Wayne Koestenbaum


    FOR YEARS BRUCE HAINLEY AND I have been antically conversing about literature, theory, art, film, porn, fashion, food, and Andy Warhol. Hainley, a contributing editor of Artforum (his beat is LA), is one of my favorite writers, and his sensibility has had a huge influence on my work: I count on him to be the first to notice and valorize (to understand the profundity of) any aesthetic manifestation that channels the strange, the obscene, or the quiescent. He’s always a decade ahead of us—our cultural learning curves a belated simulation of his quickness. Highly stylish, his writing combines the

  • Wayne Koestenbaum


    1 Men’s Shoes Liberated from their long sleep of black and brown, men’s shoes have discovered blue, pink, red, and other bright, inappropriate colors: a major revisionary moment in the history of Western sartorial masculinity. I will wear my vintage 2000 yellow Prada driving slippers into the ground.

    2 Tristan und Isolde/Chuck & Buck Couples in heat: The Metropolitan Opera’s new production, magnanimously sung by Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen, taught me about torment and postponement (and caused me to murmur, “Now at last I understand the nineteenth century”), while Miguel Arteta’s


    LITERATURE MIGHT BE THE WRONG PLACE TO BEGIN. Invoking words, when looking at pictures, is cheating. Yet Cindy Sherman's work has consistently sidestepped photography's silent modality and seduced viewers with murmured tales, or their trappings. First came the Hollywood B-movie stories. Later, stories from pornography and horror films. Always, characters pulled her mise-en-scène's strings—the fetishist, the pervert, the voyeur, the cineast, the necrophiliac, the mad scientist, and the department-store window dresser left alone at night with undead, plastic incubi.

    The story I remembered on

  • James Schuyler

    WHY WRITE ART CRITICISM? FOR LOVE. Also, sometimes, for money. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why poet James Schuyler wrote so much of it. He was an associate editor of ARTnews from 1957 to 1962, and during that period he composed the bulk of the reviews and reflections gathered in the inestimably nourishing volume Selected Art Writings, edited by poet Simon Pettet and recently published by Black Sparrow Press. (Although Schuyler is always associated with the New York School poets, including Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, and Ron Padgett, his work, particularly his art criticism,

  • Wayne Koestenbaum

    1. Yayoi Kusama (Museum of Modern Art, Robert Miller Gallery, Peter Blum Gallery, New York) Nude bodies deserve to be seen and then covered with polka dots. One point of painting, after all, is to touch the body, repeatedly, obsessively. I love Kusama’s return from obscurity; her self-dramatization; her indefatigability; her one-after-another seriality; her willingness to baffle and bore and outlast her critics. Three cheers.

    2. The Gaiety This noble relic—strip bar, dance hall, tryst station, priapic parlor, variety show—still features consistently better performances than anywhere on

  • Todd Solondz’s Happiness

    THE EXPERIENCE OF CONFRONTING a work of art ideally disorganizes ones systems. Therefore it is difficult, as a critic, to organize one’s responses. Here again I display my disarray not out of careless disregard for common sense and the rules of exposition; rather, I write in a disjunct mode because Happiness, a film by Todd Solondz, has disorganized me.

    Rule no. 1 of criticism: Always blame the artifact.

    Happiness is one of those philosophical categories, strict and unfathomable, on which life depends but which no one understands and which no one has patented. Few have it, many want it; its

  • Vanessa Beecroft

    MY DESTINATION ON THURSDAY, April 23, 1998, was Vanessa Beecroft’s Show, at the Guggenheim Museum, but I began at the Tibor di Nagy Gallery, where Jane Freilicher’s new exhibition of paintings opened. I spent forty-five minutes absorbing their colors. I wish I had been a drop more moved. If I am not bowled over by a work of art, I usually blame myself: it’s the viewer’s duty to manufacture a passionate response. I certainly wanted to lose consciousness within Freilicher’s represented flowers, but I found myself wondering instead whether the time when I could undertake joyous fits of immobility


    A few hours after dawn I went to Rite Aid to research Andy Warhol.

    I was pleased to be up and about so early in the day.

    I discovered objects, variously priced, brightly boxed.

    I bought two rolls of Polaroid film and went home and took pictures of the interior of my medicine chest. They came out ugly and unfocused. To take a good Polaroid is more difficult than is commonly acknowledged.

    I visited Rite Aid because Warhol’s cosmetics and toiletries are on display in a vitrine at the Whitney Museum’s show, “The Warhol Look/Glamour Style Fashion.”

    If he used these products to prep his face for his Polaroid

  • Wayne Koestenbaum

    1 George Stoll (Morris Healy Gallery, New York): Stoll’s toilet-paper art, lighthearted and gravid, proves waste’s centrality. Looking at these iconic rolls, again I remember the frank demonstrativeness of household objects, their indisputability, difficult as Wittgenstein. Who said a roll of toilet paper was easy to comprehend? I wonder if there are connections between toilet paper and aesthetic commentary. Though some people might think this show’s a joke, it isn’t. Stoll’s objects are actually beautiful, and unlike most of so-called Pop art, his drawings, paintings, and sculptures don’t

  • paparazzi

    I LOVE PAPARAZZI. Perhaps I should qualify that statement. I know none personally. I’ve never been accosted by one. I’ve never stood on the blitzkrieg flash’s receiving end. (However, at press events, I’ve been bumped against, jostled, and pushed aside by jutting telephoto lenses.) I assume—wrongly?—that most paparazzi are pushy men, and I don’t like to be pushed around; nonetheless, I love paparazzi. They resemble (in a cheerfully debased form that nevertheless remains true to the high original) a kind of perverse artist I’ve long held dear—the artist who doesn’t merely represent a desire,

  • the Art of the Fugue

    A STYLE MAGAZINE calls me to ask whether any contemporary stars have inherited Jackie’s glamour. I mention Jeanne Moreau. Silence on the other end of the line: Moreau is not a contemporary star. Tonight shall I go to the Quad and see her new movie about walking into the sea? (Now the film has fled to another locale.) I suggest to the magazine that I would love to interview Doris Day or Sophia Loren. Silence. I am confused about what’s contemporary and what’s outdated. I am confused about the spirit of the age.


    In dreams I’ve been trying to teach remedial English. It’s not merely a class, it’s