It’s not a terrorist attack we need to prepare for, it’s a weather event (an art-market cataclysm seems not to be in the offing). For proof, I offer last Thursday, officially the first day of winter in New York and the day I noticed the tulips coming up in my garden. They came up early last year, too, but that was February. Life is so speedy now! So corrupted by pleasure. Take the nights before Christmas: I loved them all.
I loved seeing Jack Pierson at his Printed Matter book signing on Thursday night, pretending to be superficial in a natty Prada suit while exuding complete sincerity to fans, including actress Lili Taylor, novelist Nick Flynn, and artist Mary Heilmann. “It’s really Richard Marshall’s book,” the ever-modest Pierson said of his handsome blue-linen tome. (Marshall wrote the text; Rizzoli published it.) I loved that. I also loved the book's absence of a dust cover. Pierson’s signature cigarette stub is embossed in gold on the back—a nice touch. He was spending the holidays in Rio. “It’s summer in Brazil, you know,” he said. “Funny,” I replied. “Here, too.”
I loved the Mylar runners that Daniel Reich and Milwaukee artist Scott Reeder had placed on the floor of Reich’s shoebox gallery as holiday decor, and the Mylar chuppah above the bar. They also put a mirrored disco ball near the ceiling and strings of soft white Christmas bulbs around the floor’s perimeter, leading to a tinselly fake tree. Reeder’s modest new painting, Money in Bed, got me with its title alone. It’s more abstract, and a lot less obvious, than American Dick, the image of an American-flag erection. In reproduction, actually, that flag made a nifty holiday postcard.
Reeder helped organize Milwaukee’s first international art fair this year with his brother, Tyson. Both turned up later at Heather’s Bar on East Thirteenth Street, which was packed with revelers who came to celebrate the birthdays of artist Anne Collier (thirty-six) and Nicole Klagsbrun gallery director Carolyn Ramo (twenty-seven). I was surprised to see so many people still in town. New York is supposed to empty out during the holidays—part of the reason I love it at Christmas. Everyone seemed to like the bar. “This DJ is fabulous,” said Matthew Higgs, Collier’s other half, starting his vacation from the nonprofit White Columns after a profitable run at the big bucks at NADA in Miami. “We made seventy-five thousand dollars,” he boasted, far less than what most dealers at Art Basel Miami Beach pay just to attend. “It was a lot for us,” he said, “but the best part was that forty-five thousand went to the artists, all young people no one had seen before. And it was fun,” he added. “That’s why I’m in the art world, you know. For the fun.”
Collier was having fun, too, though she hadn’t actually wanted to call attention to her birthday. Why pick a public place for it then? “I didn’t want to have to see all the same people,” she replied. Then why did everyone seem to know everyone else? Or were they just making very fast friends? I met Christian Jankowski just as some stranger came over to compliment him on his recent show at the Kitchen. “At the opening, we lost a third of the audience,” Jankowski reported. “Too much gore.” Even though it was fake? “They were trustees, or something,” he said.
The birthday bash turned out to be the East Village funk version of Cindy Sherman’s annual Christmas party, held this year on Friday night. This was an extremely posh and sophisticated affair that was about as close to the grand salons of yesteryear as I’ve experienced—artists, writers, actors, dancers, musicians, and children, all in extraordinarily good moods. It felt like the party scene in All About Eve, minus the viciousness. This party is the real reason I love being in town at holiday time. It didn’t happen last year, because Sherman’s new duplex penthouse, which has views all around, wasn’t built yet. “I guess this is the official housewarming,” she said, clearly loving it. (Who wouldn’t?) “Take a look around.”
The place has an open kitchen in the center of the top floor, where a sushi chef was preparing finger food. Downstairs, in the studio, there were tables laden with more to eat. I loved the Christmas tree—a teepee of tripods strung with white Christmas lights and handmade ornaments. “I don’t know about the bedroom,” actress Alexandra Auder said, sounding very much like her mother, onetime Warhol superstar Viva. “If I were a guy who wanted to do Cindy, my dick would go soft the minute I went in that room.” (I take that back about the viciousness.)
Curious, I tiptoed inside with Peter Schjeldahl and his wife, Brooke Alderson, who, in her past life as an actress, nearly stole the show as John Travolta’s aunt in Urban Cowboy. “It’s maybe a little too much Scandinavian hotel room,” offered art conservator Lisa Rosen, bringing up the rear. “I never care where I am,” Schjeldahl said, peering at the artworks in the room. (Sherman has clearly traded actively with her peers.) “It’s the company that counts.”
Be that as it may, we all loved the walk-in closet, not because it was bigger than many apartments (well, mine), but because its contents were so color-coded and uncluttered. Personally, I love it when a female artist can afford to live as large as a male. I also love a party that can accommodate both Lisa Yuskavage and Jerry Saltz, where dancer Stephen Petronio can explore with the likes of Parker Posey, Robert Longo, Laurie Simmons, and Yvonne Force Villareal. But I had to leave to get to the closing-night performance of The Fortune Teller, a marionette show by Skeleton Key (and former Lounge Lizard) bass player Eric Sanko limning the seven deadly sins in goth splendor. That’s why I missed Louise Lawler’s arrest, when she left the Sherman party and was caught in some sort of police dragnet on the way to Brooklyn. Remember when to be an artist was to be an outlaw, instead of a brand? Still, I hate it when the good guys get arrested. Then again, what good is a holiday if you can’t get caught having fun?