Artists Only

Michael Wilson on MoMA's artists' night

New York

On the left, dealer Gavin Brown; on the right, Studio Museum in Harlem deputy director Thelma Golden.

Touted as the “artists’” evening, Tuesday’s reception at the Museum of Modern Art’s revamped midtown digs also boasted scores of curators, dealers, and collectors, with gallerist Gavin Brown being the first to flip a roving Artforum paparazzo the bird. But while Creative Time curator Peter Eleey reported having overheard architect Yoshio Taniguchi’s atrium blithely condemned as “Japanese Fascist,” most attendees basked contentedly in the expanded schmoozing arena. The installation received mixed notices, with the contemporary wing in particular felt by many to be padded with mediocre work (though how seriously to take the opinions of a crowd primarily bent on locating the hors d’oeuvres is debatable). My own pet peeves: a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it selection of film and video, and a predictable focus on the pretty (Julie Mehretu) and pretty impressive (F-111) at the expense of grunge and guts (no Mike Kelley?).

The sixth-floor bar rapidly established itself as the A-list artists’ enclave, with Robert Rauschenberg and Chuck Close—surrounded by a coterie of senior admirers—leading the way. Nearby a somewhat more youthful contingent including Doug Aitken and Thomas Demand rubbed shoulders with James Rosenquist and Jeff Koons. Also holding court were downtown fixture Andreas Serrano, London scene-maker Michael Craig-Martin, recent Hugo Boss prizewinner Rirkrit Tiravanija, a jovial Louise Lawler, and a glacial Mariko Mori. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders was clearly loving the attention he was garnering in the wake of his recent XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits, while John Currin and Rachel Feinstein posed obligingly (though fortunately remained clothed throughout).

Artists Chuck Close and Robert Rauschenberg.

Elsewhere, Studio Museum in Harlem curator Thelma Golden strolled arm-in-arm with a beaming Chris Ofili, while the extravagantly coiffed Kid America was accompanied by Rivington Arms proprietress Mirabelle Marden. Less happy-go-lucky (though plainly triumphant at having crashed the party) was artist and Homeless Museum (HoMu) founder Filip Noterdaeme, on hand to spread the word about his opening day protest against the new twenty-dollar admission charge.

On Thursday, MoMA’s umpteenth “official party” evening, exhausted art world faces stayed home in droves, though the Village Voice’s Jerry Saltz and Flash Art’s Sarah Douglas returned for a second dose, the former accompanied—naturally—by Roberta Smith of the New York Times, the latter by a world-weary Anthony Haden-Guest. Despite the prominent red carpet and hovering photographers, neither hide nor hair was spotted (by your correspondent at least) of “expected guests” Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Matthew Modine or Tatum O'Neal. Given the bewildering number of opening events, it seemed entirely possible that the limos had come and gone the week before.

Fortunately there were other distractions: Plastic martini glasses with flashing red lights built into the stems! Partners-in-noise Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ryoji Ikeda being ordered to turn down down the volume! Famous-in-England-but-unknown-here popsters The Zutons playing to a bemused mob in front of Ellsworth Kelly’s Sculpture for a Large Wall! Perry Farrell (aka DJ Peretz) whipping up a senior prom vibe with his trusty Beastie Boys records! More flashing red lights—filched from the overflowing fifth-floor lounge—ostentatiously adorning nipples and ears! No gimmick was spared. But—curatorial, architectural, and financial debates aside—the still-unmatched permanent collection rose effortlessly above the fray.

On the left, artist Jeff Koons; on the right, artist Fred Wilson.

On the left, gallerist Janice Guy; on the right, gallerist Andrew Kreps.

On the left, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; on the right, artist John Currin.