Private School

Allese Thomson at the opening of Cyprien Gaillard at MoMA PS1

Left: Kim Cattrall and dealer Barbara Gladstone. Right: Artist Cyprien Gaillard. (Photos: Billy Farrell)

“THIS IS THE HIPPEST opening I’ve been to all year,” I heard several times at last Saturday’s private reception for Cyprien Gaillard’s solo US museum debut, though whether Björk doing tequila shots while Kim Cattrall struts around in a (smart) pantsuit constitutes hip, well . . . I’ll leave to the peanut gallery to judge.

It was half-past seven when we arrived at MoMA PS1, and by then the crowd was a mess of champagne and Givenchy in the staircases, as everyone hustled to take in the art before the 8 PM dinner. “It is his first comprehensive survey,” noted MoMA PS1 curator Christopher Lew, emphasizing the importance of the event. Stavros Niarchos and Sam Orlofsky were in the lobby. Artists Wade Guyton, Hanna Liden, Liz Magic Laser, Dan Colen, and Andro Wekua slipped from room to room. Model Maggie Sands and socialite Claire Courtin-Clarins posed for pictures. Someone “spotted” Sofia Coppola, though no Billy Farrell evidence was to be had. (All this a far cry from the less histrionic if still lively public openings the next day, when the museum toasted its newly renovated galleries and exhibitions by Ed Atkins, Metahaven, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Huma Bhabha, etc.—one of the more arresting constellations of shows there in recent memory.)

“I didn’t think this was going to be such big deal,” a girl pouted, examining her Converse sneakers. “I would’ve dressed up.”

“Cyprien is super hot,” counseled her friend, who was sporting a dark suede cape and felt hat. She gave her friend a once-over: “Well. It’s better to look like you’re not trying.”

Left: Marie Josée Kravis and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach. Right: Tennessee Thomas and Alexa Chung.  (Photos: Billy Farrell)

On the third floor, crowds clumped around the wall texts. There’s the video featuring Russian youths brawling in a parking lot (Desniansky Raion, a touchstone of the first New Museum “Generational”), pictures of Gordon Matta-Clark’s grave, and rusted teeth from construction equipment displayed like relics. The centerpiece is Artefacts, a hypnotic, expansive film shot and edited on his iPhone and transferred to 35 mm, which includes footage from the artist’s trip to Iraq and elsewhere: scenes of a wandering soldier, Ishtar Gate, the skirt of a whirling dervish, all against a sound track comprising a sampled loop of David Gray’s song “Babylon,” which was once apparently played at loud levels to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib. “He makes art about entropy,” explained Frédéric Bugada of the Paris-based Bugada & Cargnel, one of the first galleries to work with Gaillard. Bugada leaned over a row of vitrines, talking about how the artist chases destruction, searching for places in the process of demolition or at the brink of extinction.

The dinner took place inside a large Exploratorium-like dome in the museum’s courtyard. Onto its ceiling Gaillard projected an image of the roof of the greenhouse in the Bronx botanical garden, and so we basked under a powder-blue sky and fluffy clouds, shaded by fat leaves of palm trees. The artist took a seat next to dealer-curator Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld (son of Carine Roitfeld, naturally) and the crowd broke out in thunderous applause, with several young men leaping up and down and shouting Gaillard’s name. MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach took the microphone, and everyone’s heart jumped a bit when he announced he was giving “at least a forty-five-minute speech,” beginning with a tale about the artist’s father: “He is the coolest man I have ever met. I want to be him,” the towheaded curator said definitively.

Left: Rebecca Dayan, Marlene Zwirner, and Camilla Deterre. Right: Dealer Monika Sprüth and MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey. (Photos: Billy Farrell)

He went on to toast, among many others, Barbara Gladstone, who tipped her head with approval, PS1 curatorial assistant Jocelyn Miller, who fluttered her hand hello, and Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, who grinned behind big glasses of wine. Biesenbach finally handed off the mic to Gaillard, who blushed and stared at the ground as the crowd broke into another rousing round of applause. He leaned in and, in a very soft voice, said, “Thank you for being . . . it is a great privilege.” Quiet. “Thank you.” More thunderous applause. (Thankfully, Biesenbach’s salute clocked in at approximately half his estimate.)

After the toasts, the site of the afterparty was of great concern. This, after all, is a crowd bound by their dedication to pursuing glamour to the smallest hours. “Baron?” suggested one. The precocious, twenty-year-old Marlene Zwirner raised her eyebrows: “There is nothing for us there.” The bar at the Four Seasons was suggested and decided. Outside, it was a battle of town cars and big black SUVs. Was this MoMA PS1 or #8?

Once inside a car, we realized Manhattan is abundant with Four Seasonses.

“The bar at the Four Seasons hotel?”

“No, the restaurant; the one that changes its decor to match the season.”

“I am sure it was the hotel.”

“And I am sure that you are wrong.”

Left: Cyprien Gaillard with Björk and Matthew Barney. Right: The dinner at MoMA PS1. (Photos: Charles Roussel)

This got us nowhere. We pulled up to the hotel, and inside spotted Gaillard comrades by their attire—Alexa Chung’s glittery Carven boots, Aurel Schmidt’s conspicuously pink velveteen jumpsuit. We wandered the palatial halls before security finally demanded our exit: “There is no Cyprien party here.”

At the correct Four Seasons (happily, some five blocks away), the bar staff looked aghast as crowds of party people stormed the stairs. They were about to close up shop, but the bar manager insisted that the place “remain open—indefinitely!” Smooth electro-hip-hop boomed from the speakers and scotch was passed around.

“This was a great idea,” said the girl in the Converse sneakers.

“Cyprien wanted the party to be at a nightclub,” her friend responded. “But you know, Saturday night, they’re all so cheesy.”