EVERYONE SAYS the Armory Show is dreadful. Yet, said dealer Monika Sprüth of Cologne and London, “Everyone’s here. All of the important collectors.” As if on cue, Glenn Fuhrman stopped in, casting a furtive eye around the Sprüth Magers booth, where new, LA-based partner Sarah Watson was doing meets and greets, and hoping to settle soon on a left-coast location. “We always do well here,” said Eva Presenhuber of Zurich. An early, pre–laser printer installation by Urs Fischer held the floor, where new, New York–based partner Jay Gorney was flexing his conceptual muscle and loving it.
It was Wednesday, March 5, and the VIPs were streaming into Pier 94 for the 2014 fair’s opening day preview. By 2 PM, every aisle was jammed. There was Sofia Coppola with Judd Foundation copresident Rainer Judd. There was David Zwirner, looking over his broad slice of the pie, where he situated digital photo collages by the latest addition to his roster, Jordan Wolfson, next to longtime digital photo star Thomas Ruff. Here was Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin, looking smart against their Do-Ho Suhs, Tracey Emins, Billy Childishes, and such, as SculptureCenter director Mary Ceruti and San Francisco Art Institute president Charles Desmarais took to a corner to confer.
Solo artist presentations were in short supply at this fair—who can afford to promote a single talent on even temporary New York real estate? Marianne Boesky of New York, that’s who. Her booth was devoted to the introduction of South African artist Serge Alain Nitegeka, and for good reason. He’s personable and serious enough to have gone to the trouble of building an obstructing construction of crossed beams at the front of the stand, allowing a delicious kind of backstage entrance through a narrow passage to the exhibition of paintings based on the same Franz Klineish forms. Getting into Susanne Vielmetter of Los Angeles, on the other hand, was nigh impossible, her booth was so chock-a-block with both artworks and buyers.
Left: Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf with artist Jonathan Horowitz. Right: Artists Cindy Sherman and Nancy Dwyer.
With the Hotel Americano supplying the food this year, there was nary an empty seat in the VIP room, where the faces of two Davids—Byrne and the Whitney’s David Kiehl—appeared and disappeared in the crowd almost at once. But the packrats at the Armory paled in comparison with the personalities pouring into the salon-like kitchen of Gavin Brown’s house in Harlem that night, where he was celebrating star turns by Laura Owens, Bjarne Melgaard, Uri Aran, and Jennifer Bornstein in the current Whitney Biennial.
Brown may be the New York art world’s most prized host. Did anyone turn down this invitation? Heaven knows the guests stayed on far longer than Brown, who let the party continue well after he either went to bed or secluded himself in some private chamber to contemplate the future of his gallery, which will have lost its space on Leroy Street to developers by this time next year.
But this night was for the artists and their many friends—Adam McEwen, Ken Okiishi, Nick Mauss, Emily Sundblad, curators Neville Wakefield, Ingrid Schaffner, Alex Gartenfeld, and Fionn Meade, the twins Alex Hertling and Pati Hertling, dealers Nicky Verber and Toby Webster, collectors Marty and Rebecca Eisenberg—in other words, anyone there could drink from a fountain of the ultracool, which runneth over. But it didn’t exactly spill into the March 6 opening of “Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery, 1955–1987,” Paul Kasmin’s tribute to the Surrealist superdealer Alexander Iolas, which attracted an entirely different, equally suave but slightly older crowd.
During his lifetime, the very social Iolas knew everyone and was first to introduce a number of important artists to the world over several decades. One of them was a guy from Pittsburgh named Andy Warhol. According to Bob Colacello, who wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Warhol had his very first and very last shows with Iolas, and died in the same year as the dealer, 1987. “They were partners in camp,” Colacello quipped. The interior designer Jay Johnson remembers Iolas as his first employer. Introduced by Warhol and the Factory’s business manager Fred Hughes, Johnson worked in the Iolas gallery basement as a nineteen-year-old archivist, cataloguing a surpassing inventory that was rich in Surrealists.
Indeed, on the cerulean-blue walls of the Kasmin gallery are a small museum’s worth of paintings by Magritte, Brauner, Mata, Cornell, Warhol, Copley, and Ernst, and several early works by Kasmin gallery artist Francois-Xavier Lalanne—all gathered by the show’s cocurators, Vincent Fremont and Adrian Dannatt, who do not want the memory of Iolas to fade without refreshing the history. A Lalanne toilet embedded into the sculpture of a black fly, complete with toilet paper and bathroom book, attracted the most attention, though not all of it. “Where’s Harold Stevenson?” asked Peter McGough, Jacqueline Schnabel’s escort for the evening. He spotted one a moment later, on loan from dealer Mitchell Algus. “Have you seen Jules’s show?” asked Clifford Ross, referring to the Jules Olitski show opening in Kasmin’s West Twenty-Seventh Street gallery that night. “It’s a revelation.”
Friends and admirers of Sarah Lucas responded to her first show at Gladstone Gallery in New York since 1998 with similar excitement. Phallus forms abound, of course, from the giant bronze and concrete squashes to the billboard-like, peeled-banana imagery on the back gallery’s walls. The air was full of sex and dry humor. “That banana room, oh my God,” said T. J. Wilcox, who wanted a squash bench for his front yard. “I just came from Jordan Wolfson’s opening at Zwirner,” said Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. “That was sexy too, but a more digital kind of sex.”
Left: New Museum director Lisa Phillips and artist Lorna Simpson. Right: Artist Sue Tompkins with dealer Andrew Hamilton.
As the Kasmin crowd made for Indochine, Lucas fans headed for the candlelit Acme Underground, where artists Darren Bader, Rudolf Stingel, Nate Lowman, Jessica Craig-Martin, and Marianne Vitale coupled over communal food and drink with Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp, curators Nicholas Cullinan, Massimiliano Gioni, Peter Eleey, Clarissa Dalrymple, Cecilia Alemani, dealers Bruno Brunnet, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, and Gavin Brown, Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume, Lucas’s partner Julian Simmons, and more, many more. This may be the first art dinner where the artist gave the first toast. “I want to thank everyone at Barbara’s for getting this show on the road,” Lucas began. “Everyone is here for the sheer love of Sarah,” Gladstone replied. “You must come back really soon.”
With the week gathering steam, it reached a rolling boil on Friday night, when Laurie Simmons debuted a new body of work at Salon 94 Bowery. They are large-scale photographs of Cosplayers with fake hair, doll faces, and painted eyes. They’re Gillian Wearing–eerie but more alluring and slippery. People responded with a combination of raised eyebrows, staccato-blinking, and happy-to-be-in-this-club smiles. “It’s about a whole culture of dressing up,” said Rohatyn, who looked smashing dressed up in Rodarte. Sex was in the air here too. Especially same-sex. It didn’t take anyone long to note how many female couples were in attendance, including J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons and Courtney Crangi, artists Deborah Kass and Pattie Cronin, novelist A. M. Homes and producer Kathy Greenberg—and more. Everyone taking plates for the buffet dinner at Circolo enjoyed this shift in power, though there was plenty of heterosexual heft in the company of Eric Bogosian, Cindy Sherman, collector Ann Tenenbaum, critic Hal Foster, writers Lynne Tillman and Siddhartha Mukherjee, sculptors John Newman and Sarah Sze. This was the most relaxed, family-like dinner of the week. No one posing. No one putting on a social mask. No one needed to. It was liberating.
Maybe spring really was just around the corner in this prolonged, arctic winter. A new reckoning for Ross Bleckner was certainly afoot at Mary Boone in Chelsea on Saturday night, where the artist’s new paintings—a kind of retrospective of the new, as one visitor noted—was waking people up to what a seriously good painter the guy really is. Before heading to the Top of the Standard for his party above the city, I slipped into White Columns, where Sue Tompkins was giving a rare solo performance that was dancing poetry, or intermittent song with dance, or intermittent hopping while speaking repeated phrases, all quite charming and mysterious.
Calvin Klein was at the Bleckner party, with Eric Fischl, Ryan Sullivan, Fremont, Colacello, Kass and Cronin, Homes, curator Piper Marshall, Clifford Ross and… well, let’s just say the circle was unbroken.
Next afternoon, Klaus Biesenbach and Peter Eleey presided over the openings of their Christoph Schlingensief and Maria Lassnig exhibitions at MoMA PS1. The line to get in snaked out into the street, possibly because Patti Smith was about to perform as a toast to the late Schlingensief, but I like to think it’s because the word was out on the excellent, even mind-blowing combination of these two European but very different sensibilities of different generations and attitudes. The Lassnig show is a marvel; Schlingensief’s “Animatograph” carousel both difficult to take and mesmerizing at once. “He was my closest friend,” Biesenbach said, leading collector Harald Falckenberg through the show with Schlingensief’s widow, curator Aino Laberenz, who subtitled the exhibition’s films. “We did it for him.”
And the circle within a circle that is the art world did another turn, and kept spinning.
Left: Artist Sue Tompkins. Right: Artist Marilyn Minter with critic Jerry Saltz.
Left: Grey Art Gallery director Lynn Gumpert with Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner. Right: Artist James Nares and Elizabeth Riley Blake.
Left: Dealers Andrew Kreps and Chiara Repetto. Right: Designer Victoria Bartlett and MoMA curator Laura Hoptman.
Left: Artist Louise Lawler. Right: Dealers Ash L'Ange and Nicky Verber.
Left: Dealers Friedrich Petzel and Mary Cherry. Right: Dealer Jose Martos with White Columns director Matthew Higgs.
Left: Artist Eric Mitchell. Right: Photographer Jessica Craig-Martin with poet Angus Cook.