Earning His Stripes

New York

Left: Artist Marty Kornfeld with Amalia Dayan. Right: Artist Daniel Buren with dealer Stefania Bortolami. (All photos: Brian Sholis)

Congratulazione, mia cara collega,” Emi Fontana exclaimed to Stefania Bortolami at the opening of Daniel Buren’s exhibition “Variable/Invariable” at Bortolami Dayan. Indeed, the mood at the opening and at the following dinner was ebullient: Bortolami and partner, Amalia Dayan, had pulled off a coup of sorts, with a two-part exhibition of the eminent French Conceptualist, who had for years been a fixture of uptown powerhouse Marian Goodman’s roster. Buren’s departure from Goodman and his decision to show with the plush but quite new Bortolami Dayan, which so far has shown mostly younger artists, were topics of considerable interest. “It’s nice coming back to show in New York,” Buren remarked. Of course, his spectacular installation at the Guggenheim in 2005 was certainly a return, but the artist was referring to gallery shows; he hadn’t had a show with Goodman for some time. “I was supposed to do a one-man show last year, which Marian forgot to do,” so, spurred on by friend and fellow Bortolami Dayan artist Michel François, Buren decided to throw in his lot with a new generation.

In the main gallery, Buren exhibited paintings spanning the year 1966; installed from earliest to latest clockwise through the space, the pictures show Buren’s abandonment of painting, or, as Bortolami put it, “You see Buren becoming Buren,” the artist of preprinted striped canvases in lieu of conventional paintings. In the outdoor space next door, beneath the High Line, Buren created an installation of Plexiglas squares that hung from the elevated railway. I asked the artist which part of the exhibition constituted the variable and which the invariable. “It’s something I leave open,” he answered laughing. “The invariable stripe?”

Left: Artist Jordan Wolfson and dealer Carol Greene. Right: Curator Clarissa Dalrymple with dealer Janice Guy.

Carl Andre, attired in his invariable garb of workman’s overalls, attended the opening but not the dinner. But, representing Buren’s generation, Lawrence Weiner and his wife, Alice, came to both. Held at Wallsé, the Austrian restaurant in the West Village, the dinner was quite, one could even say unusually, enjoyable. I sat next to Kamel Mennour, Buren’s Paris dealer, who confirmed that Marian Goodman was quite displeased about Buren’s departure. “She’s not happy with me, either,” he added, as Goodman has a Paris gallery, too, and Mennour, like Dayan and Bortolami, is a relatively young gallerist. Also at my table: Bard Center for Curatorial Studies executive director Tom Eccles, Sandy Rower (Alexander Calder’s grandson), and artists Louise Lawler and Cecily Brown. The “Pictures”-era avatar and the avatar of that other thing—painting—were seated side by side, chatting amiably—so much for the critical jeremiads of the ‘80s. To my slight discomfiture, conversation turned to Scene & Herd itself. I don’t think Eccles approves, as he was very critical of my own involvement. For lack of a better retort, I told him he must feel this revulsion because he is Scottish and Presbyterian. Other guests of note included François, Guggenheim director Lisa Dennison (who, with Guggenheim adjunct curator and critic Alison Gingeras and associate curator Susan Cross, organized the museum’s Buren exhibition), MoMA curator Joachim Pissarro, Clarissa Dalrymple, Anton Kern and Nathalie Karg, Tim Nye, and Christian Haye. And lots of other people whose names Eccles undoubtedly notes, as one can only surmise he is a loyal reader of Scene & Herd.

Left: Artist Lawrence Weiner with Bard Center for Curatorial Studies executive director Tom Eccles. Right: A view of Daniel Buren's installation at Bortolami Dayan.

Left: Dealer Kamel Mennour and Julianne Moreno with MoMA curator Joachim Pissarro. Right: Zoo Art Fair director Soraya Rodriguez with Crosby Brooke.