House Red

New York

Left: Collectors Norman Dubrow and Alvin Hall and Salon 94 owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohaytn. Right: Artist Wangechi Mutu. (All photos: David Velasco)

Sunday was one of those oddly changeable New York spring days, and the gentle rain that was falling as I left my apartment downtown had given way to pleasant sun by the time I reached Salon 94, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Nicolas Rohatyn’s chichi domestic project space on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Shoving open the townhouse’s weighty iron-and-glass front door, I was greeted by the sound of a quartet—a cellist, a violinist, and two drummers—entertaining guests in the lobby with an enjoyably meandering improvisation. After lingering for a few minutes with a glass of wine in hand, I pressed on into the main room to survey a collaborative installation by artist Wangechi Mutu and London-based architect David Adjaye.

The drink was more than usually appropriate, as Exhuming Gluttony: A Lover’s Requiem is a “beastly feast” in which an ovoid slab of pale wood is continually anointed by red wine that drips from an arrangement of dark bottles suspended above it. Surrounded by dark grey wood-paneled walls that appear to have been peppered with bullets, and to which strips of packing tape and bundles of fur have been haphazardly affixed, the heavy table-like form assumes a romantic, Beuysian aura. Veiling the curved sweep of window that overlooks the garden was a translucent curtain printed with a colorful but ambiguous image, the visual juxtapositions combining with the intensifying aroma of wine-soaked wood clearly angling for an intoxicating mix. Nairobi-born Mutu, currently also showing at Sikkema, Jenkins & Co., was clearly pleased to have made the connection with Adjaye, who worked with Olafur Eliasson in Venice last year and is currently designing the new contemporary art museum for the city of Denver. According to Greenberg Rohatyn, “Wangechi asked David to help her house some ideas she was working on, and they grew into Exhuming Gluttony. They worked together designing the space, brainstorming materials, and on the final realization of the idea.”

Left: Salon 94 gallery director Fabienne Stephan, artist Derrick Adams, and curator Bob Nickas. Right: Architect David Adjaye.

By 5 PM, the opening’s midway point, the venue had reached capacity. A camera crew from German television station ZDF made free movement around the slab, from which wine was now spilling onto the floor and forming small but potentially hazardous puddles, something of a challenge. New York Times critic Roberta Smith and the Village Voice’s Jerry Saltz made an entrance and, after exchanging a few words with Greenberg Rohatyn, melted away again. Studio Museum director and chief curator Thelma Golden held court at one end of the room; MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach commanded the other. Rumors of a Vogue scribe in the house were sending ripples of interest through the style-conscious crowd. Seeking a moment’s respite, I maneuvered down a long ramp into the garden, where a posse of small children was making its own scene, buzzing about among the potted plants.

Reentering for another round as the music started up again—the two drummers performing unaccompanied this time—I spotted art-world impresario Yvone Force Villareal with husband, artist Leo Villareal, artists Marilyn Minter and Deborah Grant, and curators Bob Nickas and Jeffrey Uslip, all looking suitably wary of the sometimes very slightly swaying and now thoroughly marinated object around which they all edged. But Mutu and Adjaye, both continually surrounded by friends and admirers, diligently attended to by a purple-swathed Greenberg Rohatyn, and clearly enjoying the occasion, appeared relaxed throughout. Despite the project’s portentous title and the work’s intimations of decadent overkill, its introduction to the world at large proved a blessedly civilized affair.

Michael Wilson

Left: Artist Muna El Fituri with Studio Museum director and chief curator Thelma Golden. Right: Artist Deborah Grant.

Left: ZDF Television's Uwe Kröger with L&M Arts's Dominique Lévy. Right: MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach with Uwe Kröger.

Left: Leo Villareal with son Cuatro. Right: Yvonne Force Villareal.

Left: Feigen Contemporary director Lance Kinz. Right: Nicolas Rohatyn with artist Marilyn Minter.

Left: Artist Solange Umutoni and Naututu Okhoya. Right: Artist Francesca di Matteo.