Fair Game

Michael Wang around New York

New York

Left: Ricky Clifton and artist Peter McGough at “Survivor.” Artist Jessica Craig-Martin with pig-fat wedding cake.

David Rimanelli set an 11 AM wake-up call with the opening for “Survivor,” his show of mostly New York artists (and, mostly, friends) staged under the for-now-disused High Line adjacent to Stefania Bortolami and Amalia Dayan’s Chelsea gallery. Nabbing a free coffee and doughnut from the pushcart vendor stationed outside (“our VIP brunch,” Rimanelli quipped) and still feeling a little groggy from having attended artist Li Ping’s “future” Cock (said nightspot resurrected the previous evening at Terence Koh and Javier Peres’s new Chinatown gallery, A.S.S.), I joined the ranks of artists, collectors, curators, and critics, including Brice Marden, Peter McGough, Clarisa Dalrymple, Hope Atherton (who has a solo show on the other side of the lot’s brick wall), and exhibiting artists Jane Kaplowitz, Hanna Liden, Emily Sundblad, Rachel Harrison, Adam McEwen, and Nate Lowman, hiding their bleary eyes behind impenetrable shades while filing out of the sun and into the repurposed garage.

The works on view ran the gamut from Cecily Brown’s oil-painting-and-paper installation and Jonathan Horowitz’s porta-potties emblazoned with the words “Piss” and “Shit,” to Rob Pruitt’s glass heart and Earsnot’s “Irak” tag at the show’s entrance. The exhibition, which will brave the elements for its month-long run, encouraged some innovative working methods, including a first-ever medium departure for Jessica Craig-Martin, who concocted a pig-fat wedding cake. I couldn’t help but exclaim that I’d only seen her photographs. “So have I,” she replied. “I just made this in the gallery yesterday morning."

Left: Artist Cecily Brown at the opening of “Survivor.” “Survivor” curator David Rimanelli.

The mixed crowd of downtown scenesters new and old and scattered extra-artworld celebs (Keanu Reeves appeared at the stroke of eleven, in a suit and shades, smoking a cigarette) lured in a New York magazine crew ready to catch whatever glamorous gamin or gamine might fall their way. Swatting away a would-be picture snapper with the flick of a wrist, a man in red parachute pants and a bone-buttoned hunting jacket, his face obscured by heavy sunglasses, turned to Brown. “I know you,” he began, and, after a moment of non-recognition, elaborated: “I used to be Rene Ricard.” Quickly composing herself, Brown replied, “And I used to be Cecily Brown.”

Giving the afternoon over to the “alternative” fairs, I headed first to the inaugural LA Art Fair, at the Altman building on Eighteenth Street. Free of Armory Show extravaganza seekers, the sixteen exhibitors did business quietly and efficiently. Bennett Roberts of Roberts & Tilton, one of the fair organizers, outlined their quality-versus-quantity campaign. “I’ve done the Armory before. You have a minute to spend with everyone. Here you have ten minutes to twenty minutes. You can create a miniature relationship with a potential collector. I’ve sold eighty percent of the work already and we’re only halfway into the second day of the fair,” he boasted. Perhaps in a bid to bring in serious buyers only, the fair was sparsely advertised. “Word of mouth is creating the buzz,” explained Roberts. “When people say ‘We’re at the Altman building,’ we want it to be like saying ‘We’re at the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.’” Presumably sans long lines and bawling toddlers.

Left: Lilah Freedland's performance at Scope. Right: Gallerists Julie and Bennett Roberts at the LA Art Fair.

Scope, back up and running after the Fire Department closed the venue down Friday night (too many forklifts and not enough ventilation in the sprawling industrial space), teemed with the young and the dirty. Brooklyn collective The 62 terrorized fairgoers on RVs while Matt Bua and Jesse Bercowetz set up a paint ball range dripping with rubber masks and treatises on war and power. “Triple Agent” Chris George, in a marabou-festooned Indian headdress, handed me a pellet gun and instructed me to aim at anything in sight (including a man with a paint-splattered shield lifted straight from Coney Island’s “Shoot the Freak”). On the fair’s grassy performance field Lilah Freedland’s “campers” shouted, screamed, and giggled their way through a prolonged food fight amidst scenes of triage. I confirmed my initial sense of having walked into some hybrid of a boardwalk carnival and a technology expo by moving from the paintball and gumball rooms of “the Jaundiced Eye” into the Cinema-scope Gallery, the fair’s new media corner, with exhibitions by Perpetual Art Machine, Rhizome.org, and the New Museum. Despite the fair’s promise to “hunt down that most endangered of species: the emerging artist,” outside of the special exhibitions one was hard-pressed to find much beyond the crafty salables of market-savvy hipster artists.

Finally arriving at Pulse at nightfall—housed in the Lexington Avenue armory that hosted the famous 1913 exhibition—I entered into what really seemed like a miniaturized, if more orderly, Armory Show. Jennifer Dalton’s The Collector-ibles at Plus Ultra, five cabinets displaying Art News’s top 200 collectors for 2005 as gilded comic book figurines, lured me in with the kind of critique that’s almost part and parcel of the contemporary fair scene. “Has anyone recognized themselves?” I asked. Gallery codirector Edward Winkleman informed me that the Rubells had and that a buyer for Michael Ovitz had taken a photo, but the majority, it seems, were miffed at not having been included. I couldn’t quite break Dalton’s code—Winkleman clued me in that a gold base indicated wealth by inheritance—but I did notice that Donald Rubell and Ovitz were both Wolverines, along with Charles Saatchi, David Geffen, and Dayan beau Adam Lindemann. Propping a “Contemporary Art” shopping bag in his retractable adamantine claws, the unstoppable (and amnesiac) X-man seemed an apt embodiment of this weekend’s supercollectors.

Left: Artist Chris George at Scope. Right: The scene at the opening of Terence Koh and Javier Peres's A.S.S. gallery.