Diary

Pride of Place

Left: MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey and dealer Gavin Brown. Right: Michelle Kounellis, dealer Mario Diacono, artist Jannis Kounellis, and dealer Hilario Galguera. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

LAST WEEK—Pride Week in the nation—brought milestones to the New York art world too. The first came on Tuesday, when the New Museum unveiled a scintillating sampler of the late Sarah Charlesworth’s dazzling photographs of perfection. The exhibition was every bit as beautiful and bracing as the so-called Pictures Generation artist was in life. For those of us who saw her through many subjects and over the bumpy roads of love, her first museum show in New York was, as Cindy Sherman put it, bittersweet.

“It’s hard to know whether to feel good about this or cry,” said New Museum director Lisa Phillips of the posthumous tribute. People coming to the work in “Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld” for the first time aren’t the only ones to see something very few others have seen before: “Stills,” Charlesworth’s pioneering venture into large-format prints.

Left: The Contemporary Austin director Louis Grachos and New Museum director Lisa Phillips. Right: Filmmaker Amos Poe and Lucy Poe.

Reshot and reformatted black-and-white newsprint pictures of unidentified people falling from buildings or jumping for joy—who can say for sure?—the images are every bit as discomfiting and dramatic as they were in 1980, when she showed seven of fourteen in Tony Shafrazi’s first gallery, actually his apartment. She didn’t let them out for air again until curator Matthew Witkovsky offered to show them last year at the Art Institute of Chicago and she finally printed the complete set. Then she died. And now they’re here, looking historic.

Peter Brant seemed to think so, when he was tête-à-tête-ing at the opening with dealer Michele Maccarone. Liz Deschenes and Sara VanDerBeek, younger colleagues and admirers of the artist, toured the enveloping installation by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton—as did James Welling, Charlesworth’s colleague at Princeton. It was intimate. Emotional. And good.

The evening, which included an appropriately family-style dinner at Cata with Charlesworth’s grown children, Nick Poe and Lucy Poe, in the house with their father, filmmaker Amos Poe. And Shafrazi showed too, even though he’s in need of a new home.

Another signal event arrived on Wednesday with the opening of Zoe Leonard’s “Analogue” at the Museum of Modern Art. Somehow curator Roxana Marcoci persuaded the museum to let her have the atrium for the show—the first time photographs have ever appeared in that yawning space. Leonard put together twenty-five distinct grids of this exquisite series, small-format color pictures documenting the disappearance of tailor, shoe, tie and other unadorned artisanal shops that lined the broader avenues of the Lower East Side before the likes of Aby Rosen came along.

Left: Dealer Barbara Gladstone. Right: Artist Zoe Leonard, MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci, and dealer Gisela Capitain.

“There are no people in these pictures,” Leonard said, “and I love the way we populate them.” She must have been talking about Gisela Capitain, who was first to show Leonard in a commercial gallery, in 1989. Or Marc Payot and Timo Kappeller, from her new crew at Hauser & Wirth, and the curators who came from other institutions like LA MoCA’s Bennett Simpson and the Whitney’s Elisabeth Sussman. Personally, I love how that massive space doesn’t swallow them up but forces you to look closely at each lonesome image. There’s no way to walk in and “get” it at one go. It feels almost luxurious to have to concentrate.

Intimate thinking seems to be in vogue this summer. The display of small-scale objects continued at Cheim & Read, where the fashionable flock attending grew so dense that it was nigh impossible to see Jack Pierson’s new gestural abstractions. They are a radical departure for a man best known for making poetry of damaged marquee letters and photographs of voluptuary people and places.

Kerry James Marshall also turned a new trick, so to speak, with a return to gigantism in his first public artwork for New York City—an immense mural on the High Line at West Twenty-Second Street. Painted in comic-book style by many hands (though not Marshall’s—too big), it imagines rooftop water tanks as the only places left in Manhattan that haven’t been developed as luxury condos. It’s fantastic. You can’t miss it—it’s really, really large.

Left: National Gallery curator James Meyer and artist Kerry James Marshall. Right: Artists Mary Heilmann and Jack Pierson.

Magnificence seemed right for the man who will be the first living artist to solo in the Met Breuer, the Whitney’s old home on Madison Avenue, when the Metropolitan Museum opens its sweeping, two-floor survey of Marshall’s painting in October. “He’s picking from the Met’s collection too,” curator Ian Alteveer said during dinner at the Hotel Americano. He wasn’t talking about paintings by Marshall. The Met doesn’t own any. At least, not yet.

Maybe the show will include Ingres’s Odalisque in Grisaille, the subject of Marshall’s recent contribution to “The Artist Project,” the Met’s online series of videos where artists perform Sister Wendy–style acts on select works in the museum.

After a toast by High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani, Marshall high-signed the several curators in the room, like Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of MCA Chicago, where his retrospective will open first, but also the National Gallery’s James Meyer and MoMA’s Laura Hoptman. He took special care to single out Arnold Mesches, Marshall’s teacher at Otis back when. “And,” Marshall said, “he’s ninety-one and he still paints every day!” At that, Mesches smiled and said, “Every time Kerry James gives a speech he mentions me.”

Group shows began their summer residencies on Thursday with “By the Book” at Sean Kelly Gallery, where the dealer devoted his upstairs galleries to the influence of the written word on art. Hatje Cantz provided a pop-up bookstore and Peter Liversidge, one of thirty artists in the show, contributed a pop-up bar where the parched could help themselves to free gin—and free artworks. (Each of the two hundred drinking glasses were uniquely etched by the artist.) Unless the gin refers to certain writers who famously imbibed it for inspiration, I’m not sure what it has to do with literature, but it ought to come in handy for staff members required to read aloud from a Raymond Carver book instead of taking lunch—another Liversidge idea. “We didn’t want the show to be boring,” Kelly said. I enjoyed it, clean and dry.

Left: Artist Michael Smith and New Museum curator Lauren Cornell. Right: Whitney Museum of American Art chief curator Scott Rothkopf.

One exception to the group strategy was “Excuse me!?! . . . I’m looking for the Fountain of Youth,” Michael Smith’s comic exhibition on Greene Naftali’s ground floor. Thank God for humor! Smith’s usually depressing subject was aging, but in his hands it was grim fun. “It doesn’t get better,” he told the very pregnant New Museum curator Lauren Cornell. She winced, but with a smile.

Things got very bouncy at Andrew Kreps, where Ruth Root reached into her treasury of shapes and patterns and made expansive new paintings of them. Nice to see an artist confident enough to be inspired by herself.

Barbara Gladstone devoted both of her Chelsea galleries to wall paintings by artists as various as Angela Bulloch, Raymond Pettibon, Michael Craig-Martin, and Wangechi Mutu, and followed the opening with her annual summer party on the West Twenty-Fourth Street gallery’s roof. It rained, a little, but not enough to dampen the spirits of Scott Rothkopf, who starts his new job next week as chief curator of the Whitney. “I already took my vacation,” he said.

Friday brought brilliant sunshine and the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage and Obamacare. While whoops could be heard across the city, there wasn’t so much as a whinny at Gavin Brown’s block-long gallery on Leroy Street, the latest to fall victim to a developer’s wrecking ball. As perhaps the most imaginative artist-dealer in town, he stayed in character by inviting the Greek-born Arte Poverist Jannis Kounellis to re-create Untitled (12 Horses), a work that debuted in Rome in 1969.

Left: Dealer Lucy Chadwick. Right: Curator Pati Hertling and artist K8 Hardy.

Over four days, the gallery was open around the clock. It had to be, because Rirkrit Tiravanija had removed a couple of doors and windows to the street, where a line formed each day. Inside, from noon to six o’clock, a dozen beautiful horses stood tethered to the walls, sleeping or munching on hay and occasionally moving their bowels. Three grooms attended them, under the satisfied gaze of Kounellis himself.

By letting in just a few viewers at any one time, so as not to spook the horses, the room remained eerily quiet and the horses unaccountably still. I couldn’t help but notice that they each slept with one hind leg bent, hoof raised in dainty fashion. Until then, I didn’t know that meant they were content. “Neither did we!” said Michelle Kounellis, translating for her husband.

“It wasn’t about putting a horse in a gallery,” he told me. “It was about the space—to draw attention to the perimeter, its proscenium, in a way.” The idea occurred to him naturally, he said. “There’s a big difference between the reality of a horse and the idea of a horse. It’s a different experience.”

Indeed it was. It wasn’t like seeing a horse in Central Park. It wasn’t like riding a horse or even being a horse. It was how we understand the world, even a world where some swaggering developer can come along and scoop up one of the best gallery spaces in town, only to tear it down and build some monstrosity with no character and no invitation to think.

Left: Artists Cyprien Gaillard and Karl Holmqvist. Right: Dealer Jose Martos and White Columns director Matthew Higgs.

Tiravanija had dug a barbecue pit in the floor outside the horse room and roasted a pig, a recapitulation of one his past performances at the gallery. Tables were set up where people could lunch. But in the profound moment when President Obama finished his eulogy for the pastor slain with eight other people by a southern bigot in South Carolina by leading six thousand mourners in “Amazing Grace,” the inevitable happened. A bunch of animal-rights people showed up and broke the peace with their shouts.

“I think they wanted us to call the police,” gallery director Lucy Chadwick said. “Like we would do that! We’ve got live horses in the gallery, an illegal pit in the floor, and we’re serving food without a license. I don’t think so!” The shouting protesters never stepped inside to see how happy the horses were. They didn’t stay long—unlike the many, many artists and curators who came out in force that evening, when Brown gave the gallery a proper sendoff with an old-school party on the tented roof.

People kept coming throughout the evening, some to dine, others to watch the all-night screening of Empire—not the Andy Warhol film but Sturtevant’s misty and hypnotic remake—and the rest to dance like mad. (When White Columns director Matthew Higgs was on the decks, it was hard not to.) There were no speeches. It wasn’t about speeches. It was about the company, this community of people who try hard to move the world toward things that matter, who see each other at openings, dinners, art fairs, performances, on the street, and still have loads to say to one another at a party like this. Stuff happens every day. There’s always something to stir the pot.

Brown’s gallery has given us a number of memorable shows, wonderful art, and dinners on that rooftop that no other gallery could match. The sunset over the river was beautiful that night. The prospect of losing it to a wrecking ball was a sad one, but this wasn’t the moment for sentiment. One has to be able to let go of the past to move ahead. Or as Brown put it, “Never look back.”

Left: Dealer Thor Shannon. Right: High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani and New Museum deputy director Massimiliano Gioni.

Left: Artist Ugo Rondinone and dealer Robbie Fitzpatrick. Right: Artist Wangechi Mutu.

Left: Dealer Sean Kelly. Right: Writer Lynne Tillman, MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, and artist Cindy Sherman.

Left: Artists Jacolby Satterwhite and Haley Melin. Right: Artist Ryan McNamara.

Left: Artist Susan Cianciolo and dealer Bridget Donahue. Right: Collectors Shelley Fox Aarons and Phil Aarons.

Left: Artist Ryan Sullivan. Right: Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, Whitney Museum deputy director for international initiatives Donna De Salvo, and MoMA curator Leah Dickerman.

Left: Artist Ruth Root. Right: Sculpture Center curator Ruba Katrib, artist Rachel Rose, and Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffman.

Left: Artists Hope Atherton and Olympia Scarry. Right: Artists Lucky DeBellevue and Rob Pruitt.

Left: Artist Fred Brathwaite and dealer Tony Shafrazi. Right: Artist Danny McDonald.

Left: Artist Donald Baechler and dealer Howard Read. Right: Dealer Danny Baez.

Left: Artist Nick Poe, New Museum curator Margot Norton, and Art Institute of Chicago curator Matthew Witkovsky. Right: Collector Nedda Young.

Left: Artist Anthony McCall. Right: Artist Liz Deschenes and Sandy Tait.

Left: Collectors Charlotte Ford and Michael Wise with dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Jewish Museum director Claudia Gould.

Left: Artist Arnold Mesches. Right: Dealer Giulia Roberti and artist Uri Aran.

Left: Artist and musicians Lizzie Bougatsos and Pat Place. Right: Artist Judy Hudson.

Left: Dealer Ellen Langan and writer/curator Rochelle Steiner. Right: Writer Lisa Liebman (right) with her daughter Juno Adams.

Left: Collectors Frank Moore and Marty Eisenberg. Right: Photographer Pamela Hanson and artist Peter McGough.

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