Another Woman

Andrew Berardini at Richard Prince and Wallace Berman’s “She”

Los Angeles

Left: Artist Ed Ruscha, Pamela Anderson, and artist Richard Prince. Right: Artist Doug Aitken. (All photos: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan)

THE CHATEAU MARMONT is the best of the worst of Los Angeles. Somehow its Spanish Revival style, permissive attitude, and proximity to trashy but expensive nightclubs make it a favorite locale for a certain class of carpetbagging Angelenos: Actors doll up for premieres while would-bes and has-beens belly up to the bar. I hate to admit it, but all things frivolously LA to the side, I rather like it there: For this, Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. Though the area’s traffic is always brutal, it was hard to turn down an invitation last Wednesday to a launch of Doug Aitken’s latest art book, Write-In Jerry Brown President, which takes as its subject the liberal California governor’s campaign against eventual Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter.

On the cusp of the inauguration, it seemed fitting if also dissonant for Aitken, who has the gentle air of Laurel Canyon circa 1976, to celebrate this Buddhist firebrand once snidely dubbed “Governor Moonbeam.” “I wanted to break from the linear,” said the soft-spoken Aitken. The book’s odd construction clearly evinces that sentiment; placed in hand-cut boxes, the contents are hexagonal cells that fold out like a very handsome, if not entirely useful, road map. The book lay unfolded on a piano in the center of the clipboard-guarded lobby on the Marmont’s second floor as gusts of warm winter air suspired through the open patio doors. I hung around, enjoying (and shooting) the breeze with hostess Bettina Korek and a distinctively LA smattering of money and art, including designer Rosetta Getty, UCLA art-school dean Russell Ferguson, embattled (but rakish) MoCA deputy director Ari Wiseman, and a well-preserved Vidal Sassoon. The intimate afterparty extended well beyond the advertised 8 PM end-time, with guests moving on to the more hospitable (and louder) environs of the Bar Marmont. But I checked out early so as to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the anticipated circus surrounding “She,” the Wallace Berman and Richard Prince exhibition—built around the artists’ representations of women—opening the following night at Michael Kohn Gallery.

Left: Michael Kohn Gallery's Samantha Glaser with collectors Brandon Davis and Eugenio López. Right: Dealers Michael Kohn and Irving Blum.

My precautionary measures seemed prudent when, the next evening, I walked by a scantily clad Pamela Anderson leaning against one of Prince’s El Caminos, which was vinyl wrapped, with rephotographed snaps of biker babes. “I love Richard’s work,” she fluttered. The rather surreal mise-en-scène made the gallery resemble a showroom for an ugly-car contest—or perhaps a prelude to a Matthew Barney extravaganza. I scooted past the paparazzi surrounding Anderson and beyond Prince’s book-cover collages of busty nurses (who struck an uncanny chord vis-à-vis Prince’s current showgirl), eventually making my way into the adjacent gallery, where a series of Berman’s black-and-white photographs of women were juxtaposed with some sexy classics from his transistor-radio series. The Berman-Prince pairing was odd, to say the least (almost as odd as the pairing of Prince and Kohn). Even the exhibition’s guest curator, Kristine McKenna, admitted that “Prince’s work is so aggressive when seen next to Berman’s.” Tosh Berman, Wallace’s son, was staked out in the second gallery, keeping an eye on his dad’s work. A longtime fan of TamTam Books, the press published and edited by Tosh, I wasn’t that surprised to hear him note that his “life’s work is for people to discover Boris Vian”—Vian being one of the very few authors (including Guy Debord and Serge Gainsbourg) in TamTam’s offbeat stable.

On my way out to the patio, I passed a strange amalgam of art-world and mainstream celebrities. Dealer Irving Blum standing not far from rocker Anthony Kiedis, collector Eugenio López passing one-hit wonder (and onetime Bruce Conner muse) Toni Basil, and of course Anderson getting a serious amount of face time with LA art godfather Ed Ruscha, who was looking every bit the elegant aging cowboy.

Left: Editor Karen Marta with curator Kristine McKenna. Right: Dealer Larry Gagosian.

After the opening, a group of us caravanned to Lucques for the gallery dinner. Anderson regaled her tablemates over plates of salted cod and lamb shank with tales of her genius preteen son, apparently being “recruited by the Pentagon.” Anderson dominated Prince throughout the dinner, though she wasn’t the only power player at the table. Wherever Prince is, Larry Gagosian isn’t far behind.

Bret Easton Ellis finally broke from his seat, bookended by Anderson and James Frey, to join editor Karen Marta and me over a couple of glasses of wine. Ellis’s latest tale of ’80s hedonistic excess, The Informers, premiered at Sundance days before amid some controversy, a topic that seemed to bore Ellis to no end. He was much more excited about his most recent project, a screenplay on the mysterious suicides of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, two onetime Angelenos who died in New York. Having recently said good-bye to all that to return to the West Coast, he still seemed to be suffering ennui. “I moved back and live here now permanently,” he said, looking askance at the glamorama crowd. “But somehow I thought it would be different.”

Left: Dealer Stellan Holm with musician Anthony Kiedis. Right: Writers James Frey and Bret Easton Ellis.

Left: Gemini GEL founder Sidney Felsen with artists Sophie Calle and Doug Aitken. Right: Musician Toni Basil.

Left: MoCA deputy director Ari Wiseman. Right: Dealer Frank Elbaz, Shirley Berman, dealer Rosamund Felsen, and Stuart Levin.

Left: Russell Ferguson, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts, with dealer Shaun Caley Regen. Right: Mikhail Berman, TamTam Books's Tosh Berman, and Mikie Shioya.

Left: Jenny Mollen and Jason Biggs. Right: Collector Rosette Delug.

Left: Blum & Poe's Alexandra Gaty and John Steele. Right: A view of Richard Prince's car.

Left: Richard Prince and James Frey. Right: Vidal Sassoon and Ronnie Sassoon.