A-Z Does It

New York

Left: Curator Klaus Biesenbach with artist Andrea Zittel. Right: Gallerist Andrea Rosen with collector Arthur Goldberg. (All photos: Patrick McMullan)

“Do not touch” signs are a museum staple, but it was odd to see the officious warning plastered so liberally around an exhibition of work so explicitly dependent on ideas of physical interaction and practical function. I’d barely ventured into the main gallery at the first of two Wednesday night opening receptions for Andrea Zittel’s touring survey show “Critical Space” at the New Museum of Contemporary Art when a guard sternly directed me away from a carpeted area near one of the California desert-based artist’s sculptures-for-living. Confronted about the feet-and-hands-off policy, Zittel readily admitted to a simple concern for the work’s survival over a four-month run, a sensible but unavoidably disappointing decision. (The temptation to clamber into her isolation-tank-like A-Z Escape Vehicle was visibly eating away at even this evening’s modest and well-behaved cadre of friends and supporters.)

Across the street at snooty bar Opus 22, an altogether too-serious DJ was shielded by his version of the museum’s crowd-control device: a sign in front of the decks (CD decks, mind you) that read “NO REQUESTS.” Fellow DJ (and White Columns director) Matthew Higgs pointed and chuckled as he walked past on the way to cash in his coupon for a “free glass of wine or water.” Nodding hello to the owners of nearby Kravets/Wehby Gallery, my companion and I drained ours and headed over to The Park (the fancy Tenth Avenue restaurant, not the urban amenity) for cocktails and dinner courtesy of the museum and cohosts Sadie Coles, Regen Projects, and Andrea Rosen Gallery.

Left: The New Museum's Lisa Phillips and collector Martin Eisenberg. Right: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's Paola Morsiani.

After negotiating a coat check apparently under the management of two small children, we almost immediately bumped into Higgs again, then the Village Voice’s Jerry Saltz, who, perhaps under the sway of Zittel’s domestic focus, seemed just as intent on running down his favorite current television shows (which included—perhaps predictably—Curb Your Enthusiasm and—rather less so—American Idol) than top-rated exhibitions (Thomas Hirschhorn’s fearsome “Superficial Engagement” at Gladstone Gallery loomed understandably largest). Also encountered over Tom Collinses were Andrea Rosen Gallery Director Michelle Reyes-Landers and Whitney curator Shamim M. Momin. Drifting towards the buffet table, we were relieved to see that Zittel’s A-Z Food Groups, futuristic chow “inspired by the convenience and complete nutrition provided by dried commercial pet food” hadn’t yet made its way into The Park’s kitchen.

In the restaurant’s covered garden, we cast an eye over those assembled: When a single glance takes in newly appointed New Museum curators Richard Flood and Laura Hoptman, Whitney curator Donna De Salvo and museum trustees Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond J. Learsy, Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, independent curator and writer Klaus Kertess, and artists Jack Pierson, David Altmejd, Judith Eisler, and Josiah McElheny, you know there’s a good chance that something and someone noteworthy is being celebrated. Settling in next to Artforum colleagues Tim Griffin and Scott Rothkopf, and affable filmmaker T. J. Wilcox, we toasted A-Z Administrative Services’ continued preeminence, and ducked for cover as excitable MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach closed in wielding a camera (property of one Matthew Ritchie), intent on recording the evening for posterity, even if he never got to see the results. As we made our way out into the winter chill at the end of the evening, lanky architect Jonathan Caplan, commenting on the show, recalled those bullying signs and offered a cheeky closing assessment: “I kept looking around and thinking ‘How could I fit in that hole?’”

Michael Wilson

Left: The Studio Museum's Thelma Golden. Right: The New Museum's Trevor Smith.

Left: Visitors chat amongst the art. Right: Collector Burt Minkoff and New Museum trustee Stephanie French.

Left: Gallerist John Connelly with Patrick Fleming. Right: Andrea Rosen Director Michelle Reyes-Landers.

Left: Collector Nancy Portnoy. Right: Whitney curator Shamim M. Momin.