Late Show


Left: Cologne Cathedral. Right: Art Cologne artistic director Daniel Hug with 1301PE's Brian Butler.

BY THE TIME I reached Art Cologne, Eyjafjallajökull had pretty much stopped its hysterics.

But this didn’t mean everything was back to normal. To arrive on day three of an international art fair at the tail end of the largest airspace lockdown since World War II is to experience the peculiar ennui of showing up late to the wrong party—a party, indeed, where everyone is perhaps a bit too surprised to see you.

At the fair that Thursday, everything was civilized and groomed but also difficult to gauge according to the usual methods. “Deals” were to be found everywhere, and even on good new work, some choice Susanne M. Winterlings from Parrotta gallery being a case in point. Daniel Hug, the artistic director who took over just last year, seems to have rallied a host of solid galleries (Peres Projects, Sprüth Magers, Broadway 1602—as well as local stalwarts like Capitain, Buchholz, and Nagel), and incredibly, despite the whole volcano megillah, John Connelly and Loraini Alimantiri were the only galleries locked out entirely. And who can complain about a fair where denizens are allowed to smoke in their booths?

Later that night, the indigenous art world converged on the Museum Ludwig for openings of work by Wade Guyton and photographer Jochen Lempert. “It’s a bit like Niagara Falls . . .” Guyton said, looking from on high at his massive, eight-panel, twenty-five-foot-tall Epson-printed painting, whose black squares and sluices of white linen filled up nearly the entire wall of one of the Ludwig’s vast exhibition halls. There was a roiling, sublime organicness to it, despite its digital-mechanical genesis. “We barely got it up,” he said. “And I have no idea how we’re getting it back down.”

Left: Dealer Kate MacGarry at Art Cologne. Right: Dealer Gisela Capitain with artist Wade Guyton.

The opening teemed with supporters—Guyton’s dealers Gisela Capitain, Chantal Crousel, and Francesca Pia; artists Michael Krebber, Marcel Odenbach, Matt Saunders, and Katarina Burin—most of whom joined for the small dinner afterward at the museum’s restaurant. Even later, a few of us (including Guyton, Crousel, and writer Linda Yablonsky) commenced a bar crawl that began at packed pseudodisco Coco Schmitz and ended (at least for me) at a small dive called, rather flamboyantly, Schampanja.

Then to Brussels on Friday, for another fair. “So you’ve come all this way to see art dealers looking bored?” asked one art dealer, who indeed did look bored. Having missed the vernissage here too (it had opened on Thursday), I felt again that sense of sharp dissonance—followed by a certain ineffable relief. “Sales are great,” said Gladstone Gallery’s Max Falkenstein, who’d managed to fly in Thursday on “the most expensive ticket” he’d ever purchased.

“Not everyone thinks so,” countered a rep from another fair.

“Well, the good galleries are doing well,” he suggested.

There were more than a few good galleries at what turned out to be a mostly elegant, focused event (Hauser & Wirth, Emmanuel Perrotin, Athens’s Bernier/Eliades. “We’re officially part of the third world now,” said Bernier/Eliades director Yianni Vassiliou. “But that hasn’t stopped anyone from buying.”). New Yorkers like Lisa Cooley and Miguel Abreu were still marooned stateside. Maureen Paley, one of a number of Brits who’d made the trek by train, brought out work by Liam Gillick, his first “showing” at her gallery. “This volcano is like something out of a J. G. Ballard novel,” she said. Another dealer pessimistically suggested Candide.

Left: Dealers Pilar Corrias and Isabella Maidment at Art Brussels. Right: Dealer Almine Rech.

That evening was “Brussels Gallery Night.” I walked from Kendell Geers at Rodolphe Janssen to Franz West and Sophie von Hellermann’s show at Almine Rech’s cavernous, in medias res space on Rue de l’Abbaye, where Hellermann was doing two-minute portraits on the cover of her artist’s book for €20 (book included). Designer Raf Simons, arriving straight from the Brussels airport via Milan at Xavier Hufkens’s opening for David Altmejd (whom Simons “loves”) gave props to the energy around the fair, which most everyone agreed was clearly on the up-and-up.

Running late, I rushed off to the opening of Andreas Hofer’s exhibition at the collection of Charles Riva (a primary backer of Sutton Lane), then to Riva’s dinner at the soigné Brasserie de Bruxelles. The food was great—Brussels native Falkenstein offered pointers on various dishes. Following dessert, a fashionable woman came outside for a cigarette and asked if anyone had been to Art Basel yet. “You mean Art Brussels?” a friend asked. She looked bemused: “Is that what this is all about?”

We arrived around midnight at what was obviously the destination for the evening: Jan Mot’s afterparty for Rineke Dijkstra at Café Modele. By then the eclectically hip and boisterous crowd was already spilling out onto the street. Mot was stuck in Mexico, but Dijkstra seemed happy to carry the party herself. People bought cheap drinks from the deli next door and drank them on the sidewalk before shouldering their way inside. I left on what I thought was the last song, but apparently miscalculated by an hour or two, and the party went on, Dijkstra guiding the way, until 6 AM.

Left: Artists Sophie von Hellermann and Josh Smith. Right: Artist Rineke Dijkstra.

The next day to Paris. The city was quiet, despite being April in Paris and, not surprisingly, gorgeous out. On Sunday, the one and only significant art event in the city was the closing of Sturtevant’s exceptional show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. I took a taxi to the Sixteenth Arrondissement, arriving minutes before the doors shut, just in time to ride the giddy-making House of Horrors (a huge hit with the kids, a number of whom were queuing up for one last go). “Is it supposed to be scary?” I asked Sturtevant, who returned my question with a skeptical glare. “Well, were you scared?”

In the courtyard between the Moderne and the neighboring Palais de Tokyo, a score of devotees and friends gathered under strings of Christmas lights for a light plein air supper. “Art becomes more and more vital every day,” said my neighbor, a (formerly teetotaling) physicist from Maastricht. “It’s about penetrating the tacitness, about giving us a better view of reality amid this growing wash of unedited information—the Internet.” He seemed to like Sturtevant, who, he argued, “never gives us the same old same old.”

Left: Dealer Chantal Crousel. Right: Artist Sturtevant with curator Anne Dressen.

After the meal (mozzarella and jambon; some sort of chicken salad, I think; champagne), the remaining curators, critics, and friends gathered at the end of the long table to engage and hosanna the guest of honor. Typically pugnacious, she had fun regaling us with pointed anecdotes, mostly about writers she despises—a current bête noire being a man from Libération who wrote an apparently scandalous report on the exhibition. “When stupid people talk, it can only be opinion,” she spat, before telling of another encounter with a random “admirer”:

“I was very disappointed in your show,” a man had told her one morning at a café.

“You have no right to be disappointed in my show,” she contended, considering—as she put it—whether to push him off his stool or punch him in the face.

“I wanted there to be more paintings,” he offered, by way of explanation.

“Well, tant pis, man. Go back to your studio, make some paintings.”

Left: Chantal Crousel's Niklas Svennung with dealer Francesca Pia. Right: Karma International's Karolina Dankow and artist Fabian Marti at Art Cologne.

Left: Collector Charles Riva and artist Andreas Hofer. Right: Dealers Glenn Scott Wright and Victoria Miro at Art Brussels.

Left: Curator Nicolas Trembley. Right: Sutton Lane's Gil Presti with Gladstone Gallery's Max Falkenstein

Left: Artist Nicola Gobbetto and Galleria Fonti's Luigi Giovinazzo at Art Cologne. Right: Anna Graf and artist Daniele Buetti.

Left: Galleria Continua's Lorenzo Fiaschi (right) at Art Brussels. Right: Lisson Gallery's Alex Logsdail at Art Brussels.

Left: Aeroplastics Contemporary's Jerome Jacobs at Art Brussels. Right: Dealers Britta Handrup and Daniel Schmidt at Art Cologne.

Left: Dealer Peter Kilchmann at Art Cologne. Right: Dealer Patricia Low at Art Cologne.

Left: Bernier/Eliades's Yianni Vassiliou at Art Brussels. Right: Curator Dessislava Dimova.

Left: Dealer Sandro Angelo Parrotta at Art Cologne. Right: Collectors Shirley Morales and Michèle Lamy at Art Brussels.