The Vault Experience

Published May 10, 2013

ABOVE: LIZ GLYNN, VAULT, 2013. PHOTO COURTESY JOHN BERENS/FRIEZE

“I’m going to tell you a story of a man losing his grip on reality.” This is how a bartender at The Vault, Liz Glynn’s hidden Frieze speakeasy installation, greets us. As he speaks, he glimpses down at what appears to be a plaster labyrinth, just removed from one of dozens of drawers. A number on the drawer corresponds with a key handed to us in an envelope, reading: “THE UNMARKED DOOR TO THE VAULT IS HERE.”

As our cocktails are mixed, the story continues: the man becomes obsessed with a labyrinth, and one day disappears.

Intrigued? If you are one of the lucky few hundred people that each day of Frieze are handed a key (or their plus one), you can experience The Vault yourself.

“I wanted to create an intimate experience in the larger chaos of the fair,” says Glynn, whose work consists of performance pieces revolving around scultpure. The dark, quiet space is meant to evoke a bank vault, and the drawers, which all contain a different object, symbolize safety deposit boxes inspired by the 1920s—”the last era when safes and money were still physical, not abstract on paper.”

Each encounter is a singular one: Bartenders improvise a tale based on one of the objects, which are plucked from short stories by Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. “They’ve read the narratives,” says Glynn. “But they are encouraged to depart from the them, constructing a story that is meaningful and imbues the object with a certain signification.”

As you listen, you might feel drawn to the strange sculpture resting in front of you. “It’s usually only through a narrative or a personal connection that we become attached to things, sometimes in irrational ways,” says Glynn. “Think about whether it’s arbitrary or meaningful.”

It’s important to the experience that people are chosen at random. “It’s not limited based on your caste,” she explains. “The piece gains meaning from this breadth of people being able to access it—I didn’t want it to be just another VIP room.”

THE VAULT IS AN INSTALLATION PIECE AT THE NEW YORK’S FRIEZE ART FAIR, GOING THROUGH MAY 13.