The Custom of the Country

Hiji Nam around Condo New York 2019

Residence of the Norwegian Consul General.

IN EDITH WHARTON’S THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, society girl Lily Bart spends the “long gilded hours of the day” moving from one Hamptons estate to another, venturing out occasionally to a Monte Carlo hotel. Though impeccably trained to move among nineteenth-century New York’s upper crust, Lily cannot afford her lifestyle independently and must rely on the goodwill of better-endowed friends and sponsors. They, of course, expect certain favors in return, whether it’s writing letters or keeping a bothersome husband amused.

Lily falls from society’s grace when she ceases to be useful and overstays her welcome, not unlike those of us gathered to toast the third New York iteration of Condo, a collaborative exchange of thirty-eight galleries across eighteen venues, at the Norwegian consul general’s apartment on East Fifty-Third Street. After the champagne and ribbons of rare steak, the group—which skewed more toward gallerists than artists and included Condo organizers Simone Subal and Chapter NY’s Nicole Russo, Standard Oslo’s Mary Grace Wright, and Whitney Museum curator Christopher Lew—was shepherded out by a doorman who politely but firmly requested that the exported guests not stand too close to the entrance as we deliberated the evening’s next moves.


Many headed to an afterparty downtown at Madame X, though I peeled off with writer Domenick Ammirati and Swiss Institute curator Laura McLean-Ferris to discuss in uptown quietude the orchestration of press trips to see overseas family and loved ones and the dullness of this year’s Venice Biennale. “Anne Imhof’s piece was like a bomb a couple years ago—people were actually excited to talk about why they loved or hated it,” noted McLean-Ferris. “People didn’t even bother this year.”

That may be true, but the cogs of the great machinery keep on, and on Thursday afternoon, I tramped to a few of Condo’s participating galleries. After stopping by Koppe Astner at Metro Pictures, I headed downtown to TriBeCa, where Queer Thoughts’ exchange with Brussels’s dependánce gallery yielded impressively nimble offerings from Michaela Eichwald, Peter Wächtler, and Matthew Langan Peck, among others. At Simone Subal, the eponymous gallerist’s son was competing for his mother’s attention amid a healthy crowd of spritz imbibers, and at Lomex, the usual suspects were catching up on summer happenings over wine, then vodka paired with a fizzy lemon-flavored Korean soda. (“Never again,” painter Andrea Fourchy, who had just gotten back from showing at Basel, told me.)

Artists Marc Kokopeli and Win McCarthy.

From there our social calendar pointed us eastward, where a performance by Nour Mobarak interrupted the social glaze of greetings and contrivances at Miguel Abreu, which, while not a Condo participant, opened a winsome summer show curated by Alex Fleming and Anya Komar. Over the gallery dinner of beet salad and more steak at Farmhouse on Ludlow Street, where I enjoyed some conversations and endured others, I remembered how such rituals of social drudgery—discussing the details of an upcoming launch party, the romantic indiscretions of a certain dealer, feuds and insinuations of the variety both more open and subtle—and one’s maneuverability within them serve to conceal the engineering that dictates the apparently seamless way in which one scene flows into the next. Like Lily’s world, ours is a social set that impales pretty things to show them under glass, eliminating anything beyond its own narrow range of perception. Friends and enemies, take note: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

Dealers Beatriz Lopez, Omayra Alvarado, Simone Subal, and Marian Ivan.

Queer Thoughts’s Miguel Bendaña holding a Peter Wächtler.

Dealer Emma Astner and curator Laura McLean-Ferris.

Artists Ignacio Gatica and Rose Salane with dealer Emma Astner.

Dealer Alexander Schulan and artist Robert Bittenbender.

Artist Nour Mobarak performing at Miguel Abreu.

Artists Tobias Madison, Jason Loebs, and Marie Karlberg.

Curators Anya Komar and Alex Fleming.

Residence of the Norwegian Consul General.