Last Wednesday, following months of art-world speculation and a plug in Vogue, former Gagosian staffers Stefania Bortolami and Amalia Dayan (granddaughter of eyepatch-wearing erstwhile Israeli defense minister Moshe) opened their spanking-new 2,700-square-foot Chelsea gallery. Bejeweled socialites and Prada-clad collectors mingled with artists, MFA candidates, and the occasional stray bike messenger who had stumbled upon the two fully stocked open bars in the garage-turned-party-venue/performance space adjoining the gallery. The space, itself a converted garage, was designed by veteran art-world architect Bill Katz, with vertiginously high ceilings (twenty-plus feet) and peaked skylights. Like first-time home buyers leaving their shoes by the welcome mat, the gallerists had instituted a prudent “no drinks inside” policy that kept the bulk of the revelries safely out of jostling range of works by Sylvia Fleury, Jim Shaw, David Salle, Eric Wesley, Paul Pfeiffer, and young Italian conceptual artist Piero Golia. A mysterious back room behind a swinging white door held a number of (presumably) secondary-market goodies that were not part of the inaugural show, including Maurizio Cattelan’s miniature suit in Beuysian felt, Ruscha’s Good Reading in beet juice, and a Calder mobilelending credence to art-world sniping that the new gallery’s stable of artists was coming out of the gate a couple of lengths behind their glamorous digs.
Back in the garage, beneath the freshly sandblasted underbelly of the High Line, the burgeoning crowds awaited the scheduled performance by bilingual art/rock/pop duo Milena Musquiz and Martiniano Lopez-Crozet, aka Los Super Elegantes. Assuming the stage in the guise of Latin lounge singers (with a typically autoethnographic flair), they began with the dirge-like “Where’s My Whiskey?” It was the first time the duo had performed in New York with their backup band, and they have no future performances scheduled“We’re the world’s most disorganized band,” boasted Lopez-Crozet. Picking up the pace in later songs, LSE soon set heads a-nodding, with photographer Jessica Craig-Martin bursting through the audience at the set’s climax to dance solo at the foot of the stage in a crushed velvet gown. I snaked through the crowd as the band played on, turning back to glimpse Musquiz, apparently improvising with the props at hand, being borne aloft on a scissor lift. I emerged onto the street to behold New York Social Diary darling Helen Lee Shifter holding court en plein air, wrapped in a voluminous pavement-length dress that fell in great bunches, occupying a full square of sidewalk around her slender frame. Artists Will Cotton, Jack Pierson (who presented two works in the gallery), and Hope Atherton (with a piece on view in the back room) were also glimpsed in the crush, but the business side was better represented: I noted Mary Boone, Jeffrey Deitch, Gavin Brown, Melissa Bent of Rivington Arms, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Dominique Levy (whose new presence on Seventy-eighth Street changes C&M Arts to L&M Arts, Daniella Luxembourg, and Philippe Segalot, as well as Sotheby’s auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Dayan’s panegyric on favorite designer Chloé in Vogue (“Bohemian, chic … It’s downtown and it’s uptown”) describes the glamorous high-low vibeand given that the show’s artists have all thoroughly digested their Pop, it seemed inevitable that someone would invoke the master himself. Sure enough, jack-of-all-trades/man-about-town Ricky Clifton eyed an engraved pendant worn by collector/communications heir (and Dayan’s boyfriend) Adam Lindemann and compared it to a charm engraved with an image of John Travolta that he had bought in Times Square years ago and given to Andy. “He wrote about it in the diaries,” Clifton added. And now, it seems, so have I.