Red Planet

Linda Yablonsky at an opening for John Currin and Performa’s Red Party

Left: Artist John Currin with Uma Thurman. Right: The Red Party. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

WHENEVER THE CONTEMPORARY AUCTIONS draw nigh, New York galleries greet the influx of collectors as if it were the Second Coming. Yet, to borrow from Yeats, it wasn’t anarchy that was loosed upon the world last weekend. Instead it was Larry Gagosian, who announced the addition of his tenth gallery, in Geneva, and led the smoothly coiffed slouching beast with a triple-headed monster of shows for Rauschenberg, Currin, and Kiefer.

Meanwhile, the competition offered the art pack many other ceremonies in which to drown. On Thursday night, its choices included not just new shows by Anthony Caro, Erwin Wurm, Alexis Rockman, Tomás Saraceno, and Agnes Denes, among others, but the openings of both the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 and the Editions|Artists’ Book Fair in the old Dia space in Chelsea, as well as the annual benefit gala for Dia itself.

The last event was in the nosebleed regions of northern Manhattan, where Koo Jeong-A’s Constellation Congress was debuting in Dia’s endlessly temporary home at the Hispanic Society of America. I opted for the Gagosian homestead on Madison Avenue, where John Currin unfurled neo-Mannerist portraits that are all about dewy fleshpots and lingerie with figures so perversely voluptuous he had to foreshorten limbs, breasts, hands, and feet to fit them onto each canvas. One pictured two men at a tailoring whose most attention-getting attributes were their knees and socks.

Left: Dealer Larry Gagosian. Right: Marc Jacobs.

“Boring, boring, boring!” joked Uma Thurman. “I don’t know why I bothered.” Currin looked both proud and sheepish. “Does he know it’s a good show?” someone asked his wife, Rachel Feinstein. “Yeah,” she said. “He knows.”

So did everyone else, or at least everyone invited to the dinner Gagosian hosted at the Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges, where Eli and Edythe Broad, Pauline Karpidas, Helen Marden, and Marc Jacobs were among the pals at the head table. Though it sometimes seems that writers do not count for much in the art world, the other guests included a contingent of scribes such as Tom Wolfe, Peter Schjeldahl, James Frey, Deborah Solomon, Calvin Tomkins, Dodie Kazanjian, Michiko Kakutani, and Steve Martin, whose new art-world novel, An Object of Beauty, features Gagosian and other recognizable figures that make it seem more than fiction. “Why is Tom Wolfe here?” wondered Jim Currin, the artist’s natty physicist father. “I want to meet him!” (He did.)

If Currin and Feinstein are sympathetic to writers, they are also friends of fashion, and Jacobs was not its only representative present. Gagosian curator Louise Neri presided over a table where Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati, Vogue’s Eve MacSweeney, and W Magazine editor Stefano Tonchi all got to hobnob as if they hardly ever saw one another. John McEnroe, Tico Mugrabi, Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer, and eighty-years-young Irving Blum filled out the room, but for the most part the celebrities were artists, and there were many: Liam Gillick, Tony Oursler and Jacqueline Humphries, Cecily Brown, Richard Phillips, Sean Landers, George Condo, David Salle, Lisa Yuskavage and Matvey Levenstein, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Leo Villareal and his very pregnant wife, the Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force. “Hello, you reality-TV whores,” Yuskavage greeted Phillips and Bill Powers, who was with his wife, the designer Cynthia Rowley. “You have really raised the bar on what can be said about art on the tube.” Amen.

As for Gagosian, when I commented on the new space in Geneva, the jovial dealer said, “Yeah, it’s crazy. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing anymore.” Right.

Left: Dealers Barbara Gladstone and Sadie Coles. Right: Tom Wolfe.

Power does have its rewards. But New York does not slow down for them. Friday night’s openings for Hiroshi Sugimoto at Pace, Matthew Monahan at Anton Kern, and Monica Sosnowska at Hauser & Wirth were like the calm before the perfect storm to come. Sosnowska outdid herself with steel sculptures of “collapsed” stairwells, and her dinner at Persephone brought her dealers from Warsaw, Mexico City, Glasgow, and London as well as collector Jill Kraus, for whom the artist is embarking on a new outdoor commission that will rest in a forest amid the trees.

There was no rest for anything on adrenaline-infused Saturday, when enormous crowds streamed into MoMA PS1 for day two of Printed Matter’s fifth art-book fair, which expanded this year to take up the whole building. It was thrilling to see so many people not just thumbing through thousands of books and zines but actually buying them. Clearly all those dimwits who want to chase the printed word into cyberspace are not paying attention to the human need for personal objects that complement their intelligence and warm their hearts.

Saturday was also the day Lea Freid and Jane Lombard chose to open their new gallery on West Nineteenth Street, with a show by William Earl Kofmehl III, who spent the entire evening banging the walls inside a massive wooden squirrel. His exhibition, which included many other squirrel references and 150 embroidered text paintings, was inspired by the 1984 subway vigilante and obsessive squirrel keeper Bernhard Goetz, who insisted that corn-fed squirrels make the best pets.

Left: Artists John Giorno and Ugo Rondinone. Right: Writer James Frey.

Across the street at David Zwirner, the dour Luc Tuymans, who probably never touches corn, stood by while most of the crowd present gravitated from his humorless paintings to Raymond Pettibon’s more colorful, witty, and aggressive drawings splayed across the walls. At Murray Guy, Matthew Buckingham had two new film installations riffing on the painted portrait, particularly one Velázquez made back in 1659 and another, a self-portrait by Caterina van Hemessen, painted in 1548. Obviously the madness of the moment has been going on a long time.

It continued at Barbara Gladstone’s Twenty-first Street gallery, where Ugo Rondinone debuted seven seated, life-size earth-and-wax figures that he collectively titled nude, though they were actually dressed––in lingerie––and that brought a strange intimacy to the empty space between. There was no room to move at Gagosian on Twenty-fourth Street, however, where Anselm Kiefer was making his first New York appearance in eight years with an overwhelming and theatrical presentation of burden-of-history paintings, heil-Hitler photographs on lead, and soaring glass vitrines containing sculpture, one of which Donald Baechler anointed as “Franz West minus the humor.” Izhar Patkin compared the installation to the elevating chaos of stone gods and emperors in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, an apt allusion. But the glass cases weren’t easy to see through a posh crowd freighted with Europeans and wide-eyed students lining up to get their catalogues signed by the artist. “I can’t do this anymore,” the inundated Keifer told dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, declining to autograph another heavy book. It had taken him all of a single year, he said, to produce the work in a show that “redefines ambition,” according to Mark Kostabi, who might know a thing or two about that. The seventy-six photographs, which Kiefer discovered stowed in one of the fifty-two buildings on his French estate, hang on their lead curtains in narrow rows inside large black steel containers, only partly visible through open doors.

Left: Artists Wangechi Mutu and Shirin Neshat. Right: W editor Stefano Tonchi with designer Stefano Pilati.

More exposed was the artist, who appeared in a head-wagging New York Times piece as the man who had escorted a naked and drunk Courtney Love to her hotel room the week before. But before that little tidbit came to light (in the following morning’s Sunday Styles section), there was the Red Party, the Russian Constructivist–themed benefit for Performa, for which two hundred guests at the borscht family-style dinner gamely showed up wearing bright commie red and knocked back the house drink, vodka laced with pomegranate juice. They included actual Russians, namely Maria Baibakova, who brought her mother and Payam Sharifi, her artist boyfriend, and scored a vintage 1976 dress from Yves Saint Laurent’s Russian collection, while Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg presided in a cloud of red whipped up two days earlier by Kai Kuhne. The actor Alan Cumming acted as emcee for the evening, during which the honoree, Shirin Neshat, complimented Goldberg for encouraging artists like herself to take new risks, not the least of which were with their clothes.

This was not the fantastic DIY dinner that Jennifer Rubell had designed for Performa last year—BITE did the honors this time—but Rubell did supply an inspired dessert in the form of a padded room outfitted floor-to-ceiling with bricks of spun cotton candy. Barbara Sukowa and her son, Viktor Longo, were also on the bill, but the most captivating act was Chica Vas, an all-girl drum band from Brooklyn who rocked out during the silent auction and got the crowd on its red-shod feet. On a postelection weekend when things for Democrats were threatening to fall apart, here in the red-hot art world, the center held fast to gold.

Left: Artists Mark Kostabi and Brice Marden. Right: Artist Jennifer Rubell with Alan Cumming.

Left: Architect Charles Renfro with dealer Rose Lord. Right: Dealer Thaddaeus Ropac with artist Anselm Kiefer.

Left: Tracey Ryans with artist Sanford Biggers. Right: Dealers Jay Jopling and Lorcan O'Neill (back) with artists Lisa Yuskavage and Matvey Levenstein (front).

Left: Collectors Eli and Edythe Broad. Right: Artist Erwin Wurm.

Left: Artist Cindy Sherman and collector Amy Guttman. Right: Dealer Lea Freid and Bernhard Goetz.

Left: Sotheby's Tobias Meyer and artist Vinoodh Matadin. Right: Dodie Kazanjian and Calvin Tomkins.

Left: Furniture designer Dakota Jackson and Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg. Right: Artists Luc Tuymans and Peter Doig.

Left: Artist George Condo. Right: Tatiana Broushlinsky, Payam Sharifi of Slavs and Tatars, and Maria Baibakova.

Left: Half Gallery cofounder Bill Powers. Right: Artist Monica Sosnowska.

Left: Artist Nate Lowman and dealer Michele Maccarone. Right: Artists Hanna Liden and Dan Colen.

Left: Fondation Beyeler director Samuel Keller, Valentina Castellani, and curator Germano Celant. Right: Collectors John McEnroe and Patty Smyth.