Photographic Memory

New York
01.21.08

Left: Artists Jutta Koether, John Miller, and Mike Kelley. Right: Curator Okwui Enwezor. (Photo: David Velasco)


“I’m not going to talk about the exhibition in any detail now, as many people would fall asleep.” Okwui Enwezor is usually not one for such rhetorical caginess, as evinced by his thorough dissection of last summer’s European “Grand Tour” in September's Artforum, yet in addressing the crowd at the Thursday-morning press preview of his new group exhibition at New York’s International Center of Photography, he had evidently decided that it would be best to save his theoretical chops for a more opportune moment. Introduced as “our globe-trotting adjunct curator,” the slender, dark-suited Enwezor thus gave only the briefest of introductions to “Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art,” but later led an energetic walk-through that saw the assembled scribes eddying through the ICP’s extensively reconfigured lower galleries in a desperate effort to keep up. Barbara Bloom, whose exhibition “The Collections of Barbara Bloom” (characterized with wearisome frequency by staffers and the artist herself as “a cross between a midcareer retrospective and an estate sale”) occupied the upstairs galleries, was a shade more exploratory in her own thank-you speech but also saved the serious stuff for her guided tour.

The shows’ evening openings may have suffered a little from inclement weather and an early-closing bar (necessitated by insurance concerns), but were busy nonetheless. Bloom and Enwezor were present and correct, as were a smattering of artists from the latter’s show, including Stan Douglas, Lamia Joreige, and Ilán Lieberman. (“Archive Fever”—Derrida devotees will recognize the title—also features work by the likes of Walid Raad, Lorna Simpson, Hans-Peter Feldmann, and Anri Sala, among others.) Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, senior curator at large Francesco Bonami, arriving with entourage, momentarily confused Bloom’s multifaceted arrangement with Enwezor’s, but soon solved the puzzle and headed downstairs. There, ICP chief curator Brian Wallis and director Willis Hartshorn were occupied ushering visitors around the space—made rather bunkerlike by a black and tan color scheme—while Bloom lorded, amiably, over her visually brighter presentation above. Both shows have plenty to offer; Bloom’s arrangement is playful and personal (it doesn’t get much more personal than her signature installation, The Reign of Narcissism), while Enwezor’s, which takes Hal Foster’s formulation of an “archival impulse” as its jumping-off point, is complex, persuasive, and not in the least soporific.

Left: Artist Barbara Bloom. Right: ICP chief curator Brian Wallis. (Photos: David Velasco)


The following evening, an overambitious attempt to haul ass from a party in honor of artist Jen DeNike at MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach’s Chinatown apartment to a musical performance at the smaller of Friedrich Petzel Gallery’s two Chelsea spaces in just ten minutes left me ten minutes late—and hanging around an awkward corner from the action. I ought to have anticipated the mob; raising the ruckus were avant-garde musician and filmmaker Tony Conrad and artists John Miller, Mike Kelley, and Jutta Koether. Critic Martha Schwendener and I exchanged notes and attempted, in vain, to see around the most impenetrable of walls as the sound emanating from behind it swelled.

We weren’t alone in our frustration; an understandably disgruntled-looking Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were at our backs, as was Performa curator RoseLee Goldberg. Writer and editor Domenick Ammirati and I exchanged “Is this good?” shrugs across Petzel’s lobby as we tried to imagine the sources of the various disjointed bellows, scrapes, slaps, thumps, hoots, and rumbles that drifted our way from the room itself. Periodic bursts of applause or laughter (“There’s something really funny happening now,” someone offered, helpfully) further piqued my curiosity, and a couple of sneaked photographs revealed some curious goings-on indeed: Kelley wielding a long, polelike instrument and Conrad dressed, leprechaunlike, entirely in emerald green. Quitting the scene alongside curator Bob Nickas and artist Kathe Burkhart, I resolved to stake my claim a little earlier next time; ten minutes is a long time in the art world.

Michael Wilson

Left: “Archive Fever” artist Lamia Joreige. Right: “Archive Fever” artist Ilán Lieberman. (Photos: David Velasco)


Bandi Camp

Shanghai
01.19.08

Left: Artist Zhao Bandi with collector Paul Tai. Right: Artist Zhou Tiehai. (Except where noted, all photos: Mathieu Borysevicz)


“That was the first time I sat next to people who were actually interesting at an event like this,” a Shanghai fashion agent quipped as he exited ShanghART Night, Zhao Bandi’s Panda Couture fashion extravaganza staged on a two-hour cruise up and down the neon-splashed Huangpu River on Tuesday night. “I think it was all a little over the top” a jaded socialite muttered as she swished coffee around her champagne glass. As the yacht docked, the evening’s VIPs filed slowly off into the freezing night.

The event witnessed the most recent conceptual provocation in Zhao’s long career of mainstream manipulation. After a short stint making paintings and installations, Zhao broke out of the contemporary art world’s crystal cage to engage that nebulous entity—the public—in a series of colorful stunts. It was in 1996 that Zhao established both the panda image and the use of celebrities as conduits through which he could connect with the masses, implicating them as he did in works involving subway posters, marathons, mock Olympic ceremonies, and now—fashion shows.

Zhao’s floating burlesque, hosted by Shanghart, Shanghai’s longest-standing gallery, was a scaled-down version of the artist’s inauguration into the world of haute couture just a couple months ago, during China Fashion Week in Beijing. That event had garnered a wave of media attention not only because one of the models, none other than China’s blogger-cum–sex celebrity Sister Lotus, experienced a wardrobe malfunction as she pirouetted on the catwalk one time too many, but because the Chengdu Municipal Committee (habitat of China’s last living pandas), which interpreted the entire escapade as another vicious exploitation of the beloved panda, decided to take legal action.

Left: Bandi models. Right: Contrasts gallery's Pearl Lam, choreographer Jin Xing, and writer Mian Mian.


The show this evening began with a quiet cocktail party, where the usual Shanghai art elite—including dealer/patron Pearl Lam, writer Mian Mian, and artist Zhou Tiehai—mingled with fashion folks like rising-star fashion designer Lu Kun and, of course, the stray mainstream-media pundit. It was a calculated crowd of fifty, assembled with precision to cross disciplines effectively and garner maximum exposure. MTV was there, working hard to maneuver a large camera in the tight quarters while simultaneously blocking the Chinese press corps from getting in the way of its runway shot. The dinner gave way to a pumping beat and dimming house lights, and the panda show began. Zhao’s collection was a crossbreed of the furry endangered animal and societal archetypes: Panda Teacher, Panda Student, Panda Policeman, Panda Corrupt Official, and so on. The juxtaposition of China’s chubby black-and-white bear (whose low procreation records suggests they’re the most prudish of creatures) against the lanky sexiness of the models created a surprisingly interesting aesthetic—a little like Leigh Bowery goes to the zoo.

Surrounded by his “panda concubines,” Zhao bellowed: “China has entered the age of luxury. This line represents Chinese luxury.” Then, in response to the evening’s MC (Guangdong Television fashion correspondent Ou Zhihan) asking why he brought the show to Shanghai, Zhao recited the story of an American fashion designer who in 1936 brought the first panda to the city. “It’s time for the panda to return to Shanghai.”

Left: Bandi models with curator Biljana Ciric (middle). Right: Guangdong Television fashion correspondent Ou Zhihan.


This panda spectacle had quite the fitting postscript: an auction. “After all, what would a contemporary art event in China be without one?” noted one magazine editor. The Panda Policeman outfit, hand-tailored white leather and thin black stitching, started at an inexpensive figure, but after the MC mentioned the Chinese artist’s quickly ascending values, the bids began pouring in. One of the bidders was none other than the son of the late, great artist (and auction-record breaker) Chen Yifei. But he was left in the dust by a volley of bids that increased in enormous increments, eventually ending up at the outstanding hammer price of ¥600,000 ($83,000). Everybody looked at one another as the event got a notch more surreal. Business as usual in Shanghai.

Mathieu Borysevicz

Burrs and the Bees

New York
01.16.08

Left: Artist Agathe Snow. Right: SculptureCenter executive director Mary Ceruti with artist Tom Burr. (All photos: David Velasco)


The chatter at the opening, on Sunday, of Tom Burr’s exhibition “Addict-Love” at the SculptureCenter in Queens concerned in part the three f’s of international art tourism—flights, fairs, and fatigue. Burr’s London dealer, Stuart Shave, for instance, shared with the group his smart new travel tactic: limiting trips to two days and never getting off UK time. Others predicted that Art LA 2008, which opens next week, would soon rival Art Basel Miami Beach. But while the list of talking points for the event may have been standard, there was one late addition, which visitors tossed around with particular fervor: art-world porn.

The tattle had reached just about everyone. Next weekend, Lawrence Weiner would be shooting an update to his 1976 art-world skin flick, using as a set Burr’s other current New York show, a double-feature with photographer Walter Pfeiffer at the Swiss Institute. Speculation ran wild. Who would participate? Was casting closed? How did one “audition”? Details had yet to be established. In the meantime, I found myself viewing the Long Island City exhibition through “blue”-tinted glasses. Burr’s black hinged-plywood constructions looked like reclining figures or some form of s/m chaise longue; his platforms, with their velvet curtains and red spotlights, like strippers' booths; the normally puritanical colonial balustrades like warm-up bars; the straitjackets like—er, you get the idea. The sprawl of sculptural vignettes, all of which relate to three figures who championed “the modern” of their respective times—Weimar composer Kurt Weill, early- to mid-century Wadsworth Atheneum director Chick Austin, and the New York School’s Frank O’Hara (a poem of whose lends the show its title)—looked, well, sexy.

Left: Dealer Stefania Bortolami, Galerie Neu's Alexander Schroeder, and Modern Art's Stuart Shave. Right: Artist Fia Backström with Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer.


According to New York dealer Stefania Bortolami, it also looked “theatrical.” Such a vibe was aided, in large part, by Burr himself, who stood center stage joking with friends, charming visitors, letting out a hearty laugh when one visitor knocked over the chair featured in one of his works. Clad in a sharp jacket and a long scarf, the artist was not unlike a contemporary version of the suave guy appealed to by the vintage Esquire ads, Architectural Digest spreads, and modernist design objects that populate his works, all of which point to a cinematic notion of the American gentleman: tumbler in hand, one foot in Connecticut.

In any case, for many New Yorkers, a trek to Long Island City seems just that, so the big turnout was a welcome surprise, making as it did for a festive occasion and for reunions all around. “Hell-o-o-o-o-o-o,” Mary Ceruti, SculptureCenter director, piped to Liz Mulholland, Andrew Kreps Gallery director. “So good to see you,” artists Angelo Plessas and Andreas Angelidakis, in from Athens, said to a friend. Artists Rachel Harrison, Robert Beck, and Peter Coffin were out and about, as was Whitney Biennial 2008 cocurator Shamim Momin. Nick Mauss, who also shows with Galerie Neu, Burr’s Berlin gallery, noted that the white rubber flooring in one work was the same material that Chick Austin had throughout his house.

Left: Collectors Howard and Barbara Morse. Right: Artists Amy Granat and Stefan Tcherepnin.


Other voices, other rooms. The group show downstairs seemed good enough in that derelict Lower East Side way, an impression enhanced by its dank, claustrophobic environs. Agathe Snow’s contribution—a corridor hung with kitschy wreaths, beginning with an entryway of running vacuum cleaners—seemed popular. Tickling my fancy was Drew Heitzler’s Night Tide (for Sailors, Mermaids, Mystics), 2007—a re-edit of the titular 1961 noir film, in which a young Dennis Hopper plays a sailor, on leave in Venice, California, who falls in love with a sideshow performer, Mora the Mermaid.

An informal dinner followed at local Italian joint Manducatis, but it wasn’t until the after-party at LIC Bar, where I spotted Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer, that I was able to follow up on the porn rumors. My first question: Just how open were the open casting calls? Jetzer smiled slyly: “We are casting for every type of scene: men-men, women-women, men-women . . .” Would he himself be participating? Outlook not so good. But he did joke that some situations, if entered into for “professional reasons,” might not be as sticky as they seem. Letting my mind wander, I found myself sharing the sentiments expressed at dinner by Burr when, as we tried to imagine just what the action would entail—would the players interact either on or with the sculptures?—a look of mock horror shot across his face: “That’s untreated wood!”

Left: Artist Mai-Thu Perret and Elizabeth Valdez. Right: Artists Andreas Angelidakis and Angelo Plessas.


“T” and Sympathy

New York
01.10.08

The New York Times's Carol Vogel with artist Jeff Koons. (All photos: Wellington Lee)


From Mel Brooks to Martha Stewart, the New York Times “Arts and Leisure Week” serves up a high-class menu of achievers, live. Alas, I attended “Big Art, Big Ideas” to hear Jeff Koons (according to the brochure) “talk about his career creating sky-high art with sky-high prices,” interviewed by the Times’s Carol Vogel.

Entering the sleek new TimesCenter in Times Square (“by Renzo Piano,” volunteered the nice culture vulture who helped me operate the design-y sink in the ladies' room), I grabbed a coffee in the “Kia Lounge.” A big screen advertised the event’s sponsors (the Container Store, HBO, Rodney Strong Vineyard, Sedona SUVs, and Greater Fort Lauderdale) to rows of dummy JetBlue airplane seats and tables stacked with featured authors’ books, thus setting the tone for entitled consumption, be it closet organizers, vacations, or Art. At the threshold of the plush auditorium, I had to stop, mesmerized by the schlocky display of Times-branded swag: a pink baseball cap with the Times “T” logo (for lady Times readers?) and, worse (for the Times-loving long-term-care patient?), stripey fleece lounge pants in red, yellow, and white with the most hideous imaginable blouse to match, a “T” stigmata at the breast. What better hors-d’oeuvre for Koons’s wildly expensive affirmations of kitsch?

Koons, as always, resembled Howdy Doody’s handsomer brother. Introduced as “the world’s most expensive artist at auction,” the audience (a middle-aged, Upper West Side–looking crowd and a smattering of art-student types) listened up in reverence. Instead of an interview or a conversation, what followed was more like an artist’s infomercial, with Vogel prompting Koons for dates and materials as if she were a dutiful grad student putting together a catalogue raisonné. Rather than probing his unflappable, peculiar Tony Robbins–meets-art-CEO shtick, she just took everything at face value. Beneath a slide show of his oeuvre, the ex–Wall Street broker free-associated about “accepting yourself” and other self-help platitudes, compared his various luxe-kitsch pieces to the old masters, made vague remarks about “the sexual aspects” and anthropomorphism of vacuum cleaners and the (super-expensively refabricated) found objets he produces, overseeing over eighty “in-house” employees for “efficiency.” (“My responsibility is to educate people on what I’m looking for—every moment of the day.”) All delivered in the soothing, condescending tones of a nurse in a mental ward: "You know, Carol, what I really love about art is the ability it has to bring transcendence into your life.” On the screen above them was his Hummel-esque porcelain piglet with three frolicking tots, titled Ushering in Banality: “It’s so important that people accept themselves. Then you can be more objective and transcend.” Carol nodded, in a tasteful black suit. The next image was another porcelain figure, a lady grasping her giant boobies with red talons, Woman in Tub—surprised by a snorkel, a piece inspired by the artist’s uncle’s naughty ashtray: “Carol, children learn about their bodies in the tub . . . and acceptance of the self . . .”

Carol Vogel with Jeff Koons.


Perhaps the most disciplined salesman in the contemporary art world who isn’t himself a dealer, Koons is notoriously “on message.” Clearly, old-master references mingled with self help–isms slathered with gobs of luxury-sales-style condescension is a formula that works! When asked about the sometimes unstable materials of his quasi-found pieces: “A lot of my work has a maintenance aspect,” Koons patiently explained, “Being a collector is a responsibility. We try to educate people about their ongoing obligations.” Throughout, I was appalled to note that Vogel didn't even try to engage any of this material, she just enabled her subject’s self-promotional bubble. (Is this the recent New York Times model of the journalist as stenographer to power?) It was unsettling to watch.

The only breath of fresh air came during the closing Q&A. A rumpled, bearish guy asked: “Regarding prices [like Koons’s recent $23.6 million record for one of his Hanging Hearts in November], is there some level of absurdity that’s going on with your staff of eighty and your readymade housed in a private collection like a treasury note?” I wish this guy had done the interview.

“I’m grateful to the art world for the opportunity,” Koons intoned, apparently oblivious to the understatement. “The artist had better come up with something that is really strong and make people’s lives better than they were the day before.”

Kings and Queens

New York
01.07.08

Left: New York Times film critic A. O. Scott with Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman. Right: Museum of the Moving Image director Rochelle Slovin with artist and filmmaker Ken Jacobs at the reception. (All photos: Ixiana Hernandez, courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image)


Who knew that the real Tinseltown was Queens, New York? I sure didn’t. Not, at least, until last Saturday, when I attended a celebration of film critic J. Hoberman’s thirty-year tenure at the Village Voice. I suppose I should have been tipped off by the borough’s retina-scorching holiday lawn art, but this was news to me. Given that both Hoberman and his legendary predecessor Andrew Sarris grew up in Queens, however, and that the evening’s venue, the noble Museum of the Moving Image, is in Astoria, the proclamation by chief curator David Schwartz that we were sitting in the heart of film culture had, at least, some provisional validity. The Mets, the Ramones, film culture . . . why not? MC Shan once sold a lot of records and started an interborough battle by claiming that hip-hop began in Queensbridge, so, for tonight, let’s just pretend.

Soon after Schwartz gave big ups to the borough, he began to praise the evening’s honoree, noting that Hoberman’s top-ten lists were great and offering one of his own. He spoke so quickly that I couldn’t catch all ten, but he did reveal to the uninitiated that the iconic J. stands for Jim. This after a joke relating how, in response to a Hoberman review of Shoah, an anti-Semitic reader wrote, “I know what the J. really stands for.” This got big laughs. Next, Schwartz introduced Hoberman’s interlocutor for the evening, New York Times film critic and comrade-in-initials A. O. Scott, who was, I realized when looking at the program, in my college class. I probably should be jealous of his cushy job, his free movie tickets, his Cannes junkets, but I didn’t know the guy back then, so I guess I’ll be high-minded and say, “Go, A. O., go.” All praises due to the alma mater. If only the career counseling office were still open to twenty-year alumni.

A. O. took the stage, looking like a close relative of Thomas Frank. (An obscure physical reference, I know, but film critics don’t look like movie stars; they look like other writers.) He noted that he was once mistaken for Hoberman on a reserved seating list at Cannes (the initial thing, I guess). He briefly introduced J., who then appeared onstage, looking like a writer, but not a known one. A. O. mentioned J.’s essay “The Film Critic of Tomorrow, Today” and read a paragraph from it aloud, saying that it served as inspiration for the younger critic. He talked about the 1970s American film renaissance that Hoberman grew up during and asked J. what that was like. Hoberman, in a slight borough accent, described the wealth of repertory theaters and grindhouses available to the film-obsessed New York teen and went on to say that the “mythologized” era was coming to a close by the time he took up the critic’s pen. His first Voice review was of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, then playing to stray weirdos at Cinema Village in 1977. J. and Jonathan Rosenbaum would go on to write Midnight Movies, a book about the dying era of the cult film, which became a calling card for both critics.

Left: Filmmaker Albert Maysles with Rochelle Slovin. Right: Museum of the Moving Image chief curator David Schwartz.


A. O. then posed the film critic’s dilemma: underpaid cheerleader or serious historian? J. responded that there is such a thing as film culture, and it should be treated with the same spirit of inquiry and breadth of analytic reference as any body of history. A. O. asked what happened to the historical-reclamation project that drove Cahiers du Cinéma and auteur-theory film criticism. J. replied that today it is usually artists who resurrect and champion forgotten old movies, though he noted that Donnie Darko followed the cult-movie pattern—opening to tepid reviews, closing quickly, but playing at certain repertory houses for months on end until it built up an obsessive fan base. The two then got into current movies. J. said that No Country for Old Men was “academically constructed”—not exactly a pejorative, but close. A. O. countered that I’m Not There—one of Hoberman’s top ten for 2007—also seemed academically constructed, straight out of the Brown semiotics department. Ho, ho! Academically constructed humor. A. O. said he is impressed by J.’s use of history to write about film and vice versa. J. responded that “movies are like time capsules” and cited Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler as a foundational text that shaped this aspect of his criticism. “Reagan made this obvious,” he added.

The two critics discussed the evening’s screening, Julia Loktev’s low-budget, claustrophobic suicide-bomber thriller, Day Night Day Night, another of Hoberman’s 2007 picks. Loktev is in the audience, they noted. Then, unceremoniously, the two men thanked each other and parted. The audience was treated to two shorts—a 1977 Situationist-style film by Hoberman that scores quick-cut close-ups of Maoist propaganda art with an old recording of “Shanghai Lil,” and a nighttime documentary of 1967 Times Square by Rudolph Burckhardt. Day Night Day Night began, and while it was very promising, I decided to leave during the five-minute sequence of the suicide bomber scrubbing, shaving, and cutting her toenails. My stomach was rumbling, so I bid ta-ta to Tinseltown and walked out onto the grim Steinway Strip, where it was raining.

When in Rome

Rome
12.27.07

Left: Tate director Nicholas Serota, Cy Twombly, Giancarlo Giammetti, and Valentino. Right: Artist Francesco Vezzoli and Miuccia Prada. (Photos: Stefano Trovati/sgp, courtesy Gagosian Rome)


The locals were ecstatic at the highly anticipated opening of Gagosian Gallery’s new outpost in Rome on December 15, which they see as a sign that the city has finally reemerged as a cosmopolitan cultural capital after a fifteen-hundred-year hiatus from being caput mundi. Considered in light of recent press focusing on the lagging Italian spirit and economy—most notably a New York Times article published just two days prior—the opening of the gallery and Cy Twombly’s exhibition, “Three Notes from Salalah,” gave especially welcome recognition that, while other aspects of the culture may be sitting this one out, its art market is indeed up for playing on the international level. In from London, Hans-Ulrich Obrist noted, “Rome has changed so much in the last decade. When I used to come, it was just following Alighiero Boetti around everywhere.” Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli summed it up by saying, “This is a proud moment for Italy, not just because it is Larry.”

Local papers had reported that the reception would be full of international stars and that Romans would be snubbed, much like Venetians were at the inaugural bash for François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi in their city. However, at the evening private view, art restorer Marianna Fonzo observed, “My father read in La Panorama that it would be impossible to get invited unless you are a VIP, but all of the Roman bourgeoisie are here!” According to curator Ludovico Pratesi, “All of the collectors, about fifty of them, were actually at the press preview this afternoon.” Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, for instance, came in from Turin and attended all three events. There was speculation that Fabio Capello, the new coach of the English national football team and an avid art collector and Twombly admirer, would show up. But when asked whether he was invited, gallery director Pepi Marchetti Franchi said, “He is not even on our radar, but I will definitely do some research on his collection.”

Left: Marc Jacobs and Jason Preston. Right: Larry Gagosian with Francesco Rutelli, Italian minister of culture and tourism. (Photos: Stefano Trovati/sgp, courtesy Gagosian Rome)


Many have questioned why Gagosian would open a gallery in Rome, where there are relatively few collectors; most speculate that it is a way to secure Twombly’s estate. In 2005, the dealer established an archive dedicated to the artist at the elegant Palazzo Borghese in Rome. (As it happens, painter Alberto Di Fabio—nephew of the other painter Alberto Di Fabio, Twombly’s companion—now has a show at Gagosian’s Britannia Street branch in London.) Gagosian has also worked recently with local institutions such as the newly opened Carlo Bilotti Museum and the municipal MACRO contemporary art space, both of which have exhibited his artists. Another theory is that the dealer is simply interested in expanding his investment in the work of arte povera artists. But it is also true that Gagosian need not be so concerned about the local market—after all, he is the magnetic magnate. Curator Achille Bonito Oliva—a ubiquitous personage of the Italian art world—commented in the newspaper La Repubblica that, in any case, it is a great coup that will enliven the Roman art scene.

The new Gagosian space is, of course, spectacular, as well as stylistically appropriate to Rome. Neoclassical columns frame the dramatic entry, and the main gallery, an enormous oval room, displays Twombly’s impressive triptych illuminated by a row of tall windows. The lush green paintings on wood are sensual reaffirmations of life, especially considered in tandem with the joyfully explosive blossoms in the recent show at one of Gagosian’s galleries in New York. With dripping, vaguely Arabic-looking white strokes, the paintings refer specifically to an oasis in Oman—a sort of eternal Eden—and have a vibrant depth. Standing in front of them, London dealer Kadee Robbins asked Hudson Morgan, an associate editor of Men’s Vogue, “Do you know what that color is called? Hooker green.” A single refined mixed-media work on paper from 1973, displayed in a small back room along with a spinelike bronze sculpture, elicited much admiration and curiosity as an unlikely choice. Gagosian explained, “I chose that painting because I saw it and liked it and thought, Why not?” Yumiko Saito, director of the Cy Twombly archive and the younger Di Fabio’s wife, said, “Well, he probably wants to sell it; it is a commercial gallery, after all.”

Left: Willem Dafoe with artist Joseph Kosuth. (Photo: Cathryn Drake) Right: Gagosian Gallery Rome director Pepi Marchetti Franchi with designer Soledad Twombly. (Photo: Stefano Trovati/sgp, courtesy Gagosian Rome)


Stefan Ratibor, director of Gagosian Britannia Street, a former industrial building, looked around and said, “Our space is not quite so baroque, let’s say.” Roman galleries are generally awkward, cramped, and filled with distracting historical details, but this space, housed in a former bank, feels as if someone has parked a big, shiny Rolls Royce in a neighborhood full of vintage Fiat 500s. Somewhat baffled that the ranks had thinned in the pristine gallery, we were told by Milanese artist Letizia Cariello that everyone was celebrating below in the raw basement space. Even Ratibor was uninformed, explaining: “In this organization, everything is communicated on a need-to-know basis.” Downstairs, Neapolitan Renato Pascariello was furiously composing multicolor pencil portraits while Vanity Fair special correspondent Bob Colacello was scribbling down the names of attendees. Morrissey, who currently lives in Rome, was spotted wandering the crowd, and a smattering of Roman artists and gallerists, including the Bonomo sisters, Alessandra and Valentina, were among the crush.

When asked whether it matters where one sets up a gallery in these days of globalization and the Internet—not to mention the proliferating art-fair market—Italian cultural minister Francesco Rutelli said, “Yes, in fact, in this virtual world we need real places more than ever. And we are happy that next year, we will finally open Zaha Hadid’s new contemporary art museum MAXXI, now that we have secured the money to finish it.” Unfortunately, the suavely handsome former Roman mayor had to rush out the door to another engagement. However, a few famous personalities were in evidence at the dinner: Bob Geldof, in town for a charity event; Marc Jacobs, passing through on his way to Paris; and Willem Dafoe, who recently married a Roman. The decadent candelabra-lighted dinner party was hosted in several ground-floor rooms of Palazzo Barberini that were specially decorated with dark velveteen walls and a mix of mod and faux-Baroque furniture, including chairs by Philippe Starck—as if to say New World new money has arrived. Over a buffet of seafood aspic molds and raw oysters, Umberto Allemandi, publisher of Art Newspaper, commented that although the art scene in Turin is more vibrant, “Rome is a much more beautiful place to live—there is no comparison.” And alluding to the days when all roads led to Rome, American gallerist Mary Angela Schroth observed, “Even now, everyone passes through Rome at some point.”

Cathryn Drake

Left: Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine codirector of exhibitions and programs and director of
international projects, with artist Tacita Dean. Right: Valentino and Miuccia Prada. (Photos: Stefano Trovati/sgp, courtesy Gagosian Rome)