Fits and Starts

New York

Left: Dealer Andrea Rosen (right). Right: Artist Zoe Leonard and Artists Space curator Richard Birkett. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

WHEN THE 2013 NEW YORK ART SEASON began last weekend, anyone seeking more bang for the buck must have felt shortchanged. Oh, the art was nice, the people were nice, and so were the parties. But it made the future look like a rolled napkin at an empty seat at the table.

Here was the art world that money has wrought: polished without any spit. Was 2012 so oppressive that few among us are interested in taking a leap? Following the shock of Hurricane Sandy, it may be only natural to resist throwing caution to the winds. Some dealers were happy just to reopen their doors. Others may have been attempting to sidestep a market that only embraces the recycled, the recapitulated, and the reverent. Thank goodness for the exceptions, even if the only rule they proved is that we need new rules.

Artists Space curator Richard Birkett appeared to have done some close, rough-and-tumble looking at New York exhibitions over the year past. The selections he made for the seventh White Columns Annual drew a capacity crowd on Thursday night, when a dozen galleries held receptions in Chelsea and SoHo. “This show is really good,” the dependably cheerful collector Thea Westreich told gallery director Matthew Higgs, clutching her checklist. “Especially the room with the rubbish.”

Left: New Museum associate director Masimilliano Gioni and High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani. Right: Dealer Casey Kaplan.

She was speaking of the gallery’s White Room 1, now painted gold by Yuji Agematsu, the better to display the delicate sculptures of pressed paper, wire, and dust that he pinned to the walls like butterflies collected by a visionary. Made of detritus picked up from New York City streets over Agematsu’s many years as caretaker of the Judd Foundation building on Spring Street, it was the best shot over the bow that night.

Then again, the paper stripes that Daniel Buren situated on the generous walls of Friedrich Petzel’s gallery were also a showstopper. The artist dedicated the work to his late friend Michael Asher. It attracted the serious. MoMA curator Ann Temkin was just leaving as dealer Philippe Ségalot was coming in. Gallery artists Sean Landers and Dana Schutz held down the fort while the seventy-four-year-old Buren was in situ at Bortolami, where the man who cares less for art objects than the environments they create was nonetheless showing objects: overpainted, printed stripes encased in Plexiglas and fiber optic fabric that lit up—in glowing blue stripes—when plugged in.

A few doors down at Anton Kern, most of the action in David Shrigley’s attempt at three-dimensional one-liners came from viewers who lined up to pound a big black steel gong labeled GONG in white. Casey Kaplan reopened for the first time since the hurricane with minimal paintings on unstretched canvas by Giorgio Griffa, two of which had suffered the flood and been cleaned up. Dating from 1968 to now, they were ready for rediscovery.

Left: Artist Gaylen Gerber with dealer Janine Foeller. Right: Dealer Andrew Kreps and artist Marco Brambilla.

Next door, Tanya Bonakdar and Haim Steinbach were striding through the installation of Sabine Hornig’s bus shelter–like Perspex sculptures printed with transparent photographs. They were on their way to dinner. Was it that time already? The White Columns crowd was heading to the back room at Artbar, but the moment had arrived to join Bortolami, Petzel, and friends downstairs at the new Bocca di Bacco to toast Daniel and Chantal Buren’s fifty-first wedding anniversary. “I’m in over my head,” cracked Lawrence Weiner, as usual saying more with less.

David Nolan was in the restaurant at the Hotel Americano, hosting a dinner for Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, while Kern was up on the terrace, seating pals like Andrew Kreps, Anne Collier, Clarissa Dalrymple, Marco Brambilla, and Liz Swig at tables around Shrigley’s. “People don’t know Dave in New York,” he said, and then astonished everyone by talk-singing his toast to the tune of “Words Don’t Come Easy to Me.” No one dared give him the gong.

On rainy Friday night, Paula Cooper was the sole dealer to host an opening—hands-down the most elegant of the year. The object of admiration from a smartly dressed brain trust of ninety was Julian Lethbridge, who had hung some of his new paintings still wet. That was kind of a secret until retired Harper’s magazine editor Lewis Lapham accidentally brushed too close to one of them, pulling away with some of it on his pinstriped sleeve. Oops!

Left: Michael Kaufman and actress Carol Kane. Right: Artist Ryan Trecartin.

Dinner at Da Umberto was slow in coming, though the burble of polite conversation didn’t flag, but then it wouldn’t with Anne Bass, Agnes Gund, Cecily Brown, Brice Marden, Wade Guyton, David Salle, T. J. Wilcox, Joel Shapiro, Scott Rothkopf, Marla Prather, Donna De Salvo, novelist Michael Cunningham, and Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp on hand. My entrée didn’t arrive till 11 PM, when it was past time to arrive at the New Museum for its $150-per-ticket Next Generation Party, orchestrated by the cocurators of the museum’s 2015 triennial, Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin.

DJ Bryce Hackford was still spinning in the lobby, where ultrahip DIS magazine had organized a Red Carpet Service, with “Media Companions” performing step-and-repeat routines in logo-festooned, white Zentai bodysuits. Up in the seventh-floor Sky Room, singer Lauren Devine was just finishing her performance of Luv U Far, the Trecartin-produced single she had released on iTunes that day. The crowd here, naturally, was on the young side. “We scared away all the donors,” Cornell reported.

Saturday afternoon brought a champagne reception at Wallspace Gallery, one of the hardest hit in the hurricane, for the reopening of the show by Gaylen Gerber that had just seen the light of day when the storm flooded it. But leave it to the unconventional Michele Maccarone to bring back Andy Kaufman. “On Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman,” a show of the comedian’s ephemera organized by Jonathan Berger, seemed more primed for eBay than a gallery. Vitrines of 45 rpm records, diaries, photographs, costumes, and even Kaufman’s handwritten will were set across the floor, while there seemed to be a séance going on at a round table where Kaufman’s brother Michael, his Taxi costar Carol Kane, and his best friend Bob Zmuda were gathered to speak to the curious. “This is a show that had to happen,” I heard one fan say.

Left: Choreographer Karole Armitage with artist Julian Lethbridge. Right: Dealer Nicky Verber and artist Nick Relph.

I departed for the weavings and tires of Nick Relph and bright narrative paintings of Christopher Knowles at Gavin Brown, where theater director Robert Wilson touchingly waxed nostalgic for the days when Knowles was a prodigious teenager starring in such productions as Einstein on the Beach. Back in Chelsea, Andrew Kreps was herding friends out of his first show with Maria Loboda to dinner at the Russian Samovar, while dealer Alexander Gray was at his gallery, speaking of the late Hugh Steers, whose estate he now represents. Steers died in 1995 at thirty-two from AIDS, and his autobiographical paintings brought back all the pain and poignancy of the pandemic at that time.

A party for the Kaufman show, with a performance by Tony Clifton, was starting at Westway, but I had seen enough ghosts for one evening, so I stopped back at Brown’s dinner for his artists. “You missed my toast!” said the dealer, but the party was still alive and kicking. In the absence of any other galvanizing force, what else was there to do but hang on?

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown with artist Urs Fischer. Right: Artist Daniel Buren.

Left: Judd Foundation copresident Rainer Judd and artist Yuji Agematsu. Right: Dealer Sean Kelly.

Left: Poet John Giorno and MoMA curator Laura Hoptman. Right: New Museum curator Lauren Cornell with MoMA film curator Josh Siegel.

Left: Dealer Stefania Bortolami and artist Lawrence Weiner. Right: Artist David Shrigley.

Left: Dealer Alexander Gray with screenwriter-director Burr Steers. Right: Artist Liam Gillick.

Left: Curator Alex Gartenfeld. Right: Artists Lizzie Bougatsos and Nate Lowman.

Left: White Columns director Matthew Higgs and collector Thea Westreich. Right: Artist Dana Schutz.

Left: Dealer David Nolan with artist Sandra Vásquez de la Horra. Right: Artist Robert Wilson.

Left: Dealer Franco Noero. Right: Dealers Paula Cooper and Steve Henry.

Left: Artist Kathryn Andrews with collector Christen Wilson. Right: Collector Andy Stillpass.

Left: Novelist Michael Cunningham, artist Brice Marden, and Baroness Beatrice Monti della Corte von Rezzori. Right: Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffmann.

Left: Dealer Peter Currie and filmmaker Matt Wolf. Right: Artist Spencer Sweeney and dealer Lucy Chadwick.

Left: Artist Ryan Sullivan and architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. Right: Artist T.J. Wilcox.

Left: Artist Nathan Carter. Right: Whitney Museum curator and associate director of programs Scott Rothkopf and artist K8 Hardy.

Left: Singer Lauren Devine. Right: Artists Sean Landers and Ricky Clifton.