A common result of walking through any art fair is realizing that, after two hours, no more than a handful of works remain in your memory. And the ones that are on view at Capsule Shanghai’s Frieze New York booth are likely to be among that handful this time around. 

In the Focus section for young galleries, Capsule is showing work by Tao Siqi. Upon passing the booth, a double take is almost compulsory. Sensual, violent scenes—bondage, asphyxiation, and other kinky activities—are depicted in fluorescent yellows and reds. Tao’s works are inspired by Les Fleurs du mal, the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 exploration of beauty, decadence, eroticism, and the duality of human nature. Baudelaire explored love’s dark side; Tao does so, too.

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Some of the works are framed in metal, and chainmail curtains drape along the booth’s back wall, a nice touch. “Siqi uses a lot of metal in displaying the work,” said gallery manager Zhiyi Zhou. “She wants to create a juxtaposition between the coldness, the hardness of the metal against the softness, the warmth of the lust, and the human flesh that she’s portraying in the paintings.”

The booth’s placement couldn’t have been better. While the booth is not quite in the most heavily trafficked area, Capsule’s space overlooks the Shed’s second floor, where blue-chip galleries command most of the attention. It’s exhilarating to spend some time with Tao’s claustrophobic pictures, then turn around and see the expanse of the Shed’s lower floor, where tiny people mill around. 

It would be negligent not to mention Company Gallery’s presentation of work by Leyla Faye, which is just behind Capsule’s booth in the Focus section. Faye paints giant Topsy-Turvy dolls that burst out of their canvases. Those dolls, which are infamous for sometimes taking the form of mammy figures, are enlisted here as a statement about racism and objectification of Black women. That doesn’t exactly lends itself to humor, but Faye’s paintings, with their dissembled doll parts and smiley faces, are also wonderfully funny, proving that laughs and sharp critique aren’t incompatible.