Mid Drift

New York

Left: MoMA director Glenn Lowry. Right: Collectors David Teiger and Kati Lovaas. (All photos: David Velasco)

“A great swath of established galleries—reliable fair exhibitors elsewhere—is missing.” So noted White Columns director Matthew Higgs, pinning down one of several ways in which this year’s Armory Show is different from its predecessors; there are also significantly fewer booths and an increased number of one-artist presentations. Contrary to MoMA director Glenn Lowry’s press-conference platitude about fairs offering a “nonhierarchical” view of art, this missing center accentuates a very real hierarchy: At or near the top, one finds blue-chip contemporary galleries occupying more square footage to exhibit fewer artists; at the other end of the scale, young galleries and nonprofits are crammed into Manhattan Mini Storage closets (“I can’t stand anywhere without blocking something I want people to see,” said Guild & Greyskhul’s Sara VanDerBeek) or squeezed into hallways abutting bathrooms.

Among the holdouts are a number of New York dealers, perhaps the most talked-about subject during the Thursday afternoon lull between the arrival of the early-bird collectors, who showed up at noon along with the members of the press, and the evening’s MoMA-benefiting vernissage, which offered staggered entry times beginning at 5:00 PM. Gone are Marian Goodman, Tanya Bonakdar (who participated in last month’s ADAA fair), Luhring Augustine (ditto), and even relative newcomer Daniel Reich. Missing too was Barbara Gladstone, who sent out an e-mail press release for next month’s Matthew Barney exhibition during the evening reception, signaling that it was business as usual down on Twenty-fourth Street.

Left: Armory Show cofounder Paul Morris. Right: Collector and dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.

Gladstone, Bonakdar, and Roland Augustine, all unencumbered, prowled the aisles with collectors David Teiger, Mickey Cartin, and Glenn Fuhrman; a posse from Miami including the Rubells, Rosa de la Cruz, and Craig Robins; Chicago-based museum patron Sara Szold and Londoner Anita Zabludowicz. Activity was low-key, serious, and brisk; by 3:00 PM, when the piers were empty enough for an extended audience with just about any dealer, most reported having already made back their booth fees. (Sikkema Jenkins & Co. partner Meg Malloy noted that she even conducted some business on Wednesday.) Yet the chestnut about artists not being able to keep up with the fairs seemed finally to contain a kernel of truth, as spectacular artworks (and attendant spectacular sales) seemed few and far between.

“I represent over twenty artists, and I still can’t come up with enough art,” noted The Project’s Christian Haye, who had flown in some exquisitely messy Otto Muehl paintings just for the weekend from the exhibition now on view in his LA gallery. One splash was Barnaby Furnas’s lush, abstract, twenty-seven-by-eleven-and-a-half-foot red tide: Subject of a “Talk of the Town” piece in this week’s New Yorker and similar to two recently commissioned by Aby Rosen for the Lever House, it was snapped up from Marianne Boesky’s booth by an (unnamed) institution. Down the aisle, a surprise came from Ronald Feldman, who devoted his booth to feminist art pioneer Hannah Wilke. “So, are these supposed to be, like, vaginas?” I overheard several visitors inquire as they pointed to works from her “Starification Object Series” (and inadvertently pointed out the necessity of this micro-retrospective).

Left: Whitney director Adam Weinberg with Pace gallery's Marc Glimcher. Right: Actor and collector David Alan Grier with Studio Museum curator Christine Kim.

But with few secondary-market jaw-droppers on offer, most pleasures were modest: a slick one-two punch of Anselm Reyle and Vincent Szarek at Almine Rech; swirling, slate-gray Rezi van Lankveld paintings at The Approach and Diana Stigter; Carter Mull’s opulent photos of shattered surfaces at Rivington Arms; a Spencer Finch photo series at Rhona Hoffmann; and quasi-psychedelic Weegee portraits of New York landmark buildings at Matthew Marks. Florian Slotawa presented surprisingly engaging household-object sculptural assemblages at Sies + H÷ke, where I was told that he is constructing a “twenty-five-foot-tall, Minimalist tower” of items taken from a collector’s home—including the bed—for the upcoming Berlin Biennale.

At 5:00 PM, I was told that the crowd-control and guest-list duties switched from the fair staff to MoMA, and I was temporarily stuck between (and without access to) the piers, a frustrating situation until I saw John Waters similarly turned away from the check-in desk. Temporary exhibitor’s passes helped us through the gates, and once back inside I encountered more curators than were evident earlier in the day. MoMA’s John Elderfield held court midway down Pier 92, where I also passed his former colleague (and now UCLA Hammer Museum Senior Curator) Gary Garrels, the New Museum’s Richard Flood, the Whitney’s Donna De Salvo, David Kiehl, and Adam Weinberg . . . I had soon spied so many Whitney staffers that it felt like another Biennial event.

Left: Clarissa Dalrymple with Neville Wakefield. Right: Artists Collier Schorr and Karel Funk.

Tomasso Corvi-Mora, standing in front of three small, strong paintings by “Greater New York(er)” Richard Aldrich, was in an expansive mood, countering my reservations with a reminder that, even if people felt the fair was a little enervated this year, we were nonetheless still in the midst of an unprecedented boom that has provided stability for untold numbers of deserving artists. Bellwether’s Becky Smith expanded on the point in her inimitable manner: “It’s not like a Filene’s Basement wedding dress sale, but I’ll take it.”

Elsewhere, David Zwirner announced that he is now representing Sue Williams by presenting a new, large canvas, and I chatted with artist Yuri Masnyj while out of the corner of my eye I clocked Peter Blum substituting fresh Joseph Marioni paintings for sold ones. (Marioni is first up in Blum’s new Twenty-ninth Street gallery, opening April 26.) Artists were hard to find, though I did see Collier Schorr and Karel Funk at 303’s booth and photographer Ryan McGinley cruising the aisles in headphones. When I walked past Mathilde ter Heijne’s life-size mannequin at Susanne Vielmetter’s booth and its recorded voice called me an asshole, I began to think McGinley might have had the right idea and called it a day.

Left: The Project's Christian Haye and Jennifer Orbach. Right: Whitney curators David Kiehl and Donna De Salvo

It turns out that all the artists were in Chelsea at The Park, my next stop. Creative Time was throwing a reunion party of sorts, and dozens were on hand, including Andrea Fraser, Chris Doyle, Christine Hill, Jules de Balincourt, Laurie Simmons, and Marilyn Minter, whose new billboard—titled Mudbath, as was the party—was visible outside the window. A DJ played ’80s pop hits and a portrait photographer was documenting the scene for a soon-to-be-published anthology of the organization’s projects. After ten-plus hours on my feet, the camera flashes, free-flowing alcohol, and the lack of a decent meal had me floating on a hallucinatory cloud; it took a text message—“Please pick up dry cat food”—to bring me back to reality. I headed down the stairs, past video artist A´da Ruilova and dozens of others just arriving, and hit the sidewalks in search of a bodega and some rest.

Left: Gallerist Jeffrey Deitch. Right: Ryan McGinley snaps a shot of Dan McCarthy's Nude, 2006.

Left: Gallerist Yvon Lambert. Right: Gallerist Susanne Vielmetter with Mathilde ter Heijne's mannequin.

Left: “Sexual Outlaw” and Team Gallery director Jose Freire. Right: Artist Julie Atlas Muz.

Left: Gallerist Leo Koenig. Right: Adrian Turner, Amy Greenspan, Liz Ivers, John Waters, and Nicelle Beauchene at Marianne Boesky.

Left: Gallerists Monica Manzutto and Jose Kuri. Right: Gallerist Javier Peres.

Left: Kati Lovaas, David Teiger, John Waters, and New Museum director Lisa Phillips. Right: Studio Museum curator Thelma Golden.

Left: Conservator Christian Scheidemann and UCLA Hammer Museum senior curator Gary Garrels. Right: P.S. 1's Tony Guerrero and Alanna Heiss.

Left: Roland Augustine with Hauser & Wirth gallery director Gregor Muir. Right: MoMA curator John Elderfield holds court.

Left: Gallerist Charlotte Lund with artists Adele and Eva atop Jacob Dahlgren's piece Heaven is a place on earth, 2006. Right: Collector Glenn Fuhrman.

Left: Franklin Furnace director Martha Wilson. Right: Artist Michelle D'Souza, curator Neil Robert Wenman, and gallerist Nicholas Logsdail.

Left: Gallerist Frank Elbaz and private dealer Philippe Segalot. Right: Parkett's Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Bice Curiger.

Left: Creative Time curator and producer Peter Eleey and Artist Space curator Christian Rattemeyer. Right: Marilyn Minter with her billboard “Mud Bath.”

Brian Sholis