Happy Together

Linda Yablonsky around Armory Show week

Left: Dealer David Zwirner and Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg. Right: Collector Anita Zabludowicz. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)

BLADERUNNER MET PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE on the vacant thirty-third floor of a Times Square office tower last Monday night, when British collector Anita Zabludowicz initiated a week of art fairs desperate for attention with two desultory shows of new sculpture and video.

Zabludowicz Collection curator Elizabeth Neilson’s “The Shape We’re In (New York)” pitted recent and site-specific works by Sarah Braman, Sean Dack, Ethan Breckenridge, Matthew Darbyshire, and Nick van Woert, which inhabited the darkened L-shaped space, in a losing battle against the blazing lights and spectacular views drawing such personages as curators Sir Norman Rosenthal, Simon Castets, and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz; dealer Marc Glimcher; and artist Corban Walker to the windows. The battered plastic milk jugs by Michael E. Smith and salt licks seated on shabby task chairs by Dominic Nurre fared no better against the competition from the gleaming skyscrapers outside and from guest curator Alex Gartenfeld’s “Proposal for a Floor” within. As one wag put it, “At least the art isn’t obscuring the view,” though a coffee vending machine/jukebox by Breckenridge and Dack held its own better than most.

If the works on hand reeked of art school-y self-indulgence, they also underscored Zabludowicz’s commitment to the young visionaries she champions until their more mature work prices her out of their markets. Standing amid her flock like a proud mother hen, she marveled at a neoclassic fiberglass sculpture by van Woert, which she had previously seen only in JPEGs. “It’s a whole new world standing in front of the real thing!” she exclaimed with touching zest.

Left: Curator Neville Wakefield with artist Olympia Scarry. Right: Chloë Sevigny.

The rawness of both the space and the work contrasted sharply with the champagne-dream sophistication of the VIP reception that the Art Dealers Association of America held the following night for its twenty-third annual fair at the Park Avenue Armory. There, the view encompassed plenty of fur, jewels, and cosmetic enhancements among the uptown set (Agnes Gund, Donald Marron, Fran Dittmer) walking the gray carpets to peruse polished primary- and secondary-market displays that embraced early Alice Neel and late Maria Lassnig, recent Jessica Stockholder and classic Charles Burchfield. While nothing generated much electricity, the atmosphere was so pleasant and warm that it didn’t matter. Beneath the gentle burble of polite conversation, money changed hands throughout.

The Pace Gallery kept its pockets full with Zhang Huan ash paintings while Sperone Westwater waved its banner with high-priced Otto Pienes. But the liveliest action was at Regen Projects, where Barbara Gladstone, Glenn Ligon, Thelma Golden, and Amanda Sharp buddied up before handsome artworks by Raymond Pettibon, Liz Larner, Lari Pittman, and Elliott Hundley, all of which sold in the first hour.

Ten blocks south on Fifty-seventh Street, the infant fordProject Gallery hosted “Involuntary,” a trend spotter’s paradise of a sex-and-violence group show put together by Neville Wakefield. Chloë Sevigny stopped by on her way to a birthday party swinging a Chanel shopping bag past a pair of compelling slo-mo video self-portraits by Wakefield’s main squeeze, Olympia Scarry. But there was much to grab the eye and also the ear, thanks to the alarms ringing from a Claire Fontaine bell. New work by Kaari Upson, Matthew Day Jackson, Liz Magic Laser, and Mike Bouchet harmonized the awkward space, formerly a duplex apartment said to be haunted by the original tenants’ ghosts. A video by Bouchet, comprising ten thousand tiny squares containing climactic scenes from porn films obtained in ten thousand downloads from the Internet, hung in the upstairs landing. “Lotta work!” he said, still shaking his head at the magic of it all. Magic Laser, who offered the transcript of a session with a medium investigating the ghosts, had to fend off admirers convinced she was a direct route to the paranormal. Stranger still was the afterparty in the totally charmless Presidential Suite of the Surrey hotel, where a convocation of young art people in black gathered to imbibe champagne and await “edibles” from Café Boulud that never came.

Left: Collector Donald Marron. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Dealer Paul Kasmin. (Photo: David Velasco)

Parties like this keep people busy during fair weeks, when there is so much self-promotion going on that it’s easy to forget that it is art drawing them together and not the sometimes entertaining and often bombastic display of sheer ego. At Wednesday afternoon’s VIP preview of the Armory Show, where 275 galleries held down booths on Piers 92 and 94, the fair seemed particularly full of itself, though slightly more buoyant than in its last two editions, where there was much thumb twiddling during the early hours. This time out, collectors that included Sofia Coppola, Charles Schwab, Dean Valentine, Marty Margulies, and the Rubells filled the aisles under the seedy fluorescent glare, flocking into Sean Kelly, Nicole Klagsbrun, Victoria Miro, and Lorcan O’Neill’s booths and voicing the usual complaints about the paucity of food and drink, the size of the fair, and the bald commercialism of the enterprise while spending money hither and yon.

David Kordansky appeared to be selling out his Ruby Neri paintings; Marine Hugonnier’s altered New York Times from the week of 9/11 impressed buyers at Max Wigram; and Michael Wilkinson’s brand of “cultural anarchy” made Toby Webster’s day at the Modern Institute. Kris Martin’s small pedestaled dice of God at Marc Foxx was among the most intriguing works on view anywhere. Of course, all dealers always insist that business is amazing and that the “quality” of the fair is high, though methinks they protest too much.

Left: Artist Glenn Ligon. Right: Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs with dealer Tommaso Corvi-Mora.

Overall, everyone seemed to be trying too hard to satisfy every taste with the same old same. Gimmickry, like the penny flooring by Ry Rocklen at Untitled, abounded. Iván Navarro’s neon replication of a wrought-iron fence surrounded a large empty space at the center, and that’s all there was of Paul Kasmin’s booth. Yet, as a metaphor for repression and exclusion––there was no way in or out of the space––it spoke to the way self-important fairs trap consumers into believing they are making significant discoveries among the labyrinth of merchandise on view instead of just killing time between moments of intense social interaction, the glue that holds the art world together.

Those lusting after more of that glue could avail themselves of the cocktail party for Croatian artist David Maljkovic that Metro Pictures and Sprüth-Magers galleries, both absent from the fair, threw that evening at the Jane hotel, where talk centered on the opening of the second edition of the Independent fair the following day. It’s almost endearing how art worlders never give up hope that the next big thing is around the corner, if only they can be first to notice it.

Left: Collectors Don and Mera Rubell. Right: Dealer Tim Nye.

Left: Artists David Reed and Mary Heilmann. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Director Sofia Coppola. (Photo: David Velasco)

Left: Dealers Francesca Kaufmann and Ciara Repetto. Right: Collector David Tieger.

Left: Artist Iván Navarro with Jose. Right: Dealer Philomene Magers with artist David Maljikovic.

Left: Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, dealer James Cohan, and Art Basel director Annette Schönholzer. Right: Artist Ryan McGinley.

Left: Artist Nick van Woert. Right: FordProject Gallery codirectors Tim Goosens and Rachel Vancelette.

Left: Pace Gallery's Marc and Andrea Glimcher. Right: Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf.

Left: Dealer Nicolò Cardi. Right: Dealers Andrée Sfeir-Semler and Peter Currie.

Left: Art Production Fund's Yvonne Force Villareal and Casey Fremont. Right: Artist Mike Bouchet.

Left: Fondation Beyeler director Samuel Keller with dealer Liza Essers. Right: Zabludowicz Collection curator Elizabeth Neilson with artist Toby Ziegler.

Left: Artists Nicola Tyson and Ellen Cantor. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Dealer Giti Nourbakhsch. (Photo: David Velasco)

Left: Artist Liz Magic Laser. Right: MoMA curator Roxana Marcocci.

Left: Dealer Sueyun Locks. Right: Collector Lisa Anastos.

Left: Metropolitan Museum associate director of exhibitions Jennifer Russell. Right: Filmmaker Lana Jokel.

Left: Collector Frances Dittmer with Sotheby's Anthony Grant. Right: Restaurateur Michael McCarty and Kim McCarty.