Pin It

The Stuff Polly Brown Stole From Frieze New York

Photographer Polly Brown toured the galleries of New York's Frieze Art Fair, liberating staplers, Post-its and Pritt Sticks from their gallery homes

TextOlivia SingerPhotographyPolly BrownPhotographic EditorHolly Hay

Last week, Randalls Island played host to the glitterati of the art world; from the artists themselves to the high-flying billionaires (Jerry Speyer, Dasha Zhukova, Leonardo DiCaprio et al.) who might pick up a piece or two at the New York edition of Frieze Art Fair. However, not only was the island flooded with the sorts of people who might have made or purchased a formaldehyde cube, but beloved photographer Polly Brown also pitched up with an empty tote bag and a mission to liberate (or, steal) some art fair ephemera. "I often have an overriding urge to be naughty when at events or fairs like Frieze," she explained. "There are so many people being very serious that it has the effect of making you want to mess it all up a little. By stealing things, I felt like I was creating a tiny chaos in a well-oiled machine."

Brown left the fair with an assortment of slightly bizarre, but very practical, objects ("They are mainly stationery-based so this has been a very profitable project for my desk area"): some Hauser & Wirth Post-its, a David Nolan Pritt Stick and a biro courtesy of the Gagosian. "I especially like the PACE phone charger," she says. "It is both sleek and practical. However, I couldn't have survived this project without the aid of all the food stolen from various Frieze cafes. Cookies and cakes, and a weird yoghurt with seeds in it."

However, she was not the only thief in action: David Horvitz hired a roving, professional pickpocket to tour the fair, depositing miniature sculptures into the bags of unsuspecting visitors. “I thought it would be funny to have a pickpocket wandering around stealing people’s wallets,” he told Frieze but, with understandable concerns as to the legality of his desired project, he settled on the reverse: “a method of secret free distribution of artwork.” In a brilliant twist of fate, Brown ended up securing one. "I got pickpocketed whilst I was stealing," says Brown. "The last shot in the project is a swag shot of everything I stole – I tipped my bag out when I got home and there was a little silver seahorse in my bag, too. This Frieze, theft was obviously in the air."