Crush with Eyeliner

Aspen, Colorado

Left: Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer. Right: Aspen Art Museum director and chief curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson with collector Amy Phelan. (All photos: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan)

ASPENS ARE COMMONLY KNOWN as the world’s largest living organism, which makes them an especially apt totem for other organisms aspiring to live large. Dreaming big, I arrived in the eponymous Colorado town last Wednesday—though a monsoon thunderstorm threatened to keep my jet away—for the Aspen Art Museum’s sixth annual artCRUSH benefit and a slate of events tailored to inspire the largesse of the locals.

Trekking to Aspen is a tricky affair (the exit from I-70 isn’t even marked), and I was fashionably late to wineCRUSH—the fundraiser’s opening ceremony, wine tasting, and multicourse meal. I sunk into the scene at the chic, spacious home of hosts John and Amy Phelan, who had rehung their delightfully risqué collection for the party. Among their many guests were artists Mickalene Thomas, Matthew Weinstein, Will Cotton, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Phillips, and Tom Sachs; dealer (and Work of Art judge) Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn; Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs; and Hirshhorn director Richard Koshalek, Whitney director Adam Weinberg, former Whitney president Robert Hurst, and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach. “I’m surprised to see so many museum directors,” noted Aspen Art Museum director and chief curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. “Except that it’s August in Aspen—and who wouldn’t want to be here?” I also spotted an elated Marilyn Minter (a towering silhouette against her 2009 video Green Pink Caviar), who was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Aspen Award for Art. Minter’s sensuous and sensorial take on the “pathology of glamour,” as she calls it, set an appropriate tone for the occasion.

Left: MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, and Todd Bishop. Right: Artist Marilyn Minter with dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.

The following day was spent visiting many of the winsome private collections in the area. Twenty of the world’s top two hundred art collectors have homes in Aspen, so there was plenty to see. First stop was the digs of Bob and Nancy Magoon, who recently redesigned their sculpture garden around works by Franz West, Nancy Rubins, Jason Middlebrook, and Richard Woods, among others. Later we dropped by the spare modernist home of Dennis and Debra Scholl—whose gorgeous wine cellar was nearly as impressive as their art—and Susan and Larry Marx, who own a strong collection of works on paper as well as one of the best Mark Bradford paintings I have ever seen. At each stop, stories of bear sightings and break-ins were frequent, an exciting collision of culture and wilderness.

That afternoon I visited the Aspen Art Museum (which was still being presided over by artist Dave McKenzie’s giant, inflatable, bobble-headed Fourth of July float) to scope out the breathtaking show of cool, subdued canvases by Sergej Jensen. “It’s the inversion of artCRUSH in its hypercerebral temperament,” explained Zuckerman Jacobson. “Its moodiness is a good counterbalance to the ebullience.” (Though she was quick to point out, “Both are equally essential.”) She also revealed proposals for the museum’s new Shigeru Ban building, which (once officially approved) will be four times as large as its current location, and situated in Aspen’s downtown core. It seemed that everyone was putting their plans on the table, as later Don and Mera Rubell eagerly hinted at their forthcoming December collection show in Miami. Over homemade pasta (served in the living room of their mountain home, a swank setting used for the 1993 cult film Aspen Extreme), the couple gave me a sneak peek at their catalogue design, checklist, and curatorial premise (and it’s not to be missed).

Left: Artist Xavier Veilhan. Right: Collectors Mera and Don Rubell.

By the time Friday evening’s artCRUSH rolled around, I had been reveling for three days straight and was on an unmistakable Rocky Mountain high. And with tents decked out in tune with a Barbarella Bubble Bar theme, everyone’s spirits would continue to soar well into the night. The range of works up for auction included ones by Kiki Smith, Ed Ruscha, Roni Horn, Tara Donovan, Amanda Ross-Ho, Catherine Opie, and Delia Brown, whose generous contribution would be a commissioned portrait of the winning patron in a decadent social scene. “I’m looking forward to this painting,” exclaimed Brown (whose go-go boots complemented the decor). “It’s a really good assignment.” Spotting some display cases of Sotheby’s bling (a new diamond jewelry line aimed at the art set), I had just enough time to indulgently try on a $750,000, seven-karat ring before everyone was called to dinner.

As supper was served, Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer took to the stage to referee the live auction. Though my view of his performance was at times obscured by the lava lamp–ish centerpiece, Meyer thrillingly drove sale after sale, badgering patrons into purging their pockets. At the end of the night, the museum had raised nearly $1.5 million—artCRUSH’s highest yield yet. What better excuse to celebrate? The polished crowd thinned out, many filing over to the afterparty at Syzygy restaurant, where celebrity DJ Samantha Ronson (sans Lindsay Lohan) kept people dancing under the glow of Green Pink Caviar. Even if it was all a bit pathological, it was hard not to crush out on the glamour of art.

Left: Artist David Lambert. Right: DJ Samantha Ronson.