Spectator Sport

Linda Yablonsky on the New York art world's back-to-school weekend

New York

Left: Artists Martha Colburn and Jules de Balincourt. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Finnbar and Jessica Craig-Martin. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

The older I get, the less patience I have for looking at art through a crowd. Tribal rituals are always welcome, but I like my art one-on-one. That’s why I decided to cope with the ridiculous number of openings inaugurating the fall season at New York galleries last weekend by skipping the art and just looking at the artists.

Thursday night, bypassing pedestrian-choked Chelsea, I headed uptown toward the relatively serene environs of Mary Boone’s Fifth Avenue outpost, where Kevin Zucker had put together an eight-artist show. Given my agenda, that sounded promising. First, however, I stopped into Greenberg Van Doren, where Jessica Craig-Martin was exhibiting a new series of photographs depicting the unremittingly human body parts of social whores attired in expensive frocks. What I could see of them looked pretty good, particularly among Craig-Martin’s smart crowd of friends and family: her proud guru of an artist father, Michael Craig-Martin; her wizardly real-estate-broker mother, Jan Hashey; and her adorable tyke of a son, Finnbar. Nice. But by the time I was done air-kissing the likes of Joel Shapiro, Billy Sullivan, Sarah Charlesworth, Glenn O’Brien, Clarissa Dalrymple, Tara Subkoff, Tobias Meyer, and Stefania Bortolami, the Mary Boone ship had sailed, so I went back downtown to Craig-Martin’s dim sum cocktail at Chinatown Brasserie, which is not in Chinatown but in NoHo. (Remember NoHo?)

In the carpeted fishbowl of the downstairs party room, I found a virtual bonanza of the artistic: In addition to the above, Richard Phillips and Josephine Meckseper, just back from Meckseper’s “sort-of” retrospective in Stuttgart; architect Jonathan Caplan, on the cusp of completing Cecily Brown’s new lower Fifth Avenue apartment; Anne Bass and Julian Lethbridge; John Currin and Rachel Feinstein; Kevin Landers; Sean Landers; and all the other people whom Craig-Martin doesn’t photograph.

Left: Brice Marden. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

All of these people were smiling. I have never seen so many artists looking so happy—even radiant. Artists used to be the scourges of society, or they were depressed, or jealous and lonely, or distracted by work. Not anymore.

Moving up the street to Indochine, where Lehmann Maupin Gallery was holding a dinner for Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, I found even bigger grins on the faces of gallery artists Teresita Fernandez and Anya Gallacio. They seemed overjoyed at the prospect of showing in the Chelsea gallery’s soon-to-come second space on Chrystie Street. No fussing by Rem Koolhaas at this place. No architect or designer of any kind—and no columns, said David Maupin, happily. Just a nice, big, personable place to see art—like in the old SoHo, Maupin said. (Remember SoHo?)

During dinner, I was seated opposite Rachel Lehmann, her collector/financier husband, Jean-Pierre, and their family friend, twenty-one-year-old art-history major Maria Baibakova. She is the daughter of one of those Russians who is buying up art like there's no tomorrow and can pay for her seventy-fourth-floor crib at the Time Warner Center. It was her own interest, she said, that inspired her father’s collecting, a fairly recent habit. “After all,” she said, smiling, “we haven’t been capitalists that long.” She didn’t stay that long, either, unlike Robert Chaney, the Houston capitalist whose family collection of Asian art is currently on view in his hometown’s Museum of Fine Arts. He positively regaled me with tales of his artist discoveries, and when the party broke up, I was primed for the four-gallery fete at the Beatrice Inn.

Left: Artist Mike Nelson. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Wallspace's Jane Hait and Whitney curator Shamim Momin. (Photo: David Velasco)

This cramped basement boîte in the West Village was chockablock with—you guessed it—smiling young artists and their dealers. Not just those from the Zucker show at Boone, the Matt Keegan–Jedediah Caesar show at D’Amelio Terras, the Carter Mull show at Rivington Arms, and the Jamie Isenstein show at Andrew Kreps, but also Jonah Freeman, who will create a methedrine lab for his show at Ballroom Marfa; James Fuentes, who just opened a gallery downtown; Will Cotton, resplendent in vintage Givenchy; Brett Littman, the new Drawing Center director; and sweet Nathan Carter, conspiring with designer Jim Walrod, who is outfitting yet another new hotel on the Lower East Side. When I left, there was a line of sullen wannabes waiting outside, but inside everyone was hot and happy.

On Friday night, I was almost too dizzy from all the high spirits to count the artists who showed up on a single block in Chelsea for Larry Clark at Luhring Augustine, Alexandra Bircken at Gladstone Gallery, T. J. Wilcox at Metro Pictures, and Friedrich Kunath at Andrea Rosen. Refusing to wait in line for a one-on-one experience of Keith Tyson’s “large field array” at Pace Wildenstein, I hopped over to Kasmin for Deborah Kass’s first painting show in New York in a dozen years—a smash by all accounts, particularly copresenter Vincent Fremont’s. Kenny Scharf was there, ready for his caveman bit in Saturday’s Art Parade. John Waters and playwright John Guare were there. So were Pat Steir, Joan Jonas, Maureen Gallace, and David Humphrey. Kass’s show of text paintings (abstracted from lyrics of 1970s Broadway musicals) was advertised as “Feel-Good Paintings for Feel-Bad Times.” Guess it worked. All these artists were smiling.

By Saturday, dead on my feet and sore from relentless grinning, I became determined to take in some art. At dusk, lurching down to Delancey Street, I followed Cindy Sherman and David Byrne into the fun house of abandoned interiors and mountains of sand that Mike Nelson, prompted by Creative Time, had transported to the old Essex Street Market. The barbecue that followed at The Delancey’s rooftop bar (also celebrating the Art Parade) set the stage for the season of collective experience ahead. (Forget about one-on-one art. This fall, elitism will find its feet in a rush of exclusive, invitation-only performances, like Damien Hirst’s debut as a fashion designer, at Gagosian on Saturday night.)

Left: Artist Lawrence Weiner, dealer Marian Goodman, and artist Pierre Huyghe. Right: Artist Gabriel Orozco and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

But the real highlight came on Monday, when Marian Goodman threw her sober gallery and all of the artists she has ever represented a bubbly thirtieth-anniversary dinner in the Pool Room at the Four Seasons. In the gallery, Benjamin Buchloh had put together a modestly scaled, elegant, and completely absorbing historical show of works by Dara Birnbaum, Thierry de Cordier, James Goodman, Tacita Dean, John Baldessari, and fifteen others for the first half of a two-part retrospective of Goodman’s uncompromising international program. The diminutive dealer was beaming throughout, greeting her guests with a drink in one hand and a framed black-and-white Polaroid, a gift from Rineke Djikstra, in the other.

At dinner, a supremely gracious affair, there were toasts from Aggie Gund, Lawrence Weiner, Jack Lane, Jennifer Stockman, Jeff Wall, Aaron Levine, and others and an appreciative, thoughtful speech from Goodman herself that complimented everyone present—a remarkably balanced group of 220 national-museum directors, curators, collectors, historians, critics, and artists from seventeen countries. “It would be wonderful if the rest of the world were as welcoming as the art world,” Goodman said. Everyone, even Christian Boltanski, was smiling.

I had read in the New York Times that mortality would be the focus of new art this season. All I can say is that the people who are making it, buying it, and selling it are mighty glad to be alive.

Left: John Waters. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Artists Carsten Höller and Marcel Odenbach. (Photo: David Velasco)

Left: Artists Jonathan Horowitz and Elizabeth Peyton. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Mark Fletcher, Tobias Meyer, and designer Tara Subkoff. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Kent Henricksen and dealer John Connelly. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Delia Brown. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Curator Chrissie Iles with artists Jeff Wall and Tacita Dean. Right: Artist Annette Messager. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

Left: Artist Brad Phillips with Wallspace's Janine Foeller. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artist WIll Cotton. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: T magazine editor Stefano Tonchi and artist Teresita Fernandez. Right: Artist Aida Millet. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Dealers Lucien Terras and Christopher D'Amelio. (Photos: David Velasco)

Left: Artist Cindy Sherman. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Artist Matt Keegan. (Photo: David Velasco)

Left: Artist Duncan Hannah. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Artists Ryan McGinley and Gardar Eide Einarsson. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Dealer Pascal Spengemann. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artist Rachel Feinstein with producer Leon Falk. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Sandra Hamburg. Right: Performa director RoseLee Goldberg and White Columns director Matthew Higgs. (Photos: David Velasco)

Left: Artist Joel Shapiro and dealer Ivy Shapiro-Crewdson. Right: Collector Robert Chaney. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artists Dara Birnbaum and Dan Graham. Right: Artist Rineke Djikstra with writer Peter Fleissig. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

Left: Artist Michael Craig-Martin. Right: Drawing Center director Brett Littman. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artists David Humphrey and Maureen Gallace. Right: Artist Deborah Kass. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Anya Gallaccio and dealer David Maupin. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Reena Spaulings's Emily Sundblad. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Filmmaker Vincent Fremont and dealer Paul Kasmin. Right: Poet Vincent Katz. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Alexandra Bircken. Right: Artist John Pylypchuk. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. Right: Betsy Sussler, editor in chief of Bomb. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Brooke Alderson and artist Richard Deacon. Right: MoMA president emerita Agnes Gund. (Photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Left: Artist Ryan Trecartin with dealer Elizabeth Dee. (Photo: Ryan McNamara) Right: Artist Christian Boltanski. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)