Legends of the Fall

New York

Left: Artists K8 Hardy and John Kelsey. Right: Artist Olaf Breuning. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

THE FALL ART SEASON got underway in New York against some heavy competition: Fashion Week in the streets, the Democratic Party convention in North Carolina, and Madonna at Yankee Stadium. Despite it all, the art world kept to its own universe. As usual.

Tuesday evening, as Michelle Obama prepared to command televisions across the land, the Swiss Institute held an invitation-only dinner to preview Olaf Breuning’s new half-hour film, Home 3: Homage to New York. The work is a commission from the Métamatic Research Initiative, the foundation created by Dutch collectors Allard and Natascha Jakobs out of a fascination with Jean Tinguely. Dinner guests were greeted by three women in frog costumes from the film, which often indulges in the kind of lowbrow humor that is barely tolerated by the sophisticated types who populate such affairs, but is embraced by those with an affection for Breuning’s chuckling wit, like the entire crew from Metro Pictures.

Other fans included Thomas Hirschhorn, in town to install his show opening this week at Barbara Gladstone, and Gigi and Andrea Kracht, owners of Zurich’s grand Hotel Baur-au-Lac, recently named the best in Switzerland (and maybe anywhere). Conversation among others was strictly back-to-school. Over the summer, both the Whitney Museum’s Scott Rothkopf and the Guggenheim Foundation’s Ari Wiseman shaved their beards, MIT List Center curator Joćo Ribas got married, and Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer and his wife adopted a baby. “It’s a whole new life,” he said.

Left: Artist Thomas Hirschhorn and Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer. Right: Whitney Museum curator Scott Rothkopf and Guggenheim associate director Ari Wiseman.

Yet life went on, virtually unchanged. Paul Kasmin’s private opening on Wednesday for shows by Erik Parker and Saint Clair Cemin attracted usual suspects in the form of sanguine White Columns director Matthew Higgs and artists Peter Saul, Adam Helms, Pattie Cronin, Randy Polumbo, Jules de Balincourt, and Alexis Rockman. All happily repaired to dinner across the street at the Hotel Americano. Saul was especially pleased by Parker’s new paintings—eroticized, richly colored tropical landscapes. “They made me want to paint flowers,” said the venerable scourge of everything. “I think I will.”

Thursday night in Chelsea was like something shot out of a cannon—at a silver screen. Though David Zwirner featured photographs by James Welling and paintings by Toba Khedoori, and Tanya Bonakdar presented paintings by up-and-comer Analia Saban and a sound environment by Susan Philipsz, an unusual number of other shows were devoted to artists’ films, most of some duration. Jesper Just had three at James Cohan, and Simon Starling put up two half-hour-long documentaries (with a couple of extraordinary Japanese masks) at Casey Kaplan. Best of all was triathlete Guido van der Werve’s Nummer veertien, home at Luhring Augustine, where more viewing chairs may be needed before the show’s closing. It’s nearly as addictive as Christian Marclay’s The Clock.

Left: White Columns director Matthew Higgs and artist Adam Helms. Right: Artist Leonardo Drew.

Across the street at Gagosian, Douglas Gordon was still installing his two-hour film, The End of Civilisation, two days in advance of its opening. Taking a cigarette break outside, he noted the nearby shows by his fellow Glaswegians, and suggested that maybe it was time to rename the street Turner Prize Alley, though I may have misheard when he was nearly drowned out by the music coming from next door at Family Business. That’s where artist Kris Perry and six musician friends were drawing a crowd with a hypnotic, postindustrial improvisation on his steel sculptures. (To be fair, I am the curator of this show, which was also on my beat as a reporter. Sometimes we writers have to double up.)

There were two other major exceptions to the vanguard for film. The ever-inventive Richard Tuttle advanced delicately balanced, horizontal object “systems” on the floor at Pace on West Twenty-Fifth Street, while on Twenty-Second Street, Matthew Marks celebrated the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth with their polar opposite—the magnificent Source, a twelve-thousand-pound sculpture of black steel from 1967, never shown before in New York. It’s gorgeous.

Elsewhere on the block, Mark Flood capped his years-in-the-making, lacy painting project with a deliberately obnoxious (but charming) show celebrating his “lack of development” at Zach Feuer, while Leonardo Drew nearly burned down the house with a charred-wood installation at Sikkema Jenkins. Friedrich Petzel flew the flag for literature at his gallery, temporarily renamed “The Feverish Library,” a group exhibition of book-related art—some of it quite poetic—organized with the help of Higgs. With it, each of the gallery’s thirty artists chose his or her favorite book. It was hard to tell if it was the actual books they prized or just their covers. Either way, the show made a tantalizing recommended-reading room.

Left: Dealer Lisa Spellman and artist Karen Kilimnik. Right: Dealers Jane and James Cohan.

On Friday it was back to West Twenty-First Street for Paul Pfeiffer’s debut with the Paula Cooper Gallery, his first solo show in New York in five years. Its centerpiece is an adventure in geometric sculpture—a next-level minirealization of basketball star Wilt Chamberlain’s mansion “playroom,” complete with infinity mirrors and fur-covered waterbed—that Pfeiffer brought to three dimensions from a 1971 magazine photo.

Across the way, 303 Gallery was rocking to the sound of Karen Kilimnik’s noise band of a glitter-and-blood installation with Kim Gordon, the former Sonic Youth bass guitarist whose performative work as an artist takes from—and goes well beyond—her musical career. At the opening, she looked svelte in a black cocktail dress, while Kilimnik showed up wearing noise-canceling headphones and a T-shirt supporting the eradication of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) from the food industry, her current obsession.

Before going on to dinner at the Jane Hotel, I stopped by the Kitchen, where dealer David Kordansky was explaining Elad Lassry’s distinctive photos and architecture to collectors Marty and Rebecca Eisenberg. “It’s image as object and object as image,” Kordansky said, as Kitchen director Tim Griffin walked over to promote Lassry’s upcoming performance with the professional ballet dancers who appear in some of the artist’s pictures. Frankly, I’ve rarely seen the Kitchen’s exhibition space look better.

Left: Artist Mary Heilmann. Right: Dealer Katy Erdman and Kim Gordon.

“I hear the New Museum is going to do a show about 1993,” Lisa Spellman whispered at the Kilimnik/Gordon dinner. Just then, Rirkrit Tiravanija walked in with Elizabeth Peyton, only to find Doug Aitken already there talking to Kilimnik. “We’re having a ’90s reunion right now,” he observed. Later, a group of diehards kept to the theme by heading to the rooftop VIP terrace to catch a smoke in the humid evening air.

By Saturday, except for Adam Cvijanovic’s opening at Postmasters, where he was showing large, deconstructed paintings of paintings (actually dioramas at the Museum of Natural History), Douglas Gordon had Chelsea mostly to himself. “I don’t like going to openings in the dark,” said Sheena Wagstaff, and indeed it wasn’t easy to make out the Metropolitan Museum’s modern and contemporary art department chair amid Gordon’s three projection screens on the floor, the only source of light in the show.

Left: Artists Nick Mauss and Ken Okiishi. Right: Creative Time director Anne Pasternak.

If Gordon was celebrating both the beginning and end of civilization, the Bernadette Corporation (Bernadette Van-Huy, John Kelsey, and Antek Walczak) chose Artists Space to limn “2000 Wasted Years,” a mordant retrospective of the group’s work from 1995 to 2011 in fashion, poetry, marketing, and display. Given its proper context here, the entire enterprise made perfect sense, perhaps for the very first time.

Though the artists are reputed to be among the coolest on the scene, Kelsey evidently wasn’t hip enough to know how to find the pizza party given in the collective’s honor at Westway, the former “gentleman’s club” on the West Side Highway. By the time he arrived, a crowd packed into the bar so closely it was hard to bend an elbow was ordering a second (or third) round. Fashion Week was still in motion, Obama had accepted his nomination for reelection, and the night belonged to lovers—of art, community, and self. As usual.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artist Adam Cvijanovic. Right: Artists Douglas Gordon and Bosco Sodi.

Left: Swiss Institute's Piper Marshall and MIT List Visual Art Center curator Joćo Ribas. Right: Artist Roni Horn and Sheena Wagstaff, chair of the Metropolitan Museum’s modern and contemporary art departments.

Left: Dealers Shaun Caley Regen and David Zwirner. Right: Artist Doug Aitken and collector Andy Stillpass.

Left: Dealer Joel Mesler with Sender Collection curator Sarah Aibel. Right: Artist Elad Lassry and Tim Griffin, director of the Kitchen.

Left: Artists Henrik Oleson and Emily Sundblad. Right: Artists Anne Collier and Wade Guyton.

Left: Thereminist Dorit Chrysler with artist Jesper Just. Right: Art historian Hal Foster with artist James Welling and Sandy Tait.

Left: Artist Paul Pfeiffer with writer Lawrence Chua. Right: Writer Dorothy Spears with artist Alexis Rockman.

Left: Artists Jules de Balincourt and Erik Parker. Right: Writers David Colman and Martha Schwendener.

Left: Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal with writer Max Blagg. Right: Collectors Rebecca and Marty Eisenberg with dealer David Kordansky.

Left: Art adviser and collector Thea Westreich. Right: Collector Raymond Learsy with Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.

Left: Performa director RoseLee Goldberg. Right: Artist Maurizio Cattelan and dealer Gavin Brown.

Left: Artist Simon Starling and Bard CCS director Tom Eccles. Right: Artist Saint Clair Cemin.

Left: Architect Charles Renfro. Right: Writers Angus Cook and Bettina Funcke with architect Jonathan Caplan.

Left: Choreographer Stephen Petronio. Right: Dealer Lisa Cooley and artist Alex Olson.