Left: DJ Junior Vasquez. (Photo: William Pym) Right: MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach with writer Karen Marta and Felix Gonzalez-Torres book editor Julie Ault. (Photo: David Velasco)

“Oh no, it’s empty,” exhaled the ringleader of a quorum of petite, pointy-shoe-clad young dynamos outside the labyrinthine Park restaurant in Chelsea. The posse then discussed killing an hour at Barneys or abandoning the affair altogether—before the reveal: “Is this the Andrea Rosen party?” Well, it was and it wasn’t. Last Wednesday’s public do in the Park’s back bar was dubbed “A Celebration of Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” and the special, cosmic gist of the whole affair, honored nobly and surprisingly selflessly, was that the artist, tonight, was more than just cause for celebration. He was the host, too. Cosponsored by Rosen (who oversees the Gonzalez-Torres Foundation) and boutique book imprint steidldangin, the night was, on paper, promotion for a glorious new monograph on the artist. Yet the room lacked the confetti and hurrahs that make conventional book parties resemble Victorian ship launches. A few copies were on display, and a stack of take-home promotional posters perched in flat-footed tribute to the artist’s now-canonical visual vocabulary. Beyond that, it looked like any weeknight at a bottle-service boutique bar. There was an open tab for the first hour, enjoyed mostly by local assistant gallery directors out after work and a range of artists from fashion- to fine- (I spotted Glen Luchford, Andres Serrano, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia) who mingled among them. It felt clubby insofar as workers at shift’s end might enjoy a round at their local; there was a settled tone and an instinctively agreed-upon level of energy and interaction. Clearly, it wasn’t the Andrea Rosen party expected by the girls upon whom I’d eavesdropped outside, since they were on their way out before I’d made it all the way in.

Left: Artist Andres Serrano. Right: Dealer Andrea Rosen with curator Carmen Zita. (Photos: David Velasco)

I sat for a moment with the book’s coordinator, Marion Liang, on a hideous, gnarled Nakashima-in-Aspen bench. “This book took three years to make because we wanted to paint an insightful portrait of a man who’s already an icon, so every image, every word was selected to be extravagant, elaborate, new, and true.” Did this explain, I inquired haltingly, why the book includes a republished conversation with Tim Rollins? Liang smiled and eyed me, sympathetically, for a while. “It is all about Felix.” A 4/4 thunderstorm of bass heralded legendary New York beefcake Junior Vasquez in the DJ booth upstairs, and Liang graciously excused herself to follow the throb. “Felix was interested in what it meant to be democratic, and he respected what it meant to be popular,” publisher Pascal Dangin told me in clear explanation of the unusually inclusive and art-deal-free tone of the evening. Rosen bounded over and grabbed him. Old friends, they spoke of Dangin’s recent wedding and his desire to publish a cahier commemorating the ceremony and everything that went into it. “It’s a great idea,” exclaimed the dealer. “We all forget. We can’t help it,” she added. The comment brought solemnity to the moment, but celebrating was the thing to do. “Come on, let’s go dance, Pascal, I’ve been dancing for twenty minutes!” Off they went. They were paying for it, after all.

By 10 PM, the expansive downstairs bar was stacked three-deep, with a few dozen guests hovering around spotlit corner tables. Among them were the book’s editor, alternative-art historian Julie Ault, and Miwon Kwon, one of the commissioned essayists. Seeking intellectual reprieve, the road-weary editor implored me to ask “nothing too heavy, please.” “Andrea keeps asking me to go upstairs,” she exhaled, “but I’m so tired. There are people here I haven’t seen in fifteen years.” “They weren’t even people we knew through Felix,” Kwon agreed, describing their wonder at the enduring spell cast by Gonzales-Torres on this pocket of New Yorkers. “Felix was doing his thing, and we were all, just, around, meeting around him.” I peeked upstairs and saw a crowd of folks in their forties pulling shapes and perspiring to a priapic bongo break that Vasquez seemed able to maintain forever, leaving, for once, the youngsters entirely on the sidelines.

William Pym

Left: White Columns curator Amie Scally with Andrea Rosen Gallery's Teneille Haggard. Right: Marion Liang, head of publications for Box Studios. (Photos: William Pym)