The Big Chill

New York

Left: Artists Richard Phillips and Josephine Meckseper. Right: Writer Randy Kennedy and artist Ragnar Kjartansson. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

WINTER IS SLEEPYTIME IN NEW YORK. It’s cold. People hibernate. They’re saving themselves for Armory Week. Whatever the explanation, over the past couple of weeks, the art activity meter dipped as low as the biting temperatures. “What’s going on?” people asked, wondering at the general malaise blanketing the scene. Luckily, cabin fever also set in, bringing the loyal and the hardy with light social calendars and heavy overcoats to the isolated events on tap.

Take the odd assortment of collectors, artists, fashion writers, and sports car enthusiasts attending the January 29th dinner that The Aesthete, a year-old, advertising-free, digital magazine gave for Richard Phillips in the New Museum’s Sky Room. “I love the idea of a nonprofit magazine that supports art and culture,” said Brooke Geahan, an all-around idea person for the how-cool-is-this, proudly New York–centered enterprise.

Basically, the event launched a new video that would debut on the Aesthete’s website the following day. As directed by Baldomero Fernandez, it does for Phillips and his enthusiasm for high-performance driving what Phillips recently did for the even more risk-addicted Lindsay Lohan. The magazine, said the artist, had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: having the track at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, to himself to drive his modified 1992 Porsche 964 at 140 mph. “The idea is to show a side of me that the public usually doesn’t see,” he said.

Left: Designer Cynthia Rowley, Matthew Settle, and artist David Salle. Right: Dealer Barbara Gladstone.

What guests saw behind the wheel was a Phillips completely obscured by his helmet and a safety-first driving costume that caught the attention of the magazine’s sole funder, Joseph Mimran, the collector and retailer responsible for the Club Monaco and Joe Fresh chains. After the screening, Mimran gave it the thumbs-up, except, he said, “I would have worn a turtleneck instead of a neck brace.”

Next night, either one would have been useful armor against the stiff wind blowing through Chelsea, where the sole opening was for The Visitors, a nine-screen film that the Icelandic cutup Ragnar Kjartansson was premiering at Luhring Augustine. Visitors stood or sat around the central screen, so hypnotized by the ballad that the film’s cast was singing over and over again that no one moved, not even New Museum deputy director Massimiliano Gioni or his wife, High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani. “I think this is the first time we’ve stayed in one show for more than an hour,” he said.

Bonnie Clearwater, director of MoCA North Miami, was an early arrival to the party that followed at the Jane Hotel. “We own God,” she said of the 2007 Kjartansson work in the museum’s collection. “I love being able to say that.” From then on, it was harder to hear what guests like BjŲrk (Kjartansson’s cousin), Dallas supercollector Marguerite Hoffman, and gallery artists Charles Atlas and Josh Smith were saying, thanks to the earsplitting volume of the symphonic music that Kjartansson had programmed for the evening. Relief— comic and otherwise—came when he mounted the balcony to lead a nostalgic sing-along of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Left: Curator and Parkett editor Bice Curiger with artist Yto Barrada. Right: ChloŽ Sevigny.

There was less music but more action the next night, when celluloid-film advocate Tacita Dean brought the panoramic chalkboard drawings she made for Documenta 13 to Marian Goodman. It was easy to feel swallowed up by their depths. Downtown, Leo Koenig played host to Parkett’s publisher Dieter von Graffenried and executive editor Bice Curiger, who were launching Volume 91 with artists Yto Barrada, Nicole Eisenman, and Liu Xiaodong on hand.

Over on West Twenty-Second Street, visitors dove out of the cold into openings for Nayland Blake and Darren Almond at two Matthew Marks galleries, clearly happy to have art to distract them from the bleak landscape outside. And down the street, in the rooms behind a painting show by Spanish artist Jorge Queiroz, Sikkema Jenkins introduced the addition of Tony Feher, Arlene Shechet, and Kay Rosen to its roster with a stellar presentation of new works by those artists and Arturo Herrera, a gallery mainstay. On my exit, several confused tourists from uptown were seeking the splendid Outsider Art Fair opening in the old Dia building farther down the street. “Just keep going,” I said. “Down there?” asked one, peering into the dark.

Things heated up at the darkened 303 Gallery, where Doug Aitken had literally torn up the walls and floor for a sculptural soundscape that evoked bodily fluids like milk and semen. Titled “100 Years,” it is the final exhibition in the gallery’s current West Twenty-First Street location. Soon, said owner Lisa Spellman, she will decamp for temporary quarters in a West Twenty-Fourth Street building designed by architect Markus Dochantschi, only to move back to her former spot two years hence, where a spanking new, mixed-use building rumored to be by Norman Foster will be standing.

Left: Artist Lizzie Bougatsos. Right: Dealer Matthew Marks, ICP director Mark Robbins, and artist Nayland Blake.

Dochantschi was on hand for dinner on the covered terrace at the Maritime Hotel, where overhead heaters did little to fend off the dropping outdoor temperature. Guests who included ChloŽ Sevigny, Mary Heilmann, Bob Colacello, Kim Gordon, David Hallberg, Adam McEwen, Beth Swofford, Alexis Rockman (credited as “Inspirational Artist” on the Oscar-nominated Pi), and the political firebrand Sue Williams supped with their coats on. Lizzie Bougatsos—DJ for the afterparty in the steamy bar at the top of the Jane—opened hers long enough to display a vintage T-shirt designed by Keith Haring and Malcolm McLaren that, she said, was a gift from Sinead O’Connor. (Talk about provenance.)

Otherwise, it seemed as if the fallout from Hurricane Sandy was still poking holes in Chelsea’s schedule of exhibitions. At the moment, historical shows appear to outnumber the new. On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Museum’s new contemporary curator Nick Cullinan, artists Rob Pruitt and Piotr Uklanski, dealers Bill Powers and Sam Orlofsky, and Julian Schnabel and his fiancťe-with-child May Anderson had to go to the East Village for the opening of “Four Works, Four Years, Eight Weeks” at Oko, where Alison Gingeras has partnered with Daniela Luxembourg and Amalia Dayan in a storefront gallery that is presenting four Schnabel paintings from the 1970s, one at a time.

Left: Dealer Michael Jenkins. Right: Dealer Lisa Spellman and artist Doug Aitken.

After all this cherry-picking, it came as something of a shock on Thursday night to see West Twenty-Fourth Street engulfed by masses of people who came out for just a few openings: Alighiero Boetti at Gladstone, Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at Gagosian. “Amazing what art can do,” said Barbara Gladstone, gazing over the many heads around her, and she didn’t even know that the line of young people waiting to get into Gagosian had stretched nearly the length of the block—this, for an artist who wasn’t present. “I can tell you it’s worth the wait,” I heard one man say to friends far back in the line. “Really,” he said. “It’s the best exhibition I’ve ever seen.”

But he didn’t go into the Boetti, where the late embroideries on view were getting their first public exposure, or the Paglen, where he could have met a living artist whose photographs were etched onto a golden disc and launched into space last November, on a satellite now orbiting the Earth.

If you looked at the sky, however, you only saw the approach of winter storm Nemo, which shut down the region once again. Amazing what weather can do, eh? Hopefully, art will have an early spring.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artists Tacita Dean and Julie Mehretu. Right: Artist Trevor Paglen.

Left: Artist Alexis Rockman. Right: Artist Andro Wekua, Pati Hertling, and artist K8 Hardy.

Left: Artists Tony Feher and Jorge Queiroz. Right: Artist Charles Atlas, collector Marguerite Hoffman, and dealer Roland Augustine.

Left: Dealer James Fuentes. Right: Parkett publisher Dieter Von Graffenried and dealer Leo Koenig.

Left: Artist Donald Baechler, photographer Bill Cunningham, and writer Bob Colacello. Right: Artist Marianne Vitale.

Left: Dealer Max Falkenstein, Pompidou Center curator Sylvia Chivaratanond, and Dia Art Foundation director Philippe Vergne. Right: Collector Beth Rudin DeWoody and artist Kevin Baker.

Left: Collectors Joseph and Kimberly Mimran. Right: Dealer Rose Lord with curator Nora Halpern and Hirshhorn Museum deputy director Kerry Brougher.

Left: Gemma Ponsa and artist Ugo Rondinone. Right: Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs and collectors Barbara Jakobson and John Reinhold.

Left: Architect Markus Dochantschi. Right: Gerard Fox and Sue Williams.

Left: Artist Arlene Shechet with dealer Katie Rashid. Right: Artist Adam McEwen, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, and collector Beth Swofford.

Left: The Aesthete editor in chief Adrian Mainella and Brooke Geahan. Right: Writer Cintra Wilson.

Left: Fashion writer Mickey Boardman. Right: Artist Lee Quinones with writer Tamara Quinones.