality headset like Google Cardboard, and you can immerse yourself.
The VR section of the fair is called Electric, and Daniel Birnbaum, the former director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, served as its curator. Mr. Birnbaum, who is the director of Acute Art and a leader in the field of artistic production using VR, selected seven works — six in virtual reality and one in augmented reality — for Frieze’s first foray into the medium. The AR work is an exploration of a physical drawing. Two VR works are historically focused pieces done in collaboration with contemporary artists; these use the technology to explore works by Marcel Duchamp and Hilma Af Klint.
This might be the first time many people see VR art in person, Mr. Birnbaum said. Of the in-app element, he said, it’s a chance for a “mainstream audience who wouldn’t normally go to fairs” to have the experience.
Loring Randolph, Frieze’s artistic director for the Americas, said, “I think the work in Electric is going to blow people away and I’m very excited about the new dimension that it is going to bring to the fair.”
Here’s a closer look at three of the pieces that are accessible via your iPhone or Android.
‘Into Yourself, Fall’ by Anish Kapoor
Anish Kapoor, a lauded sculptor, is unveiling his first VR piece, “Into Yourself, Fall,” at Electric. It’s a roughly 10-minute-long immersive experience that Mr. Birnbaum described as a “spiritual, circular, temporal journey of sorts.” It begins in a familiar forest, with light filtering through the tops of trees — but there is a break of sorts, a falling down the rabbit hole that feels literal and almost physical through the virtual reality goggles. You move through strange landscapes that are almost lunar, and through supernovas of color. There are shifting shapes that could be amoebas or ink blots.
“You lose some sort of control in a virtual cosmos,” Mr. Birnbaum said. “On the one hand this is an experiment outside of what he normally works in, but if you know Anish’s work, you might recognize his visual effects and textures and colors.”
‘Man Mask’ by Rachel Rossin
Rachel Rossin has long been thought of as a wunderkind of virtual reality-based art. Unlike many artists in the field, Ms. Rossin is a self-taught coder who works directly with the technology. Her work “Man Mask,” which was previously shown at the New Museum, draws from the worlds of gaming and guided meditation. She takes landscapes from “Call of Duty,” a military video-game franchise, but reframes them, as a woman’s voice drones dreamy mantras in the background: “Peace and cheerfulness are now becoming my normal state of mind.” The soldiers take on trippy, spirit-like qualities and the world becomes washed-out and strange.
Mr. Birnbaum said: “She has taken the violence away from the game and created a dream world.”
‘It Will End in Stars’ by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg
Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg have worked to create immersive environments for more than a decade, and are now experimenting with virtual reality. The pair’s approach starts with material objects that Ms. Djurberg creates. “She’s very traditional, and she emphasizes craft,” Mr. Birnbaum said. “She produces every single little thing with a piece of sculpture or other materials, and those are then scanned and animated.” Mr. Berg composes the music for the pieces and helps to turn them from a physical landscape into a virtual one. This piece has a dark, ominous quality about it: The trees and the interior of a house feel stretched and warped; the work seems to draw as much from Grimm’s fairy tales as it does from new technology.