Pork Chops

Left: LACMA director Michael Govan. (Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan) Right: James Franco with Paul McCarthy. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner)

THOUGH LOS ANGELES is often praised for the quality of its light, we tend to hold our openings at civilized times, under the cover of darkness. So it was unusual that secondary-market titans L&M Arts launched their primary-market flagship with a brunch in broad daylight—and in Venice, at that, a place way far out from where any native Angeleno would actually want to visit. Of course, one couldn’t blame proprieters Dominique Lévy and Robert Mnuchin for opening their two Kulapat Yantrasast–designed structures near the beach (connected only by an open-air plaza, because, you know, it never rains here).

Artist Yoshua Okon and curator Ali Subotnick trotted into the first gallery and began to admire the technical prowess of exhibiting artist Paul McCarthy’s animatronic sculpture Train, Mechanical. In it, two pot-bellied and pouchy-lipped George Ws use their bottle-cocks to buttfuck two rather large popeyed pigs, while two piglets insert their works into their larger friends’ other holes (an ear, an eye). (Sorry, there’s just no delicate way to describe it.) Collector Jerry Janger told me a dirty joke involving country boys and farm animals when he left the gallery, but it seemed downright vanilla in light of all the porcine Republican porking.

Outside, the mostly well-heeled, white-haired New Yorkers (here for the Resnick Pavilion inauguration later that day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as much as for L&M) and their slightly tanner LA counterparts circulated round the bar. While the hungry crowd lined up for wild salmon lox with cream cheese next to some kind of pork product, McCarthy, sporting near trademark utility shorts and black tennis shoes, sat at a picnic table watching his VIP opening with relaxed indifference. After congratulating McCarthy, who hasn’t had a solo exhibition of new work in Los Angeles in nearly a decade, I asked what’s kept him away. He shrugged, guffawed, and replied, “That’s just the way things go.” The brunch gave way to the hoi-polloi opening (much more fun, as expected), which I skipped out of halfway to head to the Hammer Museum to catch a performance of Joel Kyack’s Superclogger, coproduced by LAXART and the Hammer, a bit of foreplay before the institutions’ consummating biennial to come in 2012.

Left: L&M Arts's Robert Mnuchin and Dominique Lévy with LA MoCA director Jeffrey Deitch. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner) Right: Collectors David Geffen and Lynda Resnick. (Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan)

Director of Visitor Services Allison Agsten warmly greeted me with a clipboard in hand as I waited on Lindbrook Drive for the spacious black Lincoln Town Car and its affable driver, Gilbert, to pull around and let me in. Usually set on freeways during rush hour, Kyack’s unmarked truck pulls into traffic, the back window of the cab flips open, and then begins a three-to-five-minute Grand Guignol puppet show. That day, I caught a skit about two foreign construction workers doing a karaoke duet to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now.” “Bows and flows of angel hair / and ice-cream castles in the air . . . ,” they crooned in a thick, gravelly accent. The perfect artwork for the city of traffic jams.

Changing my tie in the car, I headed into a traffic jam of my own. Sadly, there were no puppets to ease the pain as I hopped onto the freeway en route to the grand opening gala for the Resnick Pavilion. I arrived and passed the red carpet, heading to the new building, long and lean behind the three-story Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Comparisons between Renzo Piano’s two buildings were unavoidable, the general consensus being that the Resnicks got more bang for their buck with the pavilion that bears their name. This was, of course, attributed to their hands-off approach to the design and construction—an unusual trait, apparently, among philanthropists.

Left: Collector Eileen Norton with Studio Museum director Thelma Golden. Right: Gelila Assefa with John Baldessari. (Photos: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan)

If Eli Broad’s muscular (and expensive) contemporary works permanently on view next door at BCAM offer an objective correlative for their buyer’s temperament, I wouldn’t want to begin to psychoanalyze the complex decadence of the Resnicks’ polyglot collection. The installation was either gorgeous or gaudy depending on how you looked at it, with wallpapered rooms marked with faux-Corinthian columns to offset their Fragonards and flamboyant French furniture.

I spent most of the cocktail hour hiding out at a corner table with artists Catherine Opie, T. Kelly Mason, and Diana Thater. LACMA’s convivial new deputy director and New York refugee Brooke Davis Anderson dropped in on the conclave to introduce herself, which she admitted was a “very un–New York” thing to do. I slipped away for one last walk amid the Olmec heads and the breeches-to-bowties costume show, passing scads of artists (John Baldessari and Glenn Ligon), collectors (David Geffen), curators (Thelma Golden), celebrities (Tom Hanks, James Franco), and celebutantes (Nicole Richie). Wending my way through the grim visages of ancient Mexican kings, I bumped into dealer Jeff Poe with his wife, artist Kelly Poe. Jeff, the consummate gentleman, pointed to my suit, crumpled and distressed after a day trekking from raunchy brunches to guerrilla puppet shows to this, and said, “They let you in with that?”

Luckily, they let me out in it, too.

Left: Christina Aguilera. Right: Tom Hanks with Renzo Piano. (Photos: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan)