Same Difference

Linda Yablonsky around New York Gallery Week

Left: Artist Justin Lowe. Right: New Museum director of exhibitions Massimiliano Gioni with curator Cecilia Alemani.

LAST WEEK, while the rest of the country obsessed over the demise of Osama bin Laden, the New York art world fell captive to itself. Beginning with the May 4 start of the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas along the Bowery, the town soon erupted in such a torrent of openings, talks, performances, screenings, book signings, and dinner parties it would have taken Noah’s ark to ride out the rising tide of events.

Three galleries (Matthew Marks, Nicole Klagsbrun, and Team) inaugurated new satellite spaces, while about a hundred more opened exhibitions calculated to attract collectors in town for this week’s contemporary auctions. Sixty dealers signed on for New York Gallery Week, actually a three-day, fraternal rush of living artists and more than a few—namely Keith Haring, Jack Smith, Martin Kippenberger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Donald Judd, and Salvatore Scarpitta—who have left their bodies but not the market, ravenous as ever for the new, the tried, and occasionally the true.

Leo Villareal took the shimmering lead uptown on Wednesday at Gering & López, while Katy Moran went dark and semifigural at Andrea Rosen in Chelsea and the Haring estate moved into Barbara Gladstone’s Twenty-First Street space for a handshake of a show cementing the new partnership. Central to the display were Haring’s not-for-sale sketchbooks—pages and pages of decorative line drawings and studies of penises drawn, say the handwritten captions, in front of places like Tiffany’s and the Museum of Modern Art. “There were some I’d rather not have seen,” admitted the artist’s mother during dinner at Del Posto. She preferred to talk instead of the protomural Haring drew for a high school show on a continuous roll of adding machine paper—sadly missing now.

Left: Artist Slater Bradley. Right: Dealer Helene Winer, curator Carol Squiers, and artist Laurie Simmons.

There was no absence of material on Thursday night, when Jasper Johns and John Chamberlain each gave past themes and forms a spry, wisdom-with-age spring boost. An unusually jocular Johns showed guests around Marks’s Twenty-Second Street gallery, where Charles Ray, Terry Winters, and Vija Celmins took in recent bronze and aluminum castings of the master’s sturdy gray numerals. “That’s what artists do when they get older,” Celmins observed. “It’s all about looking back and inching forward again.”

Over at Gagosian, the eighty-four-year-old Chamberlain sat in a wheelchair surrounded by gleaming towers of crushed American cars, shaking hands with the likes of James Rosenquist, Alanna Heiss, and Frank Gehry, who then toured the show with Gagosian. “We’re always together,” the architect explained. Hmmm.

Standing apart from collectors at Tanya Bonakdar, Gillian Wearing returned to New York after an eight-year hiatus with a searing group of video and photo portraits not seen here before, all guaranteed to make viewers cringe through their tears. At Anton Kern, it was clear that Mark Grotjahn had emerged from his monochrome butterfly cocoon: He brought a slew of bright paintings that suggested fireworks.

Left: Filmmaker Rainer Judd. Right: Artist Ross Bleckner and Ahn Duong.

Down in SoHo, Jose Freire inaugurated his second gallery, a fresh white cube reclaimed from a Girbaud jeans shop, with a show of paintings by David Ratcliff. (Jakob Kolding handed out his posters in the dealer’s original space on Grand Street.) Team players Ryan McGinley, Banks Violette, and Cory Arcangel hung out for a dinner in the new back room, while I felt duty-bound to check out the return of Area, the druggy performance-driven 1980s nightclub, that Creative Time promised for its annual benefit. Though hundreds of paying customers (artists, collectors, dealers, Courtney Love, Moby) came to honor the exuberant philanthropist Liz Swig, the only vestige of Area in evidence were two windowed cubbyholes in which costumed performers acted out debauched revels that anyone could join. Few did, but everyone cheered for Shots!, a riotous music video directed by Paula Greif that featured a chorus line of high-kicking socialites on the Creative Time board.

Friday was fright night in Chelsea, as the late Kippenberger, Judd, Mapplethorpe, and Smith had to compete with Ashley Bickerton, Alexander Ross, Richard Tuttle, Louise Lawler, Roe Ethridge, Paul Sietsema, and Sean Landers, who all fired off scarily good shows at once. Dressed in a purple suit, Bickerton perfectly complemented his “Jimbo Fatsurfer Bali,” the lurid, electric-blue blubber of a man in several of his opulently framed paintings. “They’re not supposed to be weird,” Bickerton said. They’re not. But they are beautifully strange.

Death has certainly not diminished the influence, or even, apparently, the output, of Jack Smith, whose color photographs and films have been restored to a luster they never had during the artist’s lifetime in a stellar show at Gladstone curated by Neville Wakefield. “Gosh, I never saw any of these pictures before,” said performance artist Augusto Machado, one of Smith’s former collaborators. Next door, at Metro Pictures, Louise Lawler also broke new ground by blowing up some of her photographs to billboard size and printing them on vinyl. “I gave up a lot of control to do this,” she said, explaining that buyers could order the pictures in a size suited to individual sites. One of the most alluring images was a monumental detail of a Degas ballet dancer. “It’s upstairs,” she said of the sculpture. “But I’m not supposed to tell anyone.”

Left: Allen, Joan, and Kristin Haring. Right: Artist Laurel Nakadate.

The dinner for Lawler was on one end of the terrace of the Gramercy Park Hotel. Andrew Kreps nabbed the other end for Ethridge, who mistakenly walked into Lawler’s party and stayed, thinking it was his own. “You mean I’m in the wrong room?” he asked, only just noticing that the guests included Lawler cohorts Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Laurie Simmons. His own friends and followers (Mike Ovitz, Sam Orlofsky, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, and Liz Swig, among others) were bellying up to the bar in a room where every wall had a George Condo painting. No wonder Ethridge was confused.

Early on Saturday, when a record eleven thousand people visited the Alexander McQueen show at the Metropolitan Museum, Chelsea went eerily quiet. That was because the blue bloods had ferried themselves to Greenwich, Connecticut, where the polo-playing collector Peter Brant threw open his enormous barn for “The American Dream,” a show of paintings and sculpture commissioned from Josh Smith, whose version of America, like his previous works, mostly bears his own name. Back in Manhattan, I relaxed in the plush screening room hidden within the Bumble and Bumble hair salon, where Rainer Judd was unspooling a sweet short about her father’s transformation of Marfa, Texas, from a cattle town to a sacred art site.

With so many people having a day in the country, visiting the auction previews, or nursing hangovers from the night before, the triumvirate of 2013 Carnegie International curators roamed Chelsea in relative peace. But not for long. A van painted with the words “Scarpitta Art and Racing” pulled up in front of the Boesky Gallery to unload a Scarpitta race car branded with the name of its original sponsor, Leo Castelli. Down the street at Mary Boone, David Salle drew a crowd of art stars and writers like Fran Lebowitz, Salman Rushdie, and Francine Prose, who all mingled before new paintings that recapitulated Salle’s appended canvases of the ’80s, only with more lightbulbs and contorted nudes than before. Clifford Ross also did what he does best in his landscape photographs at Sonnabend, but added color abstractions that were animated in a film with a soundtrack by Phillip Glass. “It’s only five minutes,” Ross said. “You have to see it.”

Left: Dealer Andrea Rosen. Right: Dealer Matthew Marks with artist Terry Winters.

Buzzed from all this old-is-new-again excitement, I found perennial enfant terrible Aaron Young flipping the American dream at Bortolami, where he was showing patinated sculptures of folded American flags. “Wild that this came in bin Laden week,” Young said, recalling an outside world that had almost disappeared from view. Nate Lowman also touched base in his humongous double show at Gavin Brown and Maccarone, in canvases that referred to floods, plane crashes, and other conflagrations. “But this is the fire-sale room,” said collector Mera Rubell, coveting one of the many de Kooning–esque Marilyn Monroe paintings installed in a gallery at Brown. “They’re selling like hotcakes.”

Hotter still was the combined Salle/Ross dinner, an upbeat affair that took up the whole of Matsuri in the Maritime Hotel, absolutely the most glamorous event of the week. Jeff and Justine Koons, Cecily Brown and Nicolai Ouroussoff, Amy Sillman, Alex Katz, and Prose, for example, somehow all ended up at one table. I took the lone remaining seat in the house among the members of the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Vito Schnabel, designer Elise Øverland, and consultant Alex Marshall. Suffice it to say anyone who wasn’t there was at the combined Lowman/Young fete at the Jane hotel, a boozy party from which Lowman’s mother left early and the younger crowd stayed late, as if there were nowhere else to go. But in the ritualized world of contemporary art, there is always another place and a new tomorrow, even if it looks just like today.

Left: Artist Katy Moran. Right: Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal with artist Leo Villareal.

Left: Artist Jennifer Rubell with collectors Don and Mera Rubell and dealer Michele Maccarone. Right: Artist Mark Grotjahn.

Left: Dealers Michael Lieberman and Jessie Washburne-Harris. Right: Dealer Andrew Kreps.

Left: Artist Nate Lowman with Carolyn Lowman. Right: Artist Clifford Ross.

Left: Artist Louise Lawler. Right: Architect Frank Gehry with dealer Larry Gagosian. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Dealer Nicole Klagsbrun. Right: Dealer Lisa Spellman with Stavros Merjos.

Left: Collector Liz Swig. Right: Dealer Maureen Paley and artist Gillian Wearing.

Left: Party promoter Suzanne Bartsch with artist Paula Grief. Right: Artists Space director Stefan Kalmar.

Left: Artist John Chamberlain. Right: Dealer Jose Freire with artist Ryan McGinley.

Left: Artists Liam Gillick and Sean Landers with art critic Andrea Scott. Right: Singer Jenni Muldaur and artist Cindy Sherman.

Left: Artist Aaron Young. Right: Dealer Mary Boone and artist David Salle.

Left: Dealers Friedrich Petzel and Tanya Bonakdar. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Artist Josh Smith.

Left: Artists Rob Pruitt and Roe Ethridge. Right: Writers Joan Juliet Buck and Salman Rushdie.

Left: Dealer Stefania Bortolami (right). Right: Michael Stipe and artist Thomas Dozol.

Left: SF MoMA senior curator Gary Garrels with artist Vija Celmins. Right: Artist Jasper Johns.