Rhonda Lieberman

  • Left: Delusional Downtown Diva Isabel Halley, artist Kembra Pfahler, and Delusional Downtown Diva Lena Dunham. Right: Artist Rob Pruitt. (Photos: Roger Kisby)
    diary November 03, 2009

    Star-Studded Cast

    New York

    “WHEN I HEARD ABOUT Rob Pruitt Presents: The First Annual Art Awards, I thought it was a joke” was a sentiment I heard several times amid the glamorous crowd sipping champagne last Thursday at the Guggenheim. It felt like a scene in a Woody Allen movie (as does most of my life). Sponsored by Calvin Klein and featuring a bona fide––though teensy––red carpet (where Yvonne Force and Doreen Remen of the Art Production Fund fussed delightedly in front of the cameras), one felt the frisson of history in the making that people of yore must have sensed at the advent of the Golden Globes (a model for

  • Left: Artists Katya Usvitsky and Sean Noyce. Right: Artist Jo Owens Murray. (All photos: Ryan McNamara)
    diary July 20, 2009

    Assemblage Line

    New York

    ON A SUNNY SATURDAY MORNING IN JULY, the art-world version of A Chorus Line (“I hope I get it!”) snaked around the streets surrounding White Columns in the West Village. Hundreds of artists—each “one singular sensation”—showed up to an open call for the “untitled art project” now casting by Bravo. Sarah Jessica Parker’s production company is teaming with Magical Elves (Top Chef, Project Runway) to do for contemporary art what those other shows have done for food and frocks. All morning (some arrived at 1 AM), the slow-moving line maintained its crazy length as latecomers arrived and replaced

  • Left: Artist Vanessa Beecroft with Kanye West. Right: Artist John Bock. (Except where noted, all photos: Ryan McNamara)
    diary March 10, 2009

    Dead or Alive

    New York

    LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, I saw Vanessa Beecroft’s installation at Jeffrey Deitch’s newish “cathedral-like” Long Island City outpost, then John Bock’s performance at the pop-up Bar2000 (following the opening of “Berlin2000” at PaceWildenstein). While both events featured white clown makeup, they were otherwise yin and yang: one female artist, one male; one way east in LIC, the other in the West Village in what appeared to be Saatchi & Saatchi’s lobby. One foregrounded passivity (twenty live nude girls displayed like undead statuary “inspired by Sicilian funerary sculpture of the Renaissance”), while

  • Left: Debra Messing with Diane von Furstenberg. Right: Vogue's Hamish Bowles. (All photos: Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
    diary October 21, 2008

    Bif Bang Empowerment

    New York

    Under a full moon, on a weirdly mild October evening, rather than running with the wolves, I found myself in a taxi humming the Wonder Woman theme song as I headed toward Diane von Furstenberg’s sleek white mother ship in the meatpacking district for an evening of ladies’ empowerment. “In your satin tights, fighting for your rights and the old Red, White, and Blue . . .” It was the launch of DvF’s “Wonder Woman Collection” and a limited-edition Wonder Woman–themed comic, illustrated by artist Konstantin Kakanias, featuring DvF herself as a superheroine who bursts onto the scene to remind “Diva,

  • Left: Collector Neil Frankel with curator Alison Gingeras. Right: Dealer Gavin Brown and Rachel Roberts. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary July 15, 2008

    Gross Worth

    New York

    On a lovely summer evening, what could be nicer than strolling to the West Village, looking at art, and hopefully not being too vibed out by the self-absorbed crowd? Curated by Alison Gingeras, “Pretty Ugly” is a supersize group show sprawling between Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Maccarone, fortresses of coolness where, according to the press release, “the fluidity of ‘pretty’ and ‘ugly’ will be played with and almost posit ‘pretty ugly’ as a third term which might apply to a vast range of artists and works, thereby fusing the two galleries into a single exhibition.”

    This viewer spotted three

  • Left: Artists Agathe Snow and Rita Ackermann. Right: Whitney Biennial curators Henriette Huldisch and Shamim M. Momin. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary March 27, 2008

    Chance Meeting

    New York

    On Easter Sunday, for the final Whitney Biennial performance at the Park Avenue Armory, bewigged artists Rita Ackermann (frizzy blond bob) and Agathe Snow (Orange Crush Afro) hosted a much-buzzed-about “gypsy-themed feast, in which . . . the guests themselves become materials in the work of art.” Titled Abat-Jour, the piece “refers to bajour,” explained the Whitney website, “the traditional gypsy confidence game. Using barter and chance as central themes, Ackermann and Snow explore issues related to gender, community, and celebration.” Softly humming Cher’s classic ditty “Gypsies, Tramps &

  • The New York Times's Carol Vogel with artist Jeff Koons. (All photos: Wellington Lee)
    diary January 10, 2008

    “T” and Sympathy

    New York

    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,

  • Left: Straight to Hell's Billy Miller, photographer Jan Wandrag, and Helmut Lang's Joakim Andreasson. (Photo: Kathe Burkhart) Right: Visionaire's Cecilia Dean. (Photo: David Velasco)
    diary December 25, 2007

    Ball Drop

    New York

    Like any infatuation, the affair between Art and Fashion has produced many droll moments. One personal favorite has to be Helmut Lang’s paint-splattered jeans, ca. 1998, an homage to the artist’s process—and cruddy studio duds—as interpreted in premium denim. Eager to check back in with that vision, on a dark, cold Friday night the week before last I layered up to schlep to the Journal Gallery in Williamsburg to see the first solo exhibition by Lang, according to the press release “one of the most innovative and influential cultural figures of our time.”

    I recalled Lang’s defunct boutique in

  • Left: The auctioneer. Right: Hamish Bowles, Vogue European editor at large. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary July 22, 2007

    Surreal Estate

    New York

    While the smaller fry have eBay, Christie’s estate auctions are yard sales for rich people. A bit more personalized than the usual auction, estate sales give you a (highly orchestrated) sense of one individual megashopper, whose accumulation, needless to say, is “significant” enough to merit a one-person show. At once mythologizing the collector (and her stash)—and clinically reducing it to shekels—the auction as ritual strikes a weird balance between a memorial service and a financial autopsy.

    For those of you (like me) who didn’t know of María Félix (1914–2002), aka La Doña, the deceased shopper

  • Left: Artist Takashi Murakami with tea master So-oku Sen. Right: A view of the ceremony. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary May 08, 2007

    Steep Prices

    New York

    As a fan of D. T. Suzuki’s beatnik classic Zen and Japanese Culture, I jumped at the chance last Wednesday to experience a private, traditional tea ceremony at Gagosian’s uptown digs “conducted by So-oku Sen, a descendent of Sen no Rikyu,” the legendary sixteenth-century tea master—who’s like the Baal Shem Tov of tea. I refer to the great Hasid mystic because the tea ceremony is like a Zen seder: each item is highly significant, but instead of contemplating the Jews’ suffering, we stick with the crockery. “Like in your home,” said the hakama-clad master (through a translator) as he deftly poured,

  • Left: Christy MacLear, executive director of Philip Johnson Glass House, with collector Susan Bishop. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Collector Douglas Maxwell. (Photo: David Velasco)
    diary February 26, 2007

    House Calls

    New York

    The Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, will open to the public for the first time this spring. You’ll finally be able to have dinner there—for fifty thousand dollars. Or a reception on the grounds for twenty-five thousand. On Friday evening, a cocktail party marked the occasion in another still-stunning modern landmark, the Four Seasons Restaurant, the kind of glamorous, adult event that would make any schlub feel like they are in a New Yorker cartoon. The Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson–designed ambience was supersexy: a midcentury masterpiece with booze. Though the

  • Left: Coco Fusco and the Guerrilla Girls. (Photo: Brian Sholis) Right: Curator Catherine de Zegher and artist Martha Rosler. (Photo: David Velasco)
    diary January 30, 2007

    Gender Bender

    New York

    On Friday, I attended the first half of a two-day symposium at MoMA on “The Feminist Future: Theory and Practice in the Visual Arts.” The sold-out Roy and Niuta Titus Theater was packed with vintage women artists, as well as chroniclers, comrades, and frenemies, whether they identified with the “f-word” or not. Thankfully, not much time was wasted quibbling over that, as is customary in such situations, though one questioner did complain about the “c-word,” which she found as deeply offensive as the “n-word.” The lady next to me wondered, “What’s the n-word?” Oy. I helpfully wrote it on her