Moon Lighting

Linda Yablonsky at Joan Jonas’s 80th birthday party

Left: Artist Joan Jonas. Right: Artists Zoe Leonard and Charline von Heyl. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

NEVER TAKE TOO LIGHTLY the effects of a full moon.

Last Friday’s lunar action brought a week of art-world milestones to New York. On Tuesday, Zoe Leonard debuted with Hauser & Wirth. Before the eyes of compatriots like Charline von Heyl and Nancy Shaver, she turned the East Sixty-Ninth Street townhouse into a manifesto on photographic image control to defy the age of the photo bomb. And at the Museum of Modern Art, impatient and entitled people who never do lines dutifully queued up for entrance to Kai Althoff’s encampment of a show, “Leave me to the common swifts.”

Because guards let only a few people at a time pass into the white-tented space, it felt as if only a few people were there, definitely a welcome experience at this usually overcrowded, sanitizing institution. In fact, it didn’t feel like MoMA at all but your grandmother’s attic, where the only crowd was art—over two hundred pieces, including trash, mannequins, and paintings. The artist, who had somehow persuaded the museum to give him curatorial and design control of both show and catalogue, was not present.

MoMA curator Laura Hoptman, relegated to “organizer” of the exhibition, took up a central position to greet MoMA board chair Jerry Speyer, collectors Dakis and Lietta Joannou, and a disproportionately large number of artists, some of them quite perplexed. Jack Pierson and Rachel Harrison may have seen references to their own work in Althoff’s theater of curiosities. Fashion designer Victoria Bartlett, whose tent is one of the show’s more brilliant strokes, was clearly thrilled with it. Tomma Abts was moved to tears. Said MoMA chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin, “A guard just told me that the show made her think of a casket.”

Trust museum guards for valuable insights. They spend more time than anyone with everything, and know all.

Left: Artist Ryan Gander with dealer Rebecca May Marston. Right: Artist Cory Arcangel and dealer Alex Logsdail.

Wednesday brought Oscar Murillo back to David Zwirner with another huge installation, “Through Patches of Wheat and Corn,” spread over three spaces in the gallery. Wolfgang Tillmans, still kvelling over the triumph of his performance as front man of Fragile, his new band, at Union Pool the previous night, kept to an office. Dealer Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal, who brought the Colombian-born artist into the Zwirner fold, looked after his charge. His colleague David Lieber escorted tennis legend (and collector) John McEnroe and his rock star wife, Patty Smyth, into a room pungent with the smell of fresh paint, where uneven lengths of black canvases hung like drying laundry or were folded in stacks between makeshift iron beds. “I can’t honestly say I understand where this is going,” McEnroe said.

Other guests of the gallery, including collectors Poju and Anita Zabludowicz, went to Frankies Spuntino in the West Village for a buffet dinner that featured a birthday cake for Yutaka Sone, who would collaborate with Murillo in performances over the weekend in Printed Matter’s Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1. “Monica,” said Zwirner in his toast, referring to his accessories designer wife, “compared Oscar’s installation to a refugee camp, a powerful metaphor for our times. But when Oscar makes a show, he’s not kidding around.” As if on cue, Sone started doing just that, breaking into song while Murillo tried and failed to wrestle him into silence. No matter. Sone was at least as compelling a singer as Tillmans. Is Zwirner, who was in the music business before he started a gallery, edging back in?

Exhibitions open with such speed and in such great number that by Thursday one had to empty the mind to receive the slew of openings to Chelsea. Michal Rovner packed them in for “Night,” at Pace on West Twenty-Fifth, where it was only possible to see the glowing eyes of what looked like a roving coyote, the figure appearing in moving and still pictures. At Metro Pictures, a very pregnant Sara VanDerBeek took inspiration from Anni Albers for rich, monochromatic photographs and cement sculptures. At Andrew Kreps, Anne Collier, Massimiliano Gioni, and Sarah McCrory paid respects to sculptures by Goshka Macuga that impaled the color-soaked heads of great thinkers, mathematicians, artists, and spiritualists of the past on steel poles. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, assemblages that Jessica Stockholder made from painted, found materials showed once again why hundreds have wanted to be an artist like her. And at Lisson Gallery, the droll British conceptualist Ryan Gander made his first New York solo show in nearly a decade with a minefield of new sculptures.

Left: Art historian Douglas Crimp. Right: Artists Anders Clausen and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Among them were gilded mirrors cloaked by concrete resin drapes, fly-on-the-wall eyes that followed visitors around the room, Anthony Gormley–like sculptures of hinged metal plates, and a conveyor belt that carried sixty-six objects (hard hats, handbags, etc.) past a viewing window. “I even made some of them myself,” Gander quipped during dinner at Little Park, the restaurant in TriBeCa’s Smyth Hotel. “Can you imagine?” He also wrote the sixty-six texts in the accompanying catalogue. “Putting things into words is so hard,” he said. (Tell me about it.) “There’s a lot of hidden, quiet pain in Ryan’s show,” dealer Alex Logsdail told the diners, who included gallery artists Joyce Pensato, Stanley Whitney, and Cory Arcangel as well as Milena Muzquiz and Gander’s (honestly) new best friend, Camille Henrot. Added gallery founder Nicholas Logsdail, “Ryan makes magic without a wand.”

The magical-mystical theme continued on Friday, when the full moon rose high over SoHo and went into partial eclipse. That combination of cosmic events was the reason Joan Jonas picked September 15 to mark her eightieth birthday, which was actually in July. The performance and video art pioneer brought two Celtic musicians from Nova Scotia, where she has vacationed every summer for decades, to play the spoons and the fiddle for guests entering BBDW, a fantasy-rich home decor shop that looked more like a movie set. “I was expecting an old-time SoHo loft party,” remarked curator Clarissa Dalrymple, glancing around at the stuffed bear, the ceramics, the tasteful chandeliers, candles, and throws. “In a way,” she reflected, “I guess this is.”

Was it ever. Hosted by Gavin Brown and organized by dealer Emily Bates and attorney Sekeena Gavagan (Jonas’s next-door neighbor), friends from all corners of Jonas’s life came to toast her with song and dance. And though the music, by Tony DeMarco (fiddle) and Niall O’Leary (spoons and piano) was lively, and the songs given full throat by frequent Jonas collaborators Kate Fenner and Alicia Hall Moran as well as a recent student, Allison Hamilton, none performed with more verve and spirit than the indefatigable Jonas herself.

Left: New Museum curator-at-large Richard Flood and MoMA associate director Kathy Halbreich. Right: Artist Pat Steir and singer Alicia Hall Moran.

“The power of art and expression is one of the most positive things in the world,” she said, before reading a birthday poem by her oldest friend, Susan Howe. With that, she suddenly picked up a bouquet and a painted fan and improvised a wild spinning, turning, and bending solo dance that dropped the jaws of a crowd of high-achievers that included artists Pat Steir, Lorna Simpson, the sisters Kiki and Seton Smith, Marina Abramović, Anthony McCall, John Miller, and Aura Rosenberg, MIT’s List Visual Arts Center director Paul Ha, art historian Douglas Crimp, MoMA curator Stuart Comer, writer Lynne Tillman, dealer Begum Yasar, composer Jason Moran, and Brown. No sooner did Jonas take a bow than she pulled everyone, including her musician brother, into a jig of a circle dance. Clearly, octogenarians have—no, are—the most fun.

As artist and writer Walter Robinson concluded, at a dinner on Saturday that followed the opening of his equally joyous, Barry Blinderman–curated retrospective of paintings at Jeffrey Deitch’s reopened space on Wooster Street, “It all went according to plan.”

Left: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch with economist and author Dambisa Moyo. Right: Artist Marina Abramović.

Left: Artist Goshka Macuga. Right: Artist Duncan Hannah and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

Left: Artist Jesse Wines and Glasgow International director Sarah McCrory. Right: Artist Joyce Pensato.

Left: Artist Yutaka Sone. Right: Artists Mandy El-Sayegh and Oscar Murillo with collectors Pujo and Anita Zabludowicz.

Left: Artist Rob Wynne and curator Clarissa Dalrymple. Right: Artist Sara VanDerBeek.

Left: Dealer Nicholas Logsdail. Right: Dealer David Lieber, John McEnroe, Patty Smyth, and stylist Robert Molnar.

Left: Photographer and collector Hugo Rittson-Thomas with artist Stanley Whitney and his son, Will Whitney. Right: SculptureCenter director Mary Ceruti.

Left: Architect Markus Dochantschi. Right: Christie’s postwar and contemporary art specialist Sara Friedlander.

Left: Artist Joana Avillez and dealer Begum Yasar. Right: Writer Glenn O'Brien and publicist Gina Nanni.

Left: Artist Justin Beal and dealer Jane Hait with High Line Art director Cecilia Alemani and New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni. Right: MoMA PS1 founder Alanna Heiss, Fred Sherman, Juno Adams, and art critic Brooks Adams.

Left: Artist Philip-Lorca DiCorcia and dealer Hanna Schouwink. Right: Artists Zoe Leonard and Nancy Shaver.

Left: Artist Walter Robinson. Right: Artist Camille Henrot.

Left: Artists James Nares and Elliott Puckette. Right: Artist Chloe Piene and theorist Warren Niesluchowski.

Left: Collector Maurizio Morra Greco and Museo MADRE director Andrea Villani. Right: Collectors Lietta Joannou and Dakis Joannou.

Left: Dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Dealer Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal.

Left: Dealer Nicole Russo. Right: Dealer Brian Butler.

Left: Dealers Thilo Wermke and Alexander Schroeder. Right: Artists Gwen Thomas and Mary Heilmann.

Left: Filmmaker Tessa Hughes-Freeland and critic-curator Carlo McCormick. Right: Artists Peter Halley and Jessica Stockholder with dealer Lucy Mitchell-Innes.

Left: Photographer Marcia Resnick, Sandra Schulman, psychotherapist and author Suzanne Mallouk, and filmmaker Sara Driver. Right: Artist Milena Muzquiz and curator-collector Silka Rittson-Thomas.

Left: The Shed director Alex Poots. Right: Art 21 director Tina Kukielski.