Lust for Life

New York

Left: Iggy Pop. Right: Dealer Gavin Brown with artist Hope Atherton. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

LIKE A COURTSHIP that embarrasses everyone outside it, the New York art and fashion worlds aligned last week to begin the fall season in an insane convergence of social planets that neither the memory of September 11 nor Rosh Hashanah could do anything to prevent. In the temples of art, the high holy days marked the turn of a new, postrecessionary page that looked just like the old one, and then some. The ritual involved, by my count, more than fifty gallery openings in five days; a few hundred “exclusive” parties in boutiques, bars, and restaurants; and an untold number of artists, models, designers, dealers, collectors, and hangers-on working overtime to achieve fashion-victim status.

Stuffed sheep greeted guests invited to collector Jane Holzer’s East Side town house on Tuesday for a cocktail party toasting Yoshitomo Nara’s pair of “White Ghost” sculptures, which the Art Production Fund has installed on Park Avenue. Both Holzer and collector Shelley Fox Aarons were decked out in delicate neck chains by celebrity jeweler Loree Rodkin, the soul of an upper-crust sisterhood. Marianne Boesky, Nara’s Manhattan dealer, was more smitten by Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn’s ingenious Rick Owens platforms. “I never wear anyone else,” Rohaytn said. Bracing for the opening of his solo show at the Asia Society on Wednesday, Nara scrunched his head into a New York Yankees cap, possibly the only object in the room that did not bear a designer label.

A few blocks away at Hauser & Wirth, Anj Smith’s New York solo debut attracted artists Pipilotti Rist and Mary Heilmann and Pace Gallery director Vita Zaman, the person who gave Smith her first professional airing in 2002 at IBID Projects in London. The artist’s dark, Symbolist paintings are replete with decayed tulle costumes that came to life at the fashion model–spiked party that Viktor & Rolf threw in a West Village town house on Wednesday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Flowerbomb, their signature perfume. Clad in a ruched fur getup that made her look like a leggy sheep, out marched Alison Goldfrapp to the garden, where she talked-sang a three-number set enlivened by a surprise flume of water aimed at the tiny stage by an irate neighbor attempting to hose the party down. It dampened no one’s spirits. The evening was as young as the season.

Left: Designer Rolf Snoeren, Ladyfag, and designer Viktor Horsting. Right: Alison Goldfrapp.

I don’t know who designed the smart suit that Tracey Emin was wearing on Thursday night at Carolina Nitsch’s small gallery in Chelsea, partly because she was swallowed up by enthusiasts crowding the space. Almost visible on the walls were the sixteen gouaches of male and female torsos that comprise Emin’s inspired recent collaboration with the late Louise Bourgeois. The two passed them back and forth over the past two years. I wondered if they constituted Bourgeois’s last works. No, said Bourgeois studio chief Jerry Gorovoy. At ninety-seven, she did another collaboration, a book with the writer Gary Indiana, who was standing outside with curator Philip Larratt-Smith. “It’s really sweet,” Indiana said of the book, which will be published in a very limited, hand-sewn edition of seven.

I had to pass too quickly through the group show at Friedrich Petzel, inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s 1951 “White Paintings.” Wade Guyton confessed he hated openings, particularly his own, but John Waters was captivated by Karin Sander’s canvases that had been blank when they’d been left out in the rain. “You mean the weather did them?” I asked a receptionist. “Er, yes,” she said. “I love that,” Waters said, and went back for a closer look.

I had almost forgotten that Thursday was the start of Fashion Week until I had to detour at the media circus surrounding Karl Lagerfeld at SoHo’s new Chanel store in order to reach Team Gallery’s presentation of Santiago Sierra’s Los Penetrados, a hypnotic video of naked black and white bodies engaged in mechanical anal penetration. Just to be clear, it’s not porn. It’s colonialism in action. Fortunately, emperors do not require new clothes.

Sierra couldn’t make it—he was editing a new film—but dealer José Freire valiantly carried on with dinner at Caffe Falai with Slater Bradley and Banks Violette, two of his gallery’s New York artists. Bradley left early to guest-DJ at Paul Sevigny’s “new” Don Hill’s club across town, where the fashion storm was gathering.

Left: Dealer Jose Freire with artist Banks Violette. Right: Artist Tracey Emin with John Waters.

It reached critical mass on Friday, when the throngs packing designer boutiques all over town for Fashion’s Night Out combined with the lemmings attracted by at least twenty-five art openings to make the streets of New York into a real-life reenactment of Day of the Locust. The sidewalks of West Twenty-fourth Street alone were nearly impassable, so I started on Twenty-sixth, with Angelo Filomeno’s Sadean symphony in black blown glass at Galerie Lelong, Ingrid Calame’s affichiste-like paintings at James Cohan, and Jason Tomme’s cool monochromes on lead at Nicole Klagsbrun.

Back on Twenty-fourth, I burrowed into Andrea Rosen, but there was no way to experience Tetsumi Kudo’s ’60s assemblages and installations, there were so many badly dressed people (who were they?) standing between them and the back room, where Rosen was presenting Michael St. John, a mentor to Nate Lowman, Josh Smith, and Dan Colen. As if to rub salt in the wound, Colen’s show at Gagosian was drawing the biggest crowd of all.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Gagosian shouted to the overwhelmed bouncers at the door. “Stop them!” It was hopeless. Yet Colen was standing unmolested and smiling in front of an enormous brick wall, one of his new artworks, with gallery curator Louise Neri. “It’s crazy,” he said. He felt great. “Want to see the private room?” Neri asked. Was there more than one answer? I joined Whitney Museum curator Chrissie Iles and photographer Marco Anelli in the side gallery, where there was a twenty-foot-tall canvas that Colen had “brushed” with wet grass and muddy footprints. Inclement weather is turning out to be a great artist, the cynic in me thought, though Mother Nature had nothing to do with the billboard-size confetti paintings, the stretched chewing gum abstractions, the upside-down skateboard pipe, or the line of lovingly assembled Harley-Davidsons that Colen had kicked over in a fit of macho joy.

Left: Artist Dan Colen with Gagosian director Louise Neri. Right: Artists Pipilotti Rist and Marilyn Minter.

It seemed only natural that Pipilotti Rist’s continued feminization of art should appear the same night at Luhring Augustine, where I found the week’s mascots, a herd of sheep, playing across avenues of ethereal white scrims and a chandelier of panties in the back. “Pipilotti Rist makes me happy,” said New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl, no doubt quoting from a forthcoming review. Everyone at SoHo House for the Rist dinner was happy—artists Marilyn Minter and Josh Smith, Performa’s RoseLee Goldberg, curator Diego Cortez, and Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume, who gamely accompanied me to the Balenciaga store, where Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington joined designer Nicolas Ghesquière to tour François Pinault’s collection of Cindy Sherman’s 2007–2008 Untitled (Balenciaga) photos on temporary view upstairs, where few others would see them. As MoMA’s May Castleberry observed, the wannabes lining up for Karen Elson’s in-store performance were really there to worship couture.

If it seemed that Fashion’s Night Out brought the Apocalypse to the Meatpacking District, it drew a scarily realistic version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to SoHo, where Gagosian’s dinner for Colen was in progress at Balthazar, a bastion of probity and sophistication by comparison. Imagine. Well, give me the art world any day! First of all, people in it, like Terence Koh, know how to dress. And it includes artists like Richard Prince, who tell really funny jokes in mixed company. “It’s a good living,” he noted.

Any event that seats Cecily Brown, Klaus Biesenbach, Rob Pruitt, Alison Gingeras, Norman Rosenthal, Carol Vogel, Ryan McGinley, and Aurel Schmidt at the same table with Michelle Obama’s political director Ebs Burnough raises the bar on fun. Standing to toast Colen on his big night in the gristmill, Gagosian called the room to attention. “I just want to thank Nate Lowman for doing such a great show,” he said to a gale of laughter. Lowman ducked, escaping to guest-DJ for the afterparty at the Standard Hotel.

Left: Artist Cecily Brown. Right: Artists Hanna Liden, Nate Lowman, and Charline von Heyl.

There was heavy competition, however, from Dasha Zhukova, who was holding a Pop magazine party at Don Hill’s featuring a gold-standard midnight performance by Iggy and the Stooges. Richard Phillips accompanied me to the door, where we bumped into Che producer Laura Bickford and Jeff Koons. Once inside we rushed the CBGB-size stage, where I found Adam McEwen, the Starn twins, Sante d’Orazio, Neville Wakefield, Stellan Holm, Terry Richardson, and McGinley already in place.

Over the next hour, Iggy nailed the whole of 1972’s Raw Power to the rock ’n’ roll cross, at one point inviting all comers to dance with him. Holm and McGinley jumped at the chance. “You gotta do it once before you die,” Holm said when he returned to the mosh pit, soaking wet. A moment later something heavy nearly knocked me over. It was Iggy, who launched himself into the air several times, leaving the audience depleted as well as partly deaf.

On Saturday night, the 11th of September, a different rite of rebellious passage—the Amish rumspringa—figured in Pruitt’s madcap triumph of a two-gallery show at Maccarone and the newly expanded Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, designed by architect Jonathan Caplan. It attracted Guyton and much of the Colen crowd plus the Brown crowd—Rirkrit Tiravanija, Chloë Sevigny, Hanna Liden, T. J. Wilcox, Aaron Young, Emily Sundblad, and Urs Fischer, among a few hundred others.

I don’t know who the guest-artist DJ was supposed to be that evening, but collector Peter Brant supplied the recipe for the meatless meat sauce on the spaghetti served at the dinner for 180 in rooms of the gallery that were a butcher shop six months ago. Clearly (and justifiably) proud of both his artist and his gallery’s new look, Brown made an unusually misty-eyed speech that was largely excerpted from his twenty-year-old son Max’s poetic catalogue essay for the show. “Others may not get it,” he concluded, in an apt epitaph for the week. “But we do.”

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artist Rob Pruitt (center). Right: Artists Ashley Bickerton and Aaron Young.

Left: Artist Richard Phillips with Gagosian's Sam Orlofsky. Right: Dealer Rachel Lehmann with artist Jennifer Steinkamp and W editor Stefano Tonchi.

Left: Artist Slater Bradley. Right: Artist Terence Koh with collectors Shelley and Phil Aarons.

Left: Curator Francesco Bonami with Studio Museum director Thelma Golden. Right: Artist Danh Vo with Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár.

Left: Artist Angelo Filomeno. Right: Artist Anj Smith with Pace Gallery's Vita Zaman.

Left: Dealer Carol Greene with artist Craig Kalpakjian. Right: Louise Bourgeois studio chief Jerry Gorovoy.

Left: Artist Ryan Gander. Right: Artists Sarah Morris and Liam Gillick.

Left: Designer Narciso Rodriguez. Right: Artists Mike Starn and Doug Starn.

Left: Artist Wade Guyton. Right: Art Production Fund codirector Yvonne Force Villareal with John Unwin.

Left: Artist Joan Jonas. Right: Producer Beth Swofford, Lisa Ivorian-Jones, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, and curator Vito Schnabel.

Left: Artist Mary Heilmann with Hauser & Wirth director Gregor Muir. Right: Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art's Rachel Kent with dealer David Maupin.

Left: Whitney Museum curator Scott Rothkopf. Right: Curator Clarissa Dalrymple with dealer Isabella Bortolozzi.

Left: Artist Brian Meola and Jack Pierson. Right: Dealer Nicole Klagsbrun.

Left: Critic Peter Schjeldahl and Brooke Alderson. Right: Shala Monroque.

Left: Irving Sandler. Right: Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume with writer Randy Kennedy.

Left: Artist Aurel Schmidt. Right: Artist Anthony McCall.

Left: Elisa Sednaoui. Right: Emma Fernberger and Alex Logsdail.