Night at the Art Fair

In a marathon art fair like Frieze, it’s tempting to think of booths like little hotel rooms for gallerists and dealers, who basically live at their stations, eating, working, and possibly secretly napping away.

But this year sees an actual hotel on the premises—art-themed, of course. It’s called Al’s Grand Hotel, a resurrection of artist Al Ruppersberg’s six-week long Los Angeles art project. In the original 1971 rendition, Ruppersberg rented a house, turning guestrooms into separate installations, featuring themes like “The Jesus Room,” “The Bridal Suite” and “The Al Room” (hint: the artist is present).

In the Frieze tent, a blue neon sign announcing the hotel glows in the distance as if off a busy highway. Throughout the day, visitors can swing by the lobby for a drink and check out the two one-room suites (Rooms for the night are booked solid). Working with Ruppersberg, Public Fiction’s Lauren Mackler reimagined “The Jesus Room” and “The Bridal Suite. It’s cheekily literal: “Jesus” is decked out with an enormous wooden cross that guests must clamber over to reach the bed, while “Bridal” drips with flowers. A peak out a mock-window shows a tropical getaway. As a throwback, blown-up photographs from 1971 double as wallpaper. 

Within the impatient pace of the fair, the preservation element was important. “We’re using this opportunity to create a score for how Al’s Grand Hotel will be re-represented in the future,” explains Mackler, who worked in the tent for days with Ruppersburg to perfect the space’s design. The two first met when Public Fiction, a performance space and publisher in Los Angeles, released a series based on the original
Hotel in 2011. Mackler borrowed various ephemera from Rubbersburgphotos, props, books, furniturefor the project. By the time she managed to return them in 2013, Ruppersburg was in talks with Frieze Projects curator Cecilia Alemani about doing a version of the hotel for Frieze 2014. It’s full service for guests, who have access to a concierge and room service from Momofuku, Mission Cantina, Fat Radish, and other on-site dining pop-ups. But it ultimately creates a communal vibe. “The idea of the hotel is to be a theme, a party, a happening,” says Mackler. Mingling in the lobby during vernissage, we felt right at home.