Saturday Night Fever

Nicolas Trembley around Paris


Left: Hedi Slimane. Right: Artist Thomas Ruff poses in front of one of his “Jpegs.”

Last Saturday’s openings in Paris were quieter than usual, perhaps due to the cold wind blowing across the capital but maybe also because of a gastroenteritis scare. In the middle of Rue Louise Weiss, Emmanuel Perrotin, who informed me of the proliferating virus, made sure not to shake my hand when we said hello. I was just arriving from Galerie Nelson, where Thomas Ruff was showing new images from the “Jpegs” series presented in the Italian pavilion at last summer’s Venice Biennale. (Nelson was among the first to show Ruff’s ’80s portraits, when the gallery was located in Villeurbanne.) The show, comprised of disparate images mostly found browsing the web (though some come from tourist guidebooks) and enlarged to a super-size format then pixilated, is presented as an abecedary, from “aa” (American architecture) to “wi” (war in Iraq). Talking with Ruff, I sensed that my questions—How do you select images? Why this format?—were overfamiliar, so a cigarette break came as a welcome relief to both of us. On the sidewalk we encountered Bernhard Mendes Bürgi, the director of the Kunstmuseum Basel, who offered incisively, “This is a great show.”

If Ruff wins the prize for biggest photo, Hedi Slimane wins for the biggest invitation—ever. The poster he made for “As tears go by,” his new show at Galerie Almine Rech, didn’t even fit into my letterbox: I had to queue up at the post office to retrieve it. In the gallery, a famous paparazzo stood around waiting for the show-business crowd (Karl Lagerfeld was expected), but no famous faces materialized—not even Slimane himself.

Left: Air de Paris's Florence Bonnefous with artist Elaine Sturtevant. Right: Writer and curator Andrea Viliani.

Fortunately I had met up with the elusive Slimane the day before while he was finishing his installation. Standing in the gallery darkened by black film affixed to the windows, he was cute and sweet as usual. The show, Slimane’s first in Paris after a curatorial outing at Thaddaeus Ropac last year, is a lot like the poster: black-and-white and large. The photographs, printed on semitransparent fabric, were taken in the clubs and pubs of London’s rock scene and focus particularly on the infamous Pete Doherty, frontman of Libertines and Babyshambles and Kate Moss’s on-again off-again boyfriend. Slimane told me that a few years ago he had sensed a renewal of energy in the scene, and had begun to track those musicians whose extraordinary aura filled the tiny venues they played. I had to take his word for it.

Back on Rue Louise Weiss, I breezed through opening receptions for Omer Fast (at gb agency), Mark Dion and Bob Braine (at In situ Fabienne Leclerc), and Philippe Decrauzat (at Praz Delavallade) before ending up at Air de Paris for Trisha Donnelly’s new exhibition, which was by far the most crowded opening on the block. If Slimane wins for biggest invitation, Donnelly wins for the most cryptic one. It consisted of a few sentences written by hand in Russian, with a phone number. I attempted to call but a recording informed me that the person I tried is not accepting calls at this time. Dial (415) 810-4295 and say hello from Paris.

Left: Gallerist Bruno Delavallade with artist Philippe Decrauzat. Right: Artist Clemens von Wedemeyer.

The show, emphasizing the concepts of “nano” and “less,” is the opposite of the outsized shows I’d seen earlier that evening: Tiny drawings made while the artist looked through a magnifying glass; sound pieces that begin and end at random; and blurry photos of microscopic writings engraved in wood are among the works on view. Donnelly implored me to not take her photo before dashing off to the back office. After a while, everyone wandered over to L’Haudierne for the usual blanquette de veau; I think Air de Paris is single-handedly keeping the restaurant in business. The crowd was lively, however, and at the bar I spotted curators Giovanni Carmine, Thomas Boutoux, and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and artists Anders Guggisberg, Koo Jeong-A, and Clemens von Wedemeyer, who is shooting a new film—coproduced by Pierre Bal Blanc and to be included in the forthcoming Berlin Biennale—in a Paris banlieue.

No party during the first week of January is complete without the galette des rois and Luna, the daughter of Edouard Merino, found the bean in her slice of cake and was named queen. Elaine Sturtevant, Eva Presenhuber, and Andrea Viliani began to dance with gallery owner Florence Bonnefous, but others wanted to continue the party at agnès b. headquarters, where the designer and art patron was celebrating thirty years of business with guests like Patti Smith and David Bowie. Feeling the first symptoms of gastroenteritis, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to carry on. It’s better to prevent than to cure, as we say in France—so I called it a night.

Left: Writer and curator Bernhard Bürgis with Thomas Ruff. Right: Curator Giovanni Carmine and artist Anders Guggisberg.

Left: Hedi Slimane's oversized invitation to “As tears go by.” Right: Artist Koo Jeong-A.