Family Style

Paris
11.29.04

Pavel Pepperstein's opening last night at the Centre du Diamant, a glitzy wholesale jewelry showroom in the rue de la Paix (two steps from the Opera and Place Vendôme), was quite charming: little watercolors of dollars and euro symbols exhibited on the wall and in vitrines alongside the ugliest diamonds you ever saw. The art world conduit to such an unlikely venue was the Galerie Iragui (in the Marais) which deals with Russian artists and, apparently, with French jewelers. And you could try on the jewelry—Lisa, my wife, tried a big, citrine dinner ring. The champagne glass in her other hand—and the string quartet playing in a corner—added considerably to the effect. A weird, New Agey video of the artist was playing on a monitor in the over-the-top, fake-marble and gilt entrance. The crowd was a very strange group, comprising lots of Russians and odd-looking musicians. Romain LaRiviere (the former gallerist and commissaire of the exhibition) was definitely going for a between-two-worlds ambience. The artist seems like a minor European art star in the making—handsome, but one of his eyes did not look quite right (is he walleyed?), which only added to his allure. We checked out the dinner-to-be at a bar around the corner called the Mannekin-Pis, but the only patrons seemed to be the artist's nice Russian family—wife, kids, gallerist—having dinner in the basement, so we slipped away.

On Saturday night we went to Thaddeus Ropac for the opening of Donald Baechler's new exhibition, though the visit was cut short because our dog Leo started to have diarrhea and that's not cool chez Thaddeus. So we ran, but not before I realized that it was a major show of monumental bronzes (on view in Salzburg last summer)—quite a capital outlay for M. Ropac, one guesses. The works looked really strong—playground flat, and frontal, with shades of '40s Picasso and '50s Dubuffet, which always plays well in Europe. Dinner at Maxim's later was sort of intimate—three tables upstairs; I sat next to Sturtevant and Caroline Smolders, the contemporary art specialist (and former Ropac director) from Christie's Paris. Sturtevant is really a fierce, steel-trap intellect—she wasn't letting me off any hooks, but I didn't let her off any either as we confabbed about her notorious difficulty with writers and their “stupid” use of the term copy to describe her work. She felt the dialogue about her art has improved depuis appropriation et al.; maybe someone will soon provide insight into her retrospective in Frankfurt. Caroline seems to be pining for the gallery world—corporate art ŕ la Française must be tough. She has a sale this week that mixes contemporary with Deco and Impressionist stuff. That's the Druout way—all categories scrambled, not sorted according to type and certainly not highlighted or branded to make it more visible to the potential buyer. But I like it, mixed-up though it may be, because picking needles out of a haystack is excellent training for the eye. Maxim's is really a disco now (the Parisian Doubles?), so we went downstairs and danced until the wee hours. When we came out, the magenta Christmas lighting on the rue Royale had been turned off.

Brooks Adams