The L Words

Glen Helfand at LA Art Weekend

Los Angeles

Left: Lawrence Weiner with hostesses. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan) Right: Artists Catherine Opie and Walead Beshty. (Photo: Glen Helfand)

“I think that line over there is for LA Art Weekend people,” said someone behind me as I stood in queue at the Hammer Museum last Thursday night, waiting for an appearance by Albert Maysles, elder statesman of American cinema verité. I half-expected to see officials sporting LAAW badges, but no such distinguishing markers were apparent. Having thoroughly consulted the itinerary of LAAW events—a compelling list of museum visits, openings, screenings, parties, and the like—I still wasn’t sure what, exactly, the Weekend constituted, other than a way to link disparate art and culture events in Los Angeles. (And some pretty good ones at that.) No choice but to go with the flow, beginning with a brief visit to the well-attended Maysles tribute in the museum’s magenta-hued Billy Wilder Theater. Hammer director Ann Philbin made some initial remarks, noting that she and her staff were starstruck on meeting the Grey Gardens codirector—and they’ve encountered their fair share of Hollywood talent. Maysles received an immediate standing ovation, which he humbly waved away; he seemed more interested in screening some of his portrait films, like an interview with Truman Capote from the early 1960s, material that Philip Seymour Hoffman must have studied before he nailed the writer’s fabulously bitchy drawl.

I squirmed though, recalling that Catherine Opie’s opening at Regen Projects—for a new series of photos of high school football games—would be wrapping up soon. I slipped out of the theater and, making a straight shot down Wilshire, arrived at the gallery in surprisingly good time. The crowd was spilling into the courtyard, beneath an outdoor text work by Lawrence Weiner, whose Whitney- and MoCA–organized survey was slated to open on Saturday at the latter museum’s Geffen Contemporary outpost. The relaxed, celebratory crowd inside the gallery, a mix of artists, collectors, entertainment lawyers, and art students, heated up the space. Whitney curator Donna De Salvo, in town for the MoCA exhibition, was chatting with Barbara Kruger, and there was Philbin, who must have snuck out of her museum even before I did. Opie was typically affectionate and clearly enjoying the attention. I’d seen her recently at a lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute, and she seemed concerned about how she went over. “They loved you,” I assured her—and they had.

Left: Artist Philip Maysles with filmmakers Liz Goldwyn and Albert Maysles. (Photo: LA Art Weekend) Right: Dealer Kim Light and collector Rosette Delug. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan)

Curator Gary Garrels noted that the Hammer had acquired more than one photo from the show. At the subsequent dinner at Dominick’s, 130 adoring guests took over the restaurant, eating family-style. The artist herself sat at a table near a crackling fireplace across from her partner, Julie Burleigh, and next to Shaun Caley Regen, who toasted her heartily.

Friday morning, amid a summery heat wave, I set off for the Weiner preview. By the time I arrived, the public remarks had already been made, and MoCA curator Ann Goldstein and De Salvo were sitting in the reading room happily comparing notes. In the Geffen’s ample space, the exhibition plays like a glorious force of nature—the angled walls form canyons of text, and bits of light stream in from skylights. Weiner ambled contentedly through the galleries, which also include a suitably bohemian companion show: a survey of Allan Kaprow’s Happenings and environments.

That night, Weiner danced beside a swimming pool (with one of his works emblazoned on the bottom) to a funk band at a buffet dinner in his honor at the modernist Beverly Hills home of MoCA trustee Rosette Delug. The clear, balmy night seemed made to order for the event, and the city’s twinkling lights spread out before us.

As with Opie, everyone had good things to say about Delug’s spirited hospitality. Last October, she threw an infamous party for Takashi Murakami, populated with naked Playboy Playmates painted to resemble manga characters; there were two such Playmates on hand for Weiner, only this time they sported painted-on majorette costumes. (Your guess is as good as mine.) The ladies served premium vodka from shot glasses made of ice to a crowd that included Ed Ruscha and his son Eddie, John Baldessari, Raymond Pettibon, and LACMA director Michael Govan. More thematically appropriate party ephemera included red and gray M&Ms printed with Weiner’s name, and yellow cocktail napkins emblazoned with one of his text pieces.

Left: Black Frame's Brian Phillips, Farmlab's Lauren Bon, and REDCAT's Clara Kim. Right: Artist Raymond Pettibon with Russell Ferguson, chair of UCLA Department of Art. (Photos: Glen Helfand)

Guests were free to wander Delug’s art-filled home, but a small, excited crowd formed when someone cracked open a closet to reveal an immaculately arranged collection of designer shoes and bags. “Now this is art,” gushed a besotted attendee sporting a luxury brand or two herself. With equal excitement, artist Mark Bradford informed me that George Soros, the billionaire political philanthropist, was in the house. I wouldn’t recognize the guy if I saw him, but the idea that he was mixing with the crowd added a layer of absurd gravitas to the party. Later, to top it all off, one hearty, fully clothed reveler cannonballed into the pool.

Saturday paired glamour with philanthropy, when REDCAT hooked up with the weekend’s organizers to arrange a visit to Farmlab, the eco-conscious project of self-professed artist and philanthropist Lauren Bon. After a swanky Beverly Hills brunch of mimosas and truffle-oil-drizzled morsels at the Maison Martin Margiela, a group of CalArts supporters, and out-of-towners including David Selig, owner of New York’s eco-friendly restaurant Rice, convened at a compound in a gritty patch of warehouses and empty lots downtown to hear Bon’s convincing pitch on urban farming, water use, and tango dancing. We trekked through the dusty field in hundred-degree heat (parasols and hats provided).

The weather sapped my energy, so I lounged in the shade, then met a friend for dinner before schlepping back to Culver City for a party at Royal/T, a sprawling boutique touted as “LA’s first Japanese-style cosplay café”—which I assume explains the women in maid costumes offering trays of tea sandwiches and chocolates. Sipping on one of the free-flowing watermelon martinis, I couldn’t help but feel refreshed by the positive vibe. If only every art weekend went down this easy.

Left: Visionaire's Cecilia Dean. Right: Collector Lisa Feldman, artist Mitsuhiro Okamoto, and Royal/T owner Susan Hancock. (Photos: LA Art Weekend)

Left: Whitney curator Shamim Momin with a friend. (Photo: LA Art Weekend) Right: Architect Michael Maltzan with Hammer director Ann Philbin. (Photo: Glen Helfand)

Left: Artists Anna Sew Hoy, Alex Segade, and Malik Gaines. Right: Whitney chief curator Donna De Salvo with Lauri Firstenberg.

Left: Artist Liz Larner with collector Curt Shepard. (Photo: Glen Helfand) Right: Karen Marta with artist Pierre Huyghe. (Photo: Adam Katz, LA Art Weekend)

Left: Artists Lari Pittman and Mark Bradford with a friend. Right: Artists Lawrence Weiner and John Baldesssari. (Photos: Stefanie Keenan)

Left: REDCAT's Ryan Inouye and artist Dave McKenzie. (Photo: Glen Helfand) Right: Lisson Gallery's Nicholas Logsdail, LACMA director Michael Govan, LVMH's Katherine Ross, and collectors Leonard and Susan Nimoy. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan)