Autumn Harvest

New York

Left: Consultant Karen Marta, artist Philippe Parreno, and a magician. RIght: Artist Matthew Monahan. (All photos: Ryan McNamara)

Chelsea always slows down a bit in October. Still, streets felt emptier than expected last Friday night. Those who showed up for openings fell into two camps: Team Envy and Team Schadenfreude. The former decided that the affluent crowds had taken Columbus Day weekend as a last call for second-home visits before winter’s arrival. The latter concluded that Hamptonites squeezing in one more trip were motivated not by Jack Frost, but by foreclosure jitters. A more likely reason for the quiet, of course, was that people had decamped early for Europe and the Frieze Art Fair.

Either way, given the giant question mark hanging over the market, each gallery corralled a sizable herd, even if overflow into the street lacked its usual volume. Yvon Lambert had cleared out its September show—Andres Serrano’s feces—to make room for dead horses. Berlinde de Bruyckere’s restrained, morbid forms were given “ample room to breathe,” according to director Cornelia Tischmacher, in “contrast to the horror vacui of Serrano’s show.” Noting that de Bruyckere’s exhibition would be up through Election Day, Tischmacher said, “I still remember the show that was up after President Bush was reelected . . . and the weird hush that ensued that day in Chelsea.”

After pit stops at Casey Kaplan, for exhibitions by Annika von Hausswolff and Garth Weiser, and Donald Moffett’s show at Marianne Boesky, I made my way to Fredericks & Freiser, where Zak Smith’s new exhibition drew a crowd that was as mohawked and fishnet-clad as his illustrated subjects. Discussing the installation of Smith’s drawings at an upcoming museum show, dealer Andy Freiser said that there was one installation requirement: “The piece has to be screwed into the wall.” Why? “Zak’s art has a history of being stolen. Let’s just say he has a younger clientele.”

Left: Artist Zak Smith (on right). Right: Artist Berlinde de Bruyckere.

“The evening’s about appearance and disappearance,” a magician gnomically uttered at Philippe Parreno’s opening two blocks away at Friedrich Petzel. The illusionist was happy to demonstrate, blipping a pom-pom out of existence and into my hands—much to the delight of a young Cuatro Villareal (son of Yvonne Force and Leo). In the adjacent gallery, Sean Landers’s face played on multiple monitors, singing and blathering in a confessional wall of sound. But the hit of the evening was decidedly Anton Kern’s show by Matthew Monahan, whose biomorphic forms sandwiched between Plexiglas plates found a sensitive but unprecious way to scorn gravity.

Kern’s cozy dinner for Monahan was held at Malatesta Trattoria, where Guggenheim patrons Gil and Doreen Bassin broke bread with LA collector Shirley Morales and Bridget Finn, Anton Kern’s archivist and one of the four young masterminds behind the up-and-coming Cleopatra's project space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Meanwhile, dealer Stuart Shave, in town from London, lamented installation complications bedeviling his upcoming David Altmejd show. When one of the larger sculptures arrived, the gallery was forced to saw down a wall to fit it into the gallery. (The kicker being that they’ll have to repeat the process during deinstallation.)

While some feel that the financial crisis will benefit younger artists, as everyone downshifts to a level of collecting they can afford, Bassin thought otherwise: “The established artists will be fine, because competitive collecting won’t go away. We’re more concerned about emerging artists.” But thoughts of doom were diverted as Kern toasted the Monahans, who had flown in from LA, bringing also Matthew and Lara Schnitger’s young daughter, who was apparently “throwing rocks” during the installation. “She was trying to create a rock garden,” explained Monahan.

Left: Artist Garth Weiser, dealer Casey Kaplan, and artist Annika von Hausswolff. Right: Architect Steven Holl.

Later, at subterranean haven Beatrice Inn, Friedrich Petzel’s afterparty brought together dealers Andrea Rosen and Andrew Kreps, architects Steven Holl and Michael Mack, Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer and 303 Gallery’s Barbara Corti, and curators Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Christian Rattemeyer, among others. When leaving, I almost lingered to see whether Beatrice would let in a girl on crutches. (Does pity trump inscrutable exclusivity?) But in this world of divisions, labels, and barriers, one guy got it right: Earlier in the evening, when I’d asked Monahan whether his daughter’s pebble sculptures meant she was an aspiring artist, he shook his head. “She’s an aspiring human being,” he said. Point taken.

Dawn Chan

Left: Artist Leo Villareal, Cuatro Villareal, and Art Production Fund's Yvonne Force Villareal. Right: Collector Avo Samuelian.

Left: Artist Anne Collier, White Columns director Matthew Higgs, artist Jeremy Deller, and artist Adam McEwen. Right: Artist Marilyn Minter.