Creative Times

New York

Left: Dealer Eva Presenhuber. Right: Chan Marshall of Cat Power with artist Slater Bradley. (All photos: David Velasco)

William Burroughs’s bed is exactly as you’d imagine it: A modest, low-set full-size draped with a patchwork quilt, a box of Kleenex and a small lamp on a bedside table. If it weren’t for the three bullet-ridden, human-silhouette shooting targets on the facing wall (Burroughs was a killer shot), I’d be tempted to call it monastic. The bed sits in Burroughs’s old boudoir, a perfectly preserved room on the first floor of John Giorno’s storied “bunker” on the Bowery. Though our Buddhist poet host was out of town on the occasion of my visit last Thursday evening, he’d agreed to lend his pad to Ugo Rondinone—Giorno’s lover of eight years—for a dinner party celebrating the artist’s recent Creative Time–produced public sculpture: two gorgeous, ghostly white aluminum trees planted outside the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park. “This is where the lamas stay when they visit,” said Rondinone. Curator Francesco Bonami deadpanned: “But what do you do about all the llamas’ hair?”

The Creative Time crew played host, balancing poise and whimsy, though there was a speck of sadness in the air, perhaps due to curator Peter Eleey’s impending departure for Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center later this month. Eleey was his typical affable self. When I caught him chatting up Dana Farouki, the newest Creative Time board member and also a recent hire as a special coordinator for the Guggenheim’s massive Abu Dhabi project, he was friendly but skeptical of the Gugg’s expansionist tendencies, remarking that the whole thing will “surely be a palliative for the jihadists.”

The dinner was an exercise in incongruity: Handsome male servers attended to the half-dozen tables, set in a large room filled with Giorno’s witty screenprints, an ornate Tibetan altar, and the occasional painting by Keith Haring. I dined with Creative Time producer Gavin Kroeber and Gianni Jetzer, the new director of New York’s Swiss Institute. (He replaced Marc-Olivier Wahler, who recently split to preside over Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, where Rondinone is curating a group show this September inspired by Burroughs’s book The Third Mind—see, everything’s connected.) Jetzer seemed impressed with the States: “Las Vegas is the cultural capital of the twenty-second century.” He elaborated, describing a surreal road trip he took in 2000, traveling from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Los Angeles with artists Olaf Breuning and Daniel Buetti. “Olaf loved Vegas. He’d absolutely live there if he could.” After polishing off my spice cake, I got up to take a few pictures of the crowd. Some, like PDA mascots Hope Atherton and Gavin Brown, are coy when it comes to the camera. Others, like dealer Eva Presenhuber, are more enthusiastic. “It’s about time I’m on this thing! Let me get a cigarette,” she said, lighting up. “I want to be seen smoking.” God bless the Europeans.

Left: Creative Time director Anne Pasternak and artist Ugo Rondinone. Right: Curator Neville Wakefield, Creative Time curator Peter Eleey, and New Museum curator Laura Hoptman.

The next night, I attended the less exclusive, more rambunctious opening for “Radical Living Papers,” a show of alternative magazines at Gavin Brown’s Passerby. Bearded men milled the throng in what appeared to be '60s counterculture drag. What happens, I wondered while eyeing the crowd, when today’s youth become simulacra of their parents circa forty years ago? “We’re having a love-in on Valentine’s Day,” said Francis Coy, who worked on the show. The exhibition, comprising photocopied pages of psychedelic zines like Oz and International Times pasted on the wall, as well as a few copies of the original mags locked away in vitrines, is somewhat underwhelming—an exercise in pure nostalgia—even if its heart is in the right place.

No time to ponder. I hailed a taxi and headed to my next stop: Another Creative Time shindig, at MoMA, where Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall)—one of the stars of Doug Aitken’s sleepwalkers video currently projected on the museum’s facades—was due to play a concert. Crowd control—not to mention sound quality—isn’t the museum’s forte, and the whole affair was a bit bloated. Despite the artsy digs, the crowd was less Artforum and more Gawker/Radar/New York (each of whom had representatives on hand), though I did eventually eye Lawrence Weiner and Sarah Morris hanging about the balcony. Marshall’s voice was lovely and haunting as usual, though difficult to discern amid the crowd of Chatty Cathys. After a disappointingly short set, she returned for a brief encore, performing a strangely animated cover of Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler,” which she sang directly to Aitken onstage. “Look at her, she used to be a 'fraidy cat, and now she’s fucking Charlie Chaplin,” shouted a naysayer. “Nah . . . it’s more like she’s channeling late Nico,” said a friend.

At the after-party at Star Lounge, Marshall was the perfectly charming, offbeat hostess. What’s it like working with Aitken? “He’s a superdude. Really down to business.” Did you just call him a superdude? “Yeah, superdude . . . super Do-o-u-ug,” she sang. She’s a weird girl, but sweet, ya know? I bumped into artist Slater Bradley, who claimed not to know Marshall well, though he did spend last Christmas with the singer in Miami. So if they’re not tight, I pointed out, then why were they both working the same look: extra-long-sleeve white button-ups (Marshall’s Dior Homme, Bradley’s Thom Browne) with fingerless gloves? “No way. We’re doppelgängers!” Marshall exclaimed, posing for a portrait. See? We’re all connected.

David Velasco

Left: Ugo Rondinone, Matthew Marks's Sabrina Buell, and curator Francesco Bonami. RIght: Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer.

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown. Right: Actors Susan Highsmith and Ryan Donowho.

Left: Francis Coy. Right: Artist Doug Aitken and Gemma Ponsa.

Left: Designer Victoria Bartlett and friend. Right: Artist Lawrence Weiner.

Left: Artist Anton Ginzburg with Creative Time producer Gavin Kroeber. Right: Artist John Calkin with Chan Marshall.

Left: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's Dana Farouki. RIght: Artist Josephine Meckseper.