Bomb Prom

Michael Wilson on Bomb Magazine's 25th Anniversary Gala

New York

Left: Cindy Sherman. Right: New Museum director Lisa Phillips, actor Leon Falk, and artist and guest of honor Elizabeth Murray. (All photos: Patrick McMullan)

Chelsea restaurant The Park was the appropriately springlike venue for BOMB magazine’s 25th Anniversary Spring Gala on Monday evening. Rolling up half an hour after the 6:00 PM kickoff, I immediately bumped into former Artforum staffer Megan Riley, who assured me (quite correctly, as it soon transpired) that there’d be other familiar faces in attendance. Having tracked down my companion, I headed inside, picked up a program, seating card, and sugary-sweet lychee martini, and took the lay of the already bustling land.

A fundraising silent auction was in progress, with a few lots hung opposite the bar near the entrance, and the remainder displayed in the semi-outdoor dining area. As is customary at such events, the works up for grabs were a mixture of winners and fillers, known names and family friends. On the “if only I had a couple thousand bucks to spare” wish list included No Title (My first conscious), 2004, a handsome pen-and-ink drawing by Raymond Pettibon; Angel, 2003, an ethereal lithograph by Luc Tuymans; Poisoned Man, 2005, an intriguing woodblock print by Dana Schutz; and Local Focus, 2000, a rich screenprint by Robert Rauschenberg. Browsing the checklist, I noticed that several works bore an unexpected caveat: Should buyers decide to sell their acquisitions, they were required to offer first refusal to the gallery of the artist in question.

Left: Artists Tom Otterness and David Salle. Right: Exit Art director Jeanette Ingberman with curator Robert Storr.

A recent Post-It Note-size pencil sketch by Robert Gober also attracted attention, though more for its starting price (an optimistic ten grand) than for its aesthetic qualities, while Richard Serra’s untitled paint-stick drawing from 1999, valued at twenty-thousand dollars, upped the ante still further. More obvious bargains were a screenprint by Paul Chan (bidding opened at a modest $150) and, on the upper end of the scale, a vibrant new drawing/assemblage by Elizabeth Murray, one of the evening’s three honorees (the others were poet Bob Holman and Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg), on offer for an eight thousand dollar minimum bid. BOMB senior editor (and Artforum family member) Nell McClister joked about her win-win situation: “Whatever doesn’t sell I get to hang on my office wall.”

Making the scene were a number of artist-donors including Lawrence Weiner, Billy Sullivan, Gedi Sibony, David Salle, Mary Heilmann, Gary Indiana (contributor of a candid photographic portrait of John Waters), and a jubilant Keith Sonnier, about to bid New York au revoir for Paris and the South of France. Curators, dealers, and supporters were out in force too: Even a cursory glance around the room revealed James and Jane Cohan, Milly and Arne Glimcher, RoseLee Goldberg and Dakota Jackson, Robert Storr, Paula Cooper, and actor Wallace Shawn. At around 8:00 PM, we were asked to take our seats for the obligatory speeches—introductions by Tim Nye and editor Betsy Sussler and toasts by artist Jessica Hagedorn, Judy Hudson, and sculptor Jessica Stockholder. Hudson’s was hands down the most memorable: The artist and writer delivered a ribald fantasy in which she imagined Murray’s paintings quitting the walls to indulge in nocturnal bacchanalia.

Left: Dia Trustee Frances Bowes and gallerist Anthony Grant. Right: Artists Allan McCollum and Vera Lutter.

As dinner commenced, Lee Klein, a “writer/licensed NYC tour guide” supposedly on gossip duty for the New York Sun, joined Riley, my companion, and I at a tight corner table. Shortly thereafter, one final diner arrived, Artnet editor Walter Robinson’s wife. Robinson himself attempted to follow suit shortly thereafter, but either couldn’t squeeze into the awkward seating, or preferred to stay a safe distance from Klein. (The reporter himself told us, several times, that they’d fallen out years ago. He was fuzzy on the details but assured us, “his girlfriend likes me”). Our man from the open-topped bus regaled us with several more extraordinary anecdotes, an account of his recent and soon-to-be-broadcast win on The People’s Court (episode title: “The Artful Dodger”—set your TiVo now). It was to be hoped that the evening’s sale had left BOMB itself similarly victorious.

Left: Guests of honor poet Bob Holman and Whitney director Adam Weinberg with gallerist Paula Cooper. Right: Whitney associate curator Shamim Momin.

Left: Actor Wallace Shawn. Right: Cindy Sherman with Amy Guttman and actor Ronald Guttman.