Season Greetings

Kate Sutton around openings in New York

Left: New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni. Right: Artists Darren Bader and Uri Aran with Gavin Brown associate director Bridget Donahue. (All photos: Kate Sutton)

SLATER BRADLEY’S most recent video, Don’t Let Me Disappear, casts the artist’s doppelgänger as a contemporary flâneur, à la Baudelaire (or Holden Caulfield). From the looks of it, “botanizing the pavement” today resembles lots of stoned, slow-motion wandering around Chelsea, an allegorical frame that seemed more and more apt last weekend as I braved the cold for the second round of season gallery openings.

Early Thursday evening began in SoHo with Team Gallery’s exhibitions of Bradley and Ross Knight, but quickly moved on to Chelsea, where the sudden chill had done nothing to discourage the crowds. While it was a surprise to count the puffy coats pouring out of Jeff Keen’s supposedly “private” opening at Elizabeth Dee, they were nothing compared to the movie theater–like lines forming outside Gladstone Gallery, where Shirin Neshat was debuting her most recent portrait series, “The Book of Kings.” Those who made it inside found themselves pressed between the photographs and their subjects, many of whom had flown in for the opening. “I’ve never seen so many Iranians in one room in New York,” one patron whistled, admiringly.

Across the street at C24, Amy Smith-Stewart had curated the politically charged group show “Campaign,” featuring artists like Hank Willis Thomas, Kate Gilmore, and K8 Hardy. The art’s everything-goes vibe did not carry over to the front door, where bouncers manned a velvet rope. I would have sworn the rope was a piece itself, except for the fact that artist Glen Fogel was waving his smartphone at the security detail: “Look, I have all the invitations. I have work in the show . . . ” But the doorman did not budge, shooting back a grim, “Everyone’s saying something tonight.” I was grateful for the refuge of the Gladstone reception around the corner at Moran’s, where guests Cindy Sherman, RoseLee Goldberg, and Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs made gentle use of the open bar.

Left: Writer Nikki Columbus with artist Nick Mauss and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár. Right: Artist Shirin Neshat and New Museum curator-at-large Richard Flood.

Friday, I started off at the Swiss Institute, where curator Massimiliano Gioni shared his thoughts on Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, whom he touted as a kind of genial anti-Beuys. “If Beuys taught that every man is an artist, Schnyder reminds us that every artist is still just a man.”

Or a woman. Back up in Chelsea, the lovely ladies of Wallspace had joined forces with Kelly Taxter to present a group show whose roster was more than half female. The wind was so bitingly cold that by the time I made it indoors, the beer bottle pressed into my hand actually felt warming. Greeting artists Sanya Kantarovsky and Leigh Ledare, I burrowed further into the masses, nearly knocking into Anthea Hamilton’s splay-legged sculpture. I cast a nervous glance at Lisa Williamson’s thin sliver of canvas, which scrolled down the wall and onto the floor. The press release describes the work as “quietly asserting” itself, but it might have been too quiet for this crowd. “That’s what touching up is for,” Williamson shrugged.

Even more hazards abounded at 303 Gallery, where Nick Mauss had installed a mix of glazed ceramic tiles and screenprinted aluminum sheets that curled up and around the room. I picked my way to the corner where curators Clarissa Dalrymple and Stefan Kalmár and collector Andy Stillpass were standing at a safe distance between two floor pieces. “This stuff looks like it bends, you know,” Stillpass warned, with a raised eyebrow. “I think I’m just going to enjoy it from back here.”

Left: Artists Amy Sillman and Collier Schorr. Right: MoMA associate curators Christian Rattemeyer and Doryun Chong.

Guests were more relaxed at the dinner held next door in a rustic, open space that reminded me of a chic college co-op. Under the quaint lighting of a mason-jar chandelier, artists Lorraine O’Grady and Emily Sundblad shared the center table with curators Jenny Schlenzka and Peter Eleey, while over on the couches, a cluster of young artists picked at plates of flatbread, olives, and mini gherkins. I claimed a chair beside Visionaire’s Cecilia Dean and writers Nikki Columbus and David Colman at a table near the bar. (Christopher Bollen and actress Natasha Lyonne must have had the same idea, staking out the table adjacent.)

Saturday night, Doug Wheeler brought one of his “infinity environments” to David Zwirner, but I opted for the cozier-sounding “Interiors” show at Andrew Kreps. A refreshingly bold gambit eight years in the making, the exhibition pairs works by the elusive Marc Camille Chaimowicz with paintings by Pierre Bonnard, William Copley, and Édouard Vuillard (several of which are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum). “My director Liz Mulholland and I have been working on this show for years now,” Kreps recounted. “You’d be amazed how much work it takes.” I was more amazed at how effortless they made it all seem.

George Ortman’s exhibition at Algus Greenspon was another breath of fresh air, despite (or because of) the fact that the median age of the turnout for the eighty-six-year-old artist was remarkably higher than any other show that weekend. (To be fair, this may have had something to do with the presence of painter Will Barnet, who is pushing 102.) Around the block, the young and the restless had gathered at Gavin Brown, where Udomsak Krisanamis had transformed the back room into a sanctuary of teak golf tees, planted upside down in front of a series of collages. More difficult to decipher was the rest of the gallery, which Uri Aran had mapped with tables, each bearing complicated arrangements of junk, from shellacked photographs to cookie dough.

Left: Dealers Andrew Kreps and Liz Mulholland. Right: MoMA PS1 associate curator Jenny Schlenzka with artist Lorraine O'Grady.

“I understand Uri’s process as similar to those people who have to rearrange the saltshakers and ketchup bottles on diner tables,” associate director Bridget Donahue explained. “It’s all according to his own sense of order.” It was clear that the artist had his hand in everything, from the artificial nooks to the purposefully low lighting. “I always thought exhibition openings should be candelit,” artist Mae Fatto mused. “So long as everyone is just here to see everyone else, they might as well all look good.”

The see-and-be-seen aspect was a bit dampened by the fact that the majority of the attendees—including Darren Bader, Elizabeth Neel, and Negar Azimi—already saw-and-were-sawn by one another the previous two evenings and were therefore woefully short on small talk. Nabbing a spot with Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Christian Rattemeyer at the afterparty later at Westway, I nodded across the room at Stillpass. “At this point, do we even need to exchange greetings?” he called back grinning.

Sunday, geography proved just as foreboding as the below-freezing temperatures. While I missed the opening at SculptureCenter, I was able to catch the kickoff of “Bulletin Board,” a new series of salon events spearheaded by Pati Hertling, which launched in an upstairs space on the Bowery with a screening of Ulrike Meinhof’s 1970 film Bambule, preceded by a short intro film by Silvia Kolbowski.

Left: Dealer Joe Sheftel. Right: Writer Alex Gartenfeld with collector Andy Stillpass and artist Matt Keegan.

Bundling back up against the cold (with the “Real-Feel” temperature holding steady at 6ºF), I dashed over to Orchard Street, where Untitled Gallery was hosting its first solo show of Ian Tweedy and dealer Joe Sheftel was inaugurating his first space at 24 Orchard with “Specifically Yours,” a selection of works by freshly minted gallery artists Alex da Corte, Adam Henry, and Rory Mulligan. With no time for trains, I took a taxi up to the newly conjugated gallery Alex Zachary Peter Currie. (“We’re still working on the name,” Currie confessed. “The initials could be good, though. Sort of like ‘easy-peasy.’ ”) By this point in the weekend, most of the crowd had already been gallery-hopping together for four days straight—“We’re all on the same meal plan this week,” Currie cracked—but the knowledge that this would be the last event for a spell gave the evening a familial aura. Besides, Jordan Wolfson’s two new films provided ample reason to skip the small talk.

After the opening, guests braved the wind for the two-block walk to the Ukrainian Institute, a slightly defunct architectural wonder, made all the more mysterious by faux candlelight. (“I’ve been unscrewing lightbulbs all day to give it more of a haunted house feel,” Zachary admitted.) “Will there be Ukrainian food?” Laura Mitterrand ventured cautiously, eyeing the platters of cheese, salami, and pickled vegetables. “Actually, we brought in this vegan restaurant from Brooklyn.” Currie explained, before following our dubious looks toward the charcuterie. “Well maybe not vegan, but, you know, organic and local and all of that.”

Left: Artist Jordan Wolfson with Milt Wolfson. Right: Independent codirector Laura Mitterrand and dealer Peter Currie.

Whatever it was, it was good, capped off with a series of increasingly enthusiastic toasts. Wolfson was first, thanking his animators before announcing his resolution to take himself less seriously. Wolfson’s mother, Patty Burrows, was on hand to help him out, and she followed curator Linda Norden’s smart speech with some choice words of her own. Burrows opened by sharing the artist’s very first joke (Q: “What’s the one part of your body you should never move while dancing?” A: “Your bowels.”) before praising her son for “recognizing that art and real life are two separate things.” Wolfson’s father, Milt, was next: “Well, in this family, we always have to one-up each other, but all I can say is this: I’ve never understood one fucking thing about Jordan’s work.” He paused, beaming proudly, “But it is interesting.” At my table, artists Cory Arcangel and John Trembley grinned in complete agreement: “These dinners just keep getting better and better, don’t they?”

Left: Artist Spencer Sweeney. Right: Artist Sanya Kantarovsky with dealer Jane Hait.

Left: Artist Ross Knight. Right: Artist Greg Parma Smith with the Swiss Institute's Piper Marshall.

Left: Artist George Ortman. Right: Creative Time director Anne Pasternak.

Left: Artist Ian Tweedy and dealer Carol Cohen at Untitled. Right: Artists Emily Mae Smith and Adam Henry.