Banks Holiday

New York

Left: Dealer Barbara Gladstone with collector Barbara Jakobson. (Photo: Ryan McNamara) Right: Artist Lydia Lunch. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

Sometimes the most ordinary events can seem historic. Witness the divine convergence of punk and punter last Thursday, when spoken-wordsmith Lydia Lunch performed live in New York for the first time in more than a decade, and Prince of Darkness Banks Violette greeted his opening at both Barbara Gladstone and Team with a disappearing act.

The call came from the Gladstone gallery about an hour before its doors were to open on Violette’s blue-chip Chelsea solo debut. “Banks is still working on the installation,” Miciah Hussey told me with studied nonchalance. “So the show will open next Friday, but we’re going ahead with the dinner tonight.” I couldn’t help but wonder about the delay; something to do with propane. I had been planning to see the show, of course; I wasn’t planning to rush. Now I was dying to go. Alas, I would have to occupy myself till dinner.

“My problem . . .” Lydia Lunch was saying when I got to Leo Koenig. “My problem is that I have too much fucking e-lec-tri-ci-ty.” The onetime punk priestess, briefly in town from her home in Barcelona, actually did electrify old-guard New Wavers who turned out for her single performance at the gallery, where she also had several color photo montages on display. Filmmaker Scott B was there to video her program, serendipitously titled “Hangover Hotel,” for possible use in a kind of where-they-are-now documentary that he is making about the East Village Super-8 movie scene of the late ’70s. That was when the cool people expected to spend at least one night of the week watching semiamateur but oddly compelling films by the B’s (Scott and his then partner Beth B, who made New Wave noirs in which Lunch frequently starred), Jim Jarmusch, James Nares, Vivienne Dick, Amos Poe, and Becky Johnston.

Left: Team Gallery director Miriam Katzeff with Team Gallery owner Jose Freire. Right: Yvonne Force Villareal. (Photos: Ryan McNamara)

Lunch is a voluptuous tattooed beauty who, if memory serves, is the daughter of a Bible salesman and arrived in New York at sixteen to take the underground music scene by storm with Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. She formed a few other bands before reinventing herself as a ’90s fetish feminist who spoke out for the resistance to violence against women, collaborated with Nick Cave and Thurston Moore, took up with composer J. G. Thirwell (aka Foetus), and left town to write books, start a record label, tour her shows, and make art. She is a compelling subject for a film, but she remains most effective on a stage, and it didn’t take long for her to find a groove at Koenig. You could see it in the upturned faces of other performers in attendance, Karen Finley and Reno, Bush Tetras guitarist Pat Place (who costarred with Lunch in Vivienne Dick’s 1978 short She Had Her Gun All Ready), and musician Pat Irwin, from the Raybeats, Eight-Eyed Spy, and the B-52’s.

Then it was time for dinner. Or at least I thought it was, but dinner was still a long way off when I arrived at Indochine. Making my way through the bar, I spotted Maureen Paley and Joel Wachs, Richard Flood and Barbara Jakobson, Clarissa Dalrymple and Neville Wakefield, and Keith Sonnier and Jane Rosenblum. I did not see Banks Violette. “Barbara has too much class to start without Banks,” I heard Dalrymple say of Gladstone. “I don’t think he’s going to make it,” Times Style man David Colman reckoned. “I think he might be embarrassed the show didn’t open,” ventured Gladstone Gallery director Rosalie Benitez. I asked Team Gallery owner Jose Freire what was going on. “It’s been a very complicated installation,” he told me, blaming himself for spreading his artist too thin. There were lights it had taken a master electrician two weeks to wire. There was refrigeration. And there was that nasty propane.

Left: Artists Dan Colen and Aaron Young with Clarissa Dalrymple. (Photo: Ryan McNamara) Right: Filmmaker Scott B. (Photo: David Velasco)

By now, a couple of hours in, the evening had acquired a mystique it would never have achieved had the guest of honor or his art been within easy reach. “Brilliant marketing,” I told Gladstone. “Yes,” she agreed with a nervous laugh. “We’ve been planning it for weeks!” Finally, even Gladstone had to admit defeat. Violette wasn’t coming; dinner was served. Collectors Eileen and Michael Cohen were at my table, hidden behind a column with their collector friend Wendy Goldberg, a senior vice president at Six Flags. A moment later, Nancy Spector came over to join us, saying there was no room at her table. Violette’s good-looking bad-boy compadres Dan Colen and Aaron Young soon followed, in the company of Yvonne Force. It seems that the inner circle does just fine without its center. “Oh, I own a work of yours,” said Goldberg when she was introduced to Young. “And I have work of yours,” Eileen Cohen told Colen. They were meeting for the first time, too—sitting there was very copacetic. Later, I heard that Violette had spent the night at a Brooklyn bar. I don’t know whether it’s true, but I will bet that if he were a female artist, few people would be so amused.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: New Museum curator Richard Flood. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) RIght: Dealer Maureen Paley with Steve O'Malley from Sunn 0))). (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer with artist Lizzi Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance. Right: Artists Desislava Dimova and Pierre Bismuth. (Photos: David Velasco)

Left: Artist Petah Coyne. Right: Artists Karen Finley and Reno. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Curator and artist Matthew Higgs. Right: Rivington Arms co-owner Melissa Bent with Team Gallery's Owen Reynolds Clements. (Photos: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Curator Sylvia Chivaratanond. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Artist Megan Marrin with Rivington Arms co-owner Mirabelle Marden. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)