THURSDAY, MAY 4TH. The calendar is daunting—and impressive. Frieze New York is underway, the contemporary auctions are just ahead, and tonight, with so many visiting collectors and curators around, more than fifteen galleries in Manhattan are opening new shows, with dinners to follow. Creative Time is holding its annual benefit gala at Roseland. Artists Space is hosting a party at SubMercer, as it is every night for the run of Frieze. The New York art world is a horn of plenty and the whole town is digging in.
Rachel Harrison is heading toward Greene Naftali. It’s still early, only a few people around, better to see the rough, color-drenched totems on view. “It’s all about greatness and suffering,” she says, tying up the evening in one neat bow. Back on the street, steady streams of art people—there’s Jacqueline Humphries! Stuart Comer, in from London! Vincent and Shelly Fremont!—are making the sidewalks of Chelsea nearly impassable.
At Gladstone Gallery, the artist—Anish Kapoor—is not yet present, for his first show in New York in four years, but his heaping new sculptures at the West Twenty-fourth Street space call plenty of attention to themselves. None are smooth or shiny. They’re entropic concrete pillars encrusted with tangled masses of what look like shells, penile forms, and entrails that have been pushed out of a pastry bag, fossils of indeterminate age.
A few steps down Twenty-fourth Street, at Matthew Marks, Gary Hume’s “Anxiety and the Horse” paintings are magnificent distillations of current events in poured enamel. Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides is at Marks on West Twenty-second, where his friend Thomas Demand is showing a captivating stop-motion film. In it, the furnishings of an ocean liner’s café slide and tumble as if they were extras from the Poseidon Adventure. There’s a line outside Gagosian on West Twenty-first, people pushing past the guards to get inside, where architect David Adjaye has constructed curving walls and pointed niches for the display of Richard Avedon’s mural photographs and contact sheets. Several walls are bare. It wasn’t easy for this gallery to leave blank white space between the works, he says. The place is so crowded no one can see them anyway.
On Washington Square, in art consultant Mark Fletcher’s homey new viewing space, Helmut Lang is introducing a group of phallic rubber sculptures. A little further downtown, the inimitable Sturtevant is holding court at Gavin Brown, surrounded by appreciative artists (Alex Katz, Pablo Bronstein, Spencer Sweeney, Elizabeth Peyton), dealers (Nicky Verber, Marc Foxx, Niklas Svennung, Toby Webster), and curators (Beatrix Ruf, Daniel Baumann) from hither and yon.
At Gavin’s, dinner is served upstairs, while Fletcher welcomes guests to his soiree for Lang in the penthouse of the Paul Rudolph–designed house on Beekman Place. But there’s room for (nearly) everyone in this art world, and Marks has taken many—Jay Jopling, Terry Winters, A. M. Homes, Mirabelle Marden, Sarah Thornton, Jessica Silverman, Suzanne Cotter, Tacita Dean, and Rudolf Stingel, among a hundred or so others—to his communal dinner for Hume and Demand at Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria. There’s more than anyone can possibly eat.
At midnight, the dance floor at Roseland is emptying of survivors from Creative Time’s dance marathon, Karl Holmqvist is in the throes of his spoken-word performance at Alex Zachary Peter Currie, and the most underground party of all, in the cellar at SubMercer, is starting up for any nonclaustrophobes who want to burrow down for the night with Princess Julia.
Before anyone can turn a head, Saturday is upon us. This is Kehinde Wiley’s day to debut at Sean Kelly, where a documentary film crew is attending his every word and move. Models for his new paintings—of black women this time, not men—whom he plucked from the street to dress in Riccardo Tisci couture and pose in the manner of a Gainsborough, Sargent, or David, are milling in the crowd. It’s easy to see why they were attractive to Wiley. One, named Treisha, has an insouciant smile and patches of multihued hair forming a floral pattern on the shaved side of her dyed-blonde head.
On West Twenty-fifth Street, the Pace Gallery has erected a tent outside the door, where a bartender is serving drinks and cleverly giving visitors to Loris Gréaud’s theatrical debut with the gallery unobstructed views of his heavy-breathing movie set of an installation. “It’s about an unveiling,” says Gréaud, whose face lights up when Centre Pompidou president Alain Seban walks up to give him a manly hug.
Fran Lebowitz is at the door of Mary Boone’s gallery, where Francesco Clemente holds court—one of the several Italians (Fontana, Penone, Calzolari, Gnoli, et al.) with shows in New York just now. David Salle is there, while artist Luca Buvoli is squiring Laura Cherubini and Mila Dau. “The Italians,” says Dau. “We used to be great. Now we’re back!”
So is Tauba Auerbach, in her first show with Paula Cooper, happy to have found so elegant a home for her new woven fabric wall works and trompe l’oeil “Fold” paintings. There’s only one artwork on the walls of Artists Space Books and Talks, a recent lighted sculpture by Suicide’s Alan Vega, the artist and musician whom the forty-year-old nonprofit is honoring at its Annual Friends of Artists Space Dinner. The artists among the 180 guests—T. J. Wilcox, Tony Oursler, Liam Gillick, Sarah Morris, Jutta Koether, Hume, Holmqvist—are outnumbered by the Friends, patrons who contribute, board president Allan Schwartzman says during a cocktail-hour speech, 25 percent of the gallery’s funds. “We’re happy to have a dinner to give you and not an event to charge you,” he says, and the crowd troops to its tables for food prepared by Fergus and Margot Henderson, of St. John in London.
Luckily, my dinner partners include art historian Irving Sandler, who came up with the idea for Artists Space, after asking a bunch of artists what they needed most. “A gallery,” they said. After persuading the New York State Council on the Arts to support it, Artists Space was born. The early programs consisted of those with going careers proposing shows by younger talents. That was before Helene Winer took over as director, transforming the gallery into one of the most vital exhibition and performance spaces downtown and giving birth to the so-called Pictures generation.
Sandler goes back a long time. “In 1952,” he says, “this room would have been the whole art world.” “It still is!” a nearby curator quips. Before this repartee can continue, Emily Sundblad appears at the mic to give a full-throated performance of two obscure ballads that enthrall everyone. Then it’s Diego Cortez’s turn to toast Vega, only he propels musician Arto Lindsay forward to read his speech instead. “Artists became artists because they’re bad at everything else,” he begins, characterizing Vega’s music as “a microphone smashed against your head.” A standing ovation for the silent, red-bespectacled Vega follows, with an emotional, impromptu testimonial by Kim Gordon. “After seeing Suicide,” the Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist says, “I was scarred for life.”
Sunday dawns, none the worse for wear. At Salon 94, new terrariums by Paula Hayes are on show for a book signing and brunch that precedes the Karen Kilimnik exhibition at collector Peter Brant’s foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut. Here, it is clear that the art world has far expanded its 1952 borders. The barn and the lawn swarm with artists, collectors, and dealers invited to lunch beneath an enormous tent erected beside Brant’s polo field. One of Urs Fischer’s monumental lumpen “torsos” stands tall on the grounds, Jeff Koons’s melancholy flowering Puppy just beyond.
The minions return to Manhattan just in time for the opening of the New Museum’s pack of spring shows, all by women: Klara Liden, Phyllida Barlow, Tacita Dean, Nathalie Djurberg, Ellen Altfest, and Stanya Kahn. “I’ve been around too long and seen too much,” says Peter Schjeldahl, before being swallowed up in a crowd still hungry for the art on view.
“This is a turning point for women,” New Museum director Lisa Phillips tells everyone seated for the Burberry- and W magazine–sponsored dinner at the Bowery Hotel, the closing event of an art-addled week. But it isn’t really over. From the way it looks now, it will never end. The auctions are here. There are more shows opening, more dinners to attend. Documenta is on the near horizon. The Hong Kong and Basel art fairs are nipping at our heels. And art will live long after the rest of us have gone to bed.