Storm Troopers

New York

Left: Artist Christian Marclay, Barbican curator Lydia Yee, and musician Elliott Sharp. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Jeff Goldblum. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Neither fire nor wind nor rain can keep the intrepid gallerygoer from diving into a new exhibition season. On Wednesday night, even piracy came to the table, as Tim Nye brought seventy hearties to toast the indefatigable New Imagist Joe Zucker at a dinner for “Plunder from 1977 to 2008,” his show of square-rigger paintings at NYEHAUS in the quaint National Arts Club on Gramercy Park.

Skull-and-bones flags adorned two long tables in the Tiffany-glass-adorned parlor rooms, where artists Richard Artschwager and Jacqueline Humphries, Whitney Museum curator Donna DeSalvo, and board member Beth Rudin DeWoody rubbed elbows with LA dealer Tom Solomon, Detroit dealer Susanne Hilberry, and Carnegie Museum director Richard Armstrong, whose appointment to the top job at the Guggenheim had leaked only that day. “I start in December,” he said, delighted by the murmurs of approval from everyone in the room.

“This is the perfect show for me,” Nye told me at dinner, commenting on its what’s-old-is-new-sensibility and how Zucker’s way with materials—“waves” of gauze on canvas—keeps refreshing the notion of painting without dating either him or it. Swilling glasses of plain water, Nye then confessed he had given up drinking for learning to cook. “It’s surprisingly restful,” he said.

Left: Artist Richard Artschwager. Right: Artist Jason Tomme with dealer Mary Boone.

Thursday night’s openings in Chelsea, on the other hand, were almost electrifying. (If only!) Just as I was exiting Roe Ethridge’s packed show of going-them-one-better genre photos at Andrew Kreps, word came that an electric fire in a closet in the building housing the gallery Kravets Wehby had caused the evacuation of all the structure's tenants. That forced everyone from the openings for Christian Marclay at Paula Cooper, Nathan Carter at Casey Kaplan, and the Ryan Gander and Peggy Preheim shows at Tanya Bonakdar out into the darkened street. Some entertained themselves by stumbling down to Yvon Lambert and literally stepping into “Shit,” Andres Serrano’s latest answer to his Piss Christ, enshrined in a side room. I thought the new photographs looked a little like bejeweled mud patties posing at the bottom of aquariums, but I was in the minority. No other person in the crowd even bothered to look.

I don’t know what they talked about at Serrano’s Bowery Hotel dinner, but Cooper’s soiree for Marclay went on as scheduled, even though half of those scarfing up paella at La Nacional, including some of the several curators present—Jennifer Blessing, Trevor Schoonmaker, Chrissie Iles, Christopher Eamon—never got in to see the show. “Now you don’t have to worry whether or not you liked it,” Marclay said, letting everyone off the hook. “We can talk about someone else.”

Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was the hands-down winner, not just that night but all weekend. I didn’t hear much talk about art, but maybe the season, like much of the gallery scene, is too young yet—but kind of beautiful. At least, it looked that way later, at the new Standard Hotel in the meatpacking district, where collector Peter Brant’s Interview magazine was kicking off New York’s Fashion Week with a blowout on the eighteenth floor. The building straddles the elevated Highline railway, soon to be a pedestrian mall; Thursday night, it was still a construction site, with particularly dramatic lighting. Though the windows were in and the views spectacular, many people standing under the open ductwork didn't dare step near the edge, for fear of falling. Of course, that didn't stop anyone from drinking, dancing, or ogling. But every now and then, between air-kisses, I heard hisses. Guess why? The mention of Palin's name.

Left: Diane von Furstenberg. Right: Artists Ugo Rondinone and Martin Boyce.

By Saturday night, art-world e-mails about Palin’s looming disastership were bouncing all over the art-world Internet. The very skies over New York sobbed, as rain from Hurricane Gustav drenched the streets, causing the cancellation of the annual Creative Time/Deitch Projects Art Parade and keeping many enthusiasts home.

James Cohan’s opening for Xu Zhen, Folkert de Jong, and Martha Colburn was strangely quiet. Xu, I was told, only travels by slow boats from China. (He didn’t bother.) De Jong and Colburn, a New York artist the gallery had to go to Art Basel to discover, showed up after I was there. Oh, well. Martha Rosler was on hand for her new show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, where you had to put a quarter in a turnstile to get in. (“Anybody need change?” offered Jay Gorney, jingling his pockets.)

More of the old guard was at Mary Boone, where her onetime mentor, Klaus Kertess, had organized a winning mix of painting, post-Minimal sculpture, and assemblage by young and old: Adam McEwen, recent Yalie Michael Edward Smith, Cy Twombly, Al Taylor, Barry Le Va, Keith Sonnier, Jason Tomme, and Robert Rauschenberg. Dinner at 5 Ninth was quite a jovial affair, perhaps because it kept everyone—Cecily Brown, Will Cotton, Pat Steir, Billy Sullivan, Maureen Gallace, and Aaron Young—warm and dry and relatively safe from politics, if not one another.

Left: Museum director Richard Armstrong, designer Britta Le Va, and curator Manuel Gonzalez. Right: Artist Keith Tyson. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Sunday dawned clear and bright for a minifestival of gallery openings on the Lower East Side. Despite creeping gentrification by YWPs (young white professionals), the small galleries, clothing shops, and bars tucked between Chinese restaurants and old synagogues has left this neighborhood with its traditional cultural-soup character intact. Liberated from bad weather and slickness, even at Lehman Maupin’s Big Brother space, it was easy to stop and have languorous conversations with artists Cheryl Donegan and Alix Pearlstein at Lisa Cooley, amusing to see how many Brazilian artworks curator Fernanda Arruda could pack into tiny Eleven Rivington without crowding, frustrating to find Reena Spaulings closed till “later,” and fun to find out, at RENTAL, that Robert Longo’s studio had spawned a whole new generation of artists who aren’t just clones.

By sunset, it was time for refueling in Long Island City. At Sculpture Center, the courtyard gravel that Ugo Rondinone had spray-painted with yellow Day-Glo for his two-person show with Scotsman Martin Boyce seemed to have a magnetic pull: It drew everyone attending the reception (Clarissa Dalrymple, Laura Hoptmann, Andrew Hamilton, Michele Maccarone, John Giorno) outside.

I teamed up with artist Andrew Lord and fellow scribes Lynne Tillman and Martha Schwendener to wait for the arrival of the seven handmade riverboats that graffiti artist Swoon was sailing down the Hudson and up the East River to Deitch Studios. A Providence-based marching brass band of bare-chested, tattooed, and goth players joined members of Swoon’s Brooklyn crew to keep the energy up until the first boat, a tootling steamship, appeared under the 59th Street Bridge with the artist standing on deck like George Washington crossing the Delaware. “This is all Swoon’s world,” said Jeffrey Deitch, pointing to the large-scale installation of energetically recycled and painted goods inside the warehouse. Her compatriot Dzine contributed tricked-up pedicabs, a bicycle, and a muscle car. “It’s like the ’60s all over again,” Lord said, smiling at the band of “ghost” cyclists, who perhaps are also a part of Swoon’s change-the-world-by-street-art crew. “It’s a Happening.” Or evidence that you never need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Not when a patron, or disciples, will do.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Dealer Yvon Lambert, artist Andres Serrano, and Nunzio Bertolami. (Photo: Kathryn Hillier) Right: Artist Joe Zucker.

Left: Interview editor Christopher Bollen. Right: Artist Pat Steir and curator Klaus Kertess.

Left: Swoon's ship. Right: Artist Neil Campbell.

Left: Artist Thilo Heinzmann with dealer Stefania Bortolami. Right: Artist James Siena.

Left: Artist Jessica Craig-Martin. Right: Artist David McDermott with a member of the House of Xtravaganza.

Left: Artist Jacqueline Humphries. Right: Artist Martha Rosler.

Left: Rental Gallery's Joel Mesler. Right: Dealer James Cohan with Drawing Center director Brett Littman.

Left: SculptureCenter director Mary Ceruti and curator Sarina Basta. Right: Whitney curator Shamim Momin.

Left: Artist Qing Liu. Right: Rose Art Museum director Michael Rush with MIT List Center curator BIll Arning.

Left: Artists Cheryl Donegan and Alix Pearlstein. Right: Dealer Daniel Schmidt.

Left: Artist Andrew Lord and curator Clarissa Dalrymple. Right: Collector Aby Rosen.

Left: Dealer Tim Nye. Right: Publisher Peter Brant.