Show Stopper

New York

Left: Carol Gooden, curator Clarissa Dalrymple, Björk, and Matthew Barney. Right: Kiki Smith. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

The spring auctions were just getting underway when I left for a five-week sojourn at an isolated, wooded writer’s retreat in New England, though not so isolated I didn’t have access to a wireless Internet connection—even caves in Afghanistan seem to have that—so I read the gushing claims about how “smart” the art market had become in my absence. All I can say is I missed the right things, as far as I’m concerned, and came back in time for actual exhibitions where art still has the power to do something besides line a pocket. What makes the difference is their curators, several of whom are working artists.

Now, I don’t want to say that a dealer can’t put together an interesting gallery show, but how many would have the soul of Charles Ray’s humdinger at Matthew Marks? It’s really a museum show: a Giacometti, a Jeff Wall, a Mark di Suvero, and a shelf of wooden dolls by Edgar Tolson, all breathtakingly installed. This is one elegant way to introduce an artist to a gallery—just a mind at work, nothing for sale—but where were all the people? When I got to the opening, only a handful were around—Donna de Salvo (fresh from the triumph of her “Full House” at the Whitney), Kiki Smith, Michael Fried. It’s not like Ray has a show in New York every day. I asked gallery director Jeffrey Peabody why the place wasn’t mobbed. “Maybe because it’s a Tuesday?” he offered. “And it's summer?”

Yet there was a crowd over at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, whose group photo show was put together by youngish, hip-ish artists Justine Kurland and Dan Torop. Yet their mishmash, unlike Ray’s, didn’t feel very contemporary, their reliance on vintage photography notwithstanding. What’s more, I hardly knew anyone there.

Left: White Columns director Matthew Higgs. Right: Dealer Daniel Buchholz with Metro Pictures co-owner Janelle Reiring.

This is when I started to suspect I had been gone too long. It got worse the next day, when I went to the Arturo Herrera-curated group show at Sikkema Jenkins and felt absolutely lost until Artforum’s Scott Rothkopf showed up. “I don’t know anyone here!” I wailed. “I’ve never heard of any of these artists!” “I think that’s the idea of the show,” he snickered.

On Thursday night, the skies opened just as I got to Anton Kern’s tenth-anniversary show. Visitors bunched in the doorway to wait out the driving rain but, again, no one in my (formerly large) acquaintance. Had there been a total changing of the guard in Chelsea during the month I was away? It didn’t seem possible. Yet my only friend in the whole place was Kern himself, and we talked for several minutes before I realized that he didn’t seem to know anyone either.

Of course, it was still early. Things picked up some at the daisy-chain show that Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz put together at Andrew Kreps by asking Jennifer Bornstein to contribute a work and then ask someone else. She chose Chivas Clem, who invited Meg Webster, who invited Curtis Mitchell, and so forth down the line, in a heartwarming display of real community. It made me feel less a stranger. But it was Matthew Higgs’s multigenerational collage exhibition at Gladstone Gallery that made me forget all about dollar signs and strangers. I even forgot to go to the shows at Metro Pictures (of artists represented by Cologne dealer Daniel Buchholz) and Bortolami Dayan (curated by Banks Violette). “Dereconstruction” was just too involving, so well considered that it behooved one to linger and take it in.

Left: Artist Louise Lawler. Right: Writer Lynne Cooke with dealer Tracy Williams.

Like everyone else there—the Gladstone group, the whole crowd of cohosts from Metro, as well as several other dealers (Gavin Brown, Andrea Rosen, Friedrich Petzel) and many artists from the other Chelsea shows—I stayed on well into the evening, happily noshing on burgers and salad and chirping away with Joel Wachs and Laura Hoptman, Yvonne Force, Elizabeth Peyton, Buchholz, and Christopher Knowles.

It was a special thrill to meet Carol Gooden, who co-founded Food, the legendary SoHo artists’ restaurant of the 1970s, with Gordon Matta-Clark. Gooden lives about 12,000 feet above sea level now, in New Mexico, and had come to the party with Clarissa Dalrymple, who has been living in the loft that Matta-Clark and Gooden settled in those heady, pre-hedge-fund days. Now Dalrymple is struggling with her new landlords to keep this historic site in the right hands. (Gooden was in town to testify on her behalf.) Higgs was also collecting signatures, asking all the artists present to sign a blank canvas for later auction on behalf of a charity he supports. I signed too, feeling that special magic that only the art world can confer: Imagine going away a jaded critic and returning just a few weeks later to feel like a new girl in town! I will have to try this again, and soon.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Curator Bob Nickas with artist Tony Just. Right: Artist Charles Ray.

Left: Dealer Anton Kern. Right: Artist Joan Jonas and dealer Jay Gorney.

Left: Whitney curator Donna De Salvo. Right: Artists Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz.

Left: President of the Andy Warhol Foundation Joel Wachs and New Museum curator Laura Hoptman. Right: Artist Elizabeth Peyton.

Left: Artists Liz Deschenes and Zoe Leonard. Right: Artist Angela Bulloch.