Stone Circle

Calistoga, CA
07.07.08

Left: Dealer John Berggruen with collector Norah Stone. Right: A view of James Turrell's Stone Sky. (All photos: Drew Altizer)


Weekend weather reports predicted haze from a thousand Northern California forest fires, but the air was surprisingly clear the Saturday before last on the drive to the famous-for-the-waters town of Calistoga in Napa Valley. There was, however, a bit of static when we pulled up at the gate of Stonescape, the weekend getaway vineyard and art compound of collectors Norman and Norah Stone. Our arrival was followed by a guest-list discrepancy, an overzealous security guard, and a parking snafu, but thankfully the vibe softened once we boarded the shuttle bus, which a friendly driver maneuvered up the short, winding road to the property. “Don’t look down,” he facetiously warned—the pavement barely accommodated the vehicle. He dropped us off on the idyllic grounds: hillsides with rows of grapevines, a spiffed-up farmhouse, and, to the left, the arched entrance to what is called the “Art Cave.”

Sporting a vibrant pantsuit and a large gold necklace that splayed in a full half circle over her collar, Norah Stone stood at the unofficial bus stop, greeting us warmly before sending us on a tour of the cave with Thea Westreich Art Advisory rep Suzanne Modica. “You really must check out the Turrell,” Stone added, pointing to an infinity pool in which seemed to float a large white cube.

Modica lead us through the glass doors into a vaulted chamber of the cave, where we encountered Caged tool #1 (hammer drill), an appropriately titled sculpture by Monica Bonvicini, which was surrounded by Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Magazine Station n. 2, Receiving Station, a gauzy curtain in rainbow shades that serendipitously reminded us that it was gay-pride weekend in San Francisco. Though separate works, Modica noted that the sculptures were first displayed together at Basel, and so they remained linked. As she took us farther into the 5,750-square-foot space, the architectural achievement was apparent. Designed by Bade Stageberg Cox and constructed from scratch by experts in subterranean building, the Cave is the realization of the Stones’ desire to reenvision the common subterranean wine chamber as a white-walled gallery with few right angles and a ceiling that artfully (and bafflingly) integrates lighting and sound. “Norman was very concerned that it not be echoey,” Modica relayed. Indeed, we could barely hear another small group (comprising collectors and SF MoMA art conservators) nearby.

Left: Artist Jimmy Raskin with Thea Westreich's Suzanne Modica. Right: Architect Martin Cox with collector Norman Stone.


Farther on were a group of Mike Kelley sculptures and photographs, along with John Baldessari’s A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation, an early text work that gains new elements each time it’s exhibited. We then passed an arrangement of Serras, Judds, and an elaborate recent work by Keith Tyson. A bar was set up just outside, and I was poured a glass of the Stones’ own AZS Cabernet—actually quite delicious. (Norman later announced that only fifty-six cases were produced that year.) Numerous black-clad servers offered one flavorful appetizer after another as we toured the property’s renovated 1887 old farmhouse. It’s modest in scale, though ennobled by some stellar examples of midcentury Scandinavian furniture, Campana Brothers chairs, a guest room filled with Cady Nolands, and a Sherrie LevineWalker Evans” by the bathroom.

The grounds featured some spare, inventive landscaping, and the gradual arrival of other guests strolling through made the place look like a California update of Last Year at Marienbad. From the perspective of the farmhouse, I could see a bikini-clad woman—the Stones’ yoga instructor—standing at the edge of the Turrell pool. “There are disposable bathing suits in the changing rooms,” Modica noted, adding that sunset is the best viewing time. But that was at least an hour away, leaving ample time to imagine the social anxiety of swimming with a high-powered culture set—dealer John Berggruen, SF MoMA director Neil Benezra, Gagosian’s Andy Avini, and former Dwell editor Allison Arieff among them.

Left: Ava Benezra, SF MoMA director Neal Benezra, LA MoCA director Jeremy Strick, and Wendy Strick. Right: SF MoMA trustee Michael Wilsey and Bobbie Wilsey.


While chatting with LACMA curator Leslie Jones, who is organizing a forthcoming Baldessari retrospective, we were gently alerted that dinner was served—an impressive buffet of burgers (beef, turkey, rock shrimp, black bean) and summer salads. As we ate, Norman and Norah passed a microphone back and forth to tell their guests (perhaps a hundred of us in all) of the arduous experience of building the cave—storms, potential collapse, brave workers—and to remind us that we really shouldn’t miss the Turrell. “The water’s ninety degrees,” Norman announced.

Pleasantly sated at dusk, I ambled down to the compact men’s changing room, which was filled with elder collectors in various states of undress. (“I think they enjoy putting us in awkward situations,” one of them deadpanned.) I donned a paper swimsuit—snug and slightly waxy—and dove into the warm water. Entering Stone Sky requires some underwater maneuvering that one guest wittily likened to emulating Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. I surfaced inside what looked to be a large square sauna cross-bred with a planetarium laser-light show. There, I encountered Norman Stone, LA MoCA director Jeremy Strick (who had toted his eyeglasses in a waterproof Ziploc bag), photographer Marion Brenner, artists Jimmy Raskin and Deborah Cox, and a few other nearly naked folks whose names I didn’t catch. The shared experience of getting inside made for a surprisingly democratic social space, and we splashed, conversed, and quietly looked upward, losing ourselves in the work’s eye-tickling color cycles and the warm Napa Valley night.

Glen Helfand

Left: Power Plant director Gregory Burke with Norah Stone. Right: 1301PE director Amy Divila with Matthew Linnell.


Talk of the Town

New York
07.06.08

Left: A Prior's Andrea Wiarda and artist Nico Dockx. Right: Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. (All photos: David Velasco)


Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead? The run-on title of the cult British children’s TV show was a beautiful paradox: Watch this, but don’t. Think of it as practice versus theory. Unfortunately for the makers of the teatime staple, its signature injunction was all too tempting, tending to curtail any further, uh, discourse. “The New York Conversations,” a recent series of talks convened both to launch e-flux’s new premises on Essex Street and to provide conceptual fodder for a forthcoming issue of Belgian art journal A Prior, was similar in its apparent determination to inspire via negative example. And it worked; I was out the door with a whole hour left on the clock.

Perhaps I missed some crucial initial question—it’s true that I arrived five minutes late for the Saturday-evening session following a convoluted subway journey to the Lower East Side—but what the discussion was actually for or about was never made entirely clear. As I arrived, wedging myself into the tiny fluorescent-lit storefront (seemingly a derelict launderette), chef and participant Rirkrit Tiravanija was complaining about his self-imposed exclusion from some crucial earlier stage of the dialogue—“I didn’t expect to stay in the kitchen so long.” But whether or not this was the kind of meeting at which a talking stick was passed around or votes were taken remained ambiguous. Additionally presided over by artists Nico Dockx and Anton Vidokle (e-flux’s founder), this was the final installment in a three-day sequence of two-hour lunchtime and dinnertime lock-ins, and the mood was earnest.

The organizers had prefaced their meet with a set of rules for conversation cribbed from Peter Burke’s 1993 book The Art of Conversation in Early Modern Europe, including “Avoid too excessive pedantic or technical speech (like direct interrogation, the use of imperatives and short answers such as ‘Yes’ and above all ‘No’)” and “Adapt your conversation to the people you are conversing with.” Sage advice that was consistently ignored as the dozen or so glum faces around the luridly patterned conference table made your correspondent feel like a student in the wrong classroom or, worse still, the teacher’s lounge. That I was standing (seating was limited to a strip of chairs arranged along one side of the action) and boiling (thanks to one esteemed co-participant planted in front of the fan) didn’t help.

Gradually, very gradually, workable ideas emerged—but was it ever heavy going. “Immaterial labor is so exhausting,” quipped Vidokle, to the quietest of laughter. Incrementally, the discussion creaked around to a comparison of different models of art writing and a critique of “modalities of engagement” (what was that about technical speech again?), the potentially alienating aspects of being a “content provider” (tell me about it), “the difficulty of talking about practice,” and “moving beyond representation.” Apparently, artist Liam Gillick (you just knew he’d be involved in this, didn’t you?) had “rejected the notion of freedom” in an earlier discussion (cheers, Liam), but when Tiravanija’s sous-chefs finally rolled out the snacks around nine o’clock, allowing the official participants to stuff their stony faces while the rest of us could only, in the words of one, “perform communality,” I was forced to make my escape. After all, there might have been something good on TV.

Michael Wilson

Friends and Family Plan

New York
07.03.08

Left: UCLA Department of Art chair Russell Ferguson with artist Mari Eastman. Right: Dealer Joan Washburn with collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


Despite recent threats to its cachet from the proliferation of MFA exhibitions organized by professional curators, the summer group show remains a gallery’s chief R&D operation. At least there was a lot of healthy market testing going down last Thursday, when several Chelsea stalwarts—and one West Village newbie—welcomed the “slow” season with multiple-artist displays, each slouching toward the zeitgeist with varying degrees of novelty and chaos.

Anton Kern chose to flaunt the art world’s vaunted incestuousness with “Friends and Family,” a disarming play on the traditional invitational. Here, instead of a senior artist picking a work by a younger one, gallery artists and staff submitted pieces by their children, spouses, and siblings, as well as the odd friend. That left Kern free to include a $550,000 “Remix” canvas by his father, Georg Baselitz, as well as a $150 refrigerator-style oil by his son, Linus. Ellen Berkenblit came up with a 1965 photograph by her father, Melvin, and Marcel Odenbach showed a watercolor beside a rather nice floral one by his mother, Miriam Anita-Ncker. The whole thing felt like a family picnic. All that was missing were the hot dogs and the three-legged race, though a kind of fabric sandwich board on a wooden tripod by married artists Matthew Monahan and Lara Schnitger looked as if it could have competed. It read ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Those words certainly never occurred to collector Beth Rudin DeWoody and artist Donald Baechler, whose voracious appetite for art attracted quite a mob to “I Won’t Grow Up,” the group show they put together for Cheim & Read. At first glance, their presentation resembled a sixty-part visual essay on the miniature golf course, featuring a dizzying array of players, from Louise Bourgeois and the Chapman brothers to George Stoll and Kembra Pfahler.

Left: Artist George Shaw. Right: Artist Donald Baechler and Carlton DeWoody.


DeWoody is no stranger to the friends-and-family entourage. It was her son, Carlton, she said, who introduced her to many in the younger set contributing to the show, which involves the things of childhood that artists, channeling Peter Pan, refuse to set aside. DeWoody installed much of it herself, though you could tell which half catered to her taste and which to Baechler's. (Paintings—by Brendan Cass, Scott Reeder, Djordje Ozbolt—seemed to fit his aesthetic; whacked-out assemblages by the likes of Beka Goedde and Brian Belott were more characteristic of hers.) “We worked well together,” she said. “It’s all good.”

It was really too crowded to tell. Thankfully, at least one dealer has a corner on the serene. That would be Barbara Gladstone, who also had news of a townhouse gallery she will open this fall in Brussels. (“No, not Berlin.”) Meanwhile, she hired Russell Ferguson to bring on this summer’s home show, “Idle Youth.” The UCLA Department of Art chair has cherry-picked work from six different decades (including the 1930s) and the studios of artists represented by over a dozen other galleries. And he did it without the help of any of his relatives, as far as I could tell.

The title, of course, derives from the famously dissolute nineteenth-century poet Rimbaud, and the show includes modestly scaled works that, to borrow a phrase from his catalogue essay, relish the miserable. Yet the mood at Gladstone was awfully accepting and pleasant. I saw so much respectable art and engaged in such polite conversation that I now believe it is possible for anyone to attend a party with an open bar and hear no one say anything either sordid or stupid.

During dinner, which took place in the gallery’s upstairs library and on the rooftop terrace, I found artist Amy Sillman locked in a serious conversation with Ferguson on the literary value of art. What happened to small talk? If it’s still true that artists lead the culture to its next well, then say good-bye to the heady cocktail of New York real estate and art-world money. Thinking may soon be back in vogue.

Left: Dealer Sarah Gavlak with artist Jack Pierson and hairdresser Jimmy Paul. Right: Anton Kern director Christoph Gerozissis.


Comic relief came from out-of-towner Mari Eastman, whom I first came across in a show at the Hammer Museum, when Ferguson was a curator there. Eastman clearly relished the chance to be in New York but was bewildered by the difficulty of finding a free bathroom in Manhattan. Another charmer was Marc Bijl, a Dutchman who drifted over from “Crop Rotation,” the summer show Clarissa Dalrymple organized for Marianne Boesky next door.

In fact, the guests represented an international mix of newcomers and old-timers. They included Roy Arden (who contributed a great video of a hockey-fan riot), Thomas Eggerer, Frank Benson, and Elizabeth Peyton, as well as dealers Michael Lieberman and Friedrich Petzel and curators Francesco Bonami, Richard Flood, and Laura Hoptman. George Shaw, visiting from London, was most amusing as he described his antidote to the current nightmare of international air travel. “If you share a name with a very famous person,” he said, “they’ll breeze you right through.”

If only I could have donned the mask of dewy youth when I dove into the bright college crowd hanging out at 7eleven, a temporary gallery at 711 Washington Street, where dozens of paintings by the outsider artist Ionel Talpazan tell the story of his kidnapping by saucer-flying aliens. This cheerfully nepotistic enterprise was established for the summer by three twenty-something-year-old women whose parents are either writers, artists, gallery directors, or, in one case, the developer who plans to tear down the building to make way for a small (ha!) hotel.

The founders, Genevieve Hudson-Price, Caroline Copley, and Sabrina Blaichman, grew up together and went to either high school or Cooper Union with the other three artists in “Invasions,” their terrific debut show: Theo Rosenblum (inspired environment with a river of fake green lava), Thomas McDonell (oil-on-cotton self-portraits), and Sebastian Black (life-size nude cutouts lounging in a piano bar). None of these youth know the meaning of idle. “I guess I should go home and let them do their thing,” said artist Jane Kaplowitz, Theo’s mother. “Not me,” replied another proud parent, artist Judy Hudson. “I’m having way too much fun.”

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artist Theo Rosenblum, Lena Dunham, and Stella Schnabel. Right: Whitney curators Chrissie Iles and David Kiehl.


Rainbow Connection

Provincetown, MA
07.01.08

Left: Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Right: Actress Summer Bishil with filmmaker Alan Ball. (Photos: Dawn Chan)


One glance at the guide to the dozen or so venues for Provincetown’s Tenth Annual International Film Festival and I felt lost at sea. Or perhaps I was simply feeling the effects of the ferry, where I had sat alongside an entertaining range of passengers: several middle-aged couples of various stripes of the rainbow, optimistically headed back to command central; a few young “rich rapist types,” (as a friend termed them); and, of course, the film-folk like IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez and managing editor Brian Brooks along with IFC’s Ryan Warner. We sorted through the festival’s offerings—from the North American premiere of Madonna’s Filth and Wisdom to rock-documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life. Word was that Man on Wire, about the man who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974, was not to be missed. We put a star next to it.

Each day kicked off with a breakfast panel at yet another cozy seaside eatery—apparently the basic building block of life in Provincetown. Thursday morning’s panel, “Documentary Filmmaking,” featured filmmakers Lucia Small, Randy Barbato, and John Walter. Moderating was film critic Gerald Perry, who opened with the big questions: Why were audience-numbers shrinking after the “golden age of documentary—the year of Michael Moore?” No good solutions. Perry moved on to other, more perplexing, conundrums: Was documentary, as Walter put it, “a redemption of physical reality” or a “social construct”? “We think in forms—and story forms,” Walter said. “When we see something in reality that matches up, we mash the two together.”

That turned out to be the perfect thought to chew on during the screening of American Teen, which won its creator, Nanette Burstein, Sundance’s directing award for a documentary. The movie was a perfect social map of every high school archetype since The Breakfast Club. But was it scripted? Such questions were eclipsed by the distracting charm of one of the film’s leads, Hannah Bailey, a budding indie-filmmaker herself.

Left: Connie White, Provincetown Film Festival artistic director, with filmmaker John Waters, artist Marlene McCarty, and Ted Hope. Right: Actress Jane Lynch. (Photo: Dawn Chan)


If Thursday’s panel focused on larger issues, Friday’s breakfast was devoted to specifics—namely, Towelhead, the first feature directed by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball. Ball and producer Ted Hope discussed the myriad challenges of making the film. (Given the movie’s much-discussed child molestation scene, it was hard to convince actor Aaron Eckhart that his role wasn’t quite that of a pedophile.)

At a reception that evening held in the Schoolhouse Gallery, director John Waters caught up with artist Marlene McCarty, while dynamo festival artistic director Connie White greased all the logistical and social cogs. (A party a night is no small feat.) Topping off the weekend was an awards ceremony in Provincetown’s high-school auditorium, which spilled over into a makeshift simulcast room in a darkened cafeteria downstairs. I arrived after actress Jane Lynch received the Faith Hubley Memorial Award, but in time to catch Quentin Tarantino, honored with the “Filmmaker on the Edge” prize, being interviewed by Waters, who asked if all the “close-ups of feet” in Tarantino movies were evidence of a foot fetish. “No, that’s just good filmmaking,” Tarantino replied.

Raw oysters helped keep the spirits high at the ensuing gala, where Paper’s Dennis Dermody talked of Provincetown’s good old days, “when John worked at the bookstore and I worked at the video store—and when I could still afford it here.” Towelhead’s next-generation-star Summer Bishil wandered the crowd with her mother. Like all the other partygoers, she had nothing to do but move in circles around the buffet. Gael Garca Bernal showed up wearing glasses, perhaps feeling more casual now that the designated paparazzi hour was over. As fans surrounded Tarantino, I couldn’t help but recall his response to another question earlier that day. When asked, “What’s the best gift a fan has ever given you?” the filmmaker responded: “Pussy. It’s a gift that doesn’t stop giving: There’s pussy, and there’s the memory of pussy.” And, unfortunately, there’s the memory of Tarantino remembering said “pussy.” Thankfully, any lasting taint in the air was erased by the sight of a local icon on Commercial Street: Ellie, a seventy-six-year-old baritone with long blonde tresses and calf-flattering gold sandals. Stationed in the public square, toting a sandwich board that read LIVING MY DREAM, she serenaded the crowd with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” And just like that, optimism was restored; all was right in Provincetown.

Fresh Prince

London
06.28.08

Left: Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones with restaurateur Marlon Abela. (Photo: Richard Young) Right: Artists Richard Prince and Noel Grunwaldt. (Photo: Dafydd Jones)


I KNEW A GUY WHO WAS SO RICH HE COULD SKI UPHILL . . . announced the enormous joke painting in the central room of Richard Prince’s first solo show in a British public space, which opened at the Serpentine Gallery on Wednesday night. At a time when the art market continues to defy the laws of gravity and the latest clich is that “art is the new gold!” the monster canvas was a fitting altarpiece. Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones, directors of the Serpentine, told me that Prince had conceived of the gallery’s various rooms as “chapels.” Indeed, the show offered spiritual uplift in the manner of, say, a great rock anthem, and many declared that it was the most pleasing Prince installation they’d seen to date.

London in the summer is the Serpentine. Outside the gallery in verdant Hyde Park, five hundred or so art-worlders drank beer beneath the setting sun. I stood for a moment, notebook in hand, daunted by the task of working the throng, until someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “See Simon Periton over there? He’s the sexiest man in the art world. Go talk to him.” So instructed, I strode over to Periton, who was standing with fellow artists John Stezaker and Carey Young, and asked them what they thought of the fact that all the works in the show were either newly made or from Prince’s collection of his own work.

Left: Model Stella Tennant with musician Bryan Ferry. (Photo: Dafydd Jones) Right: Artists Simon Periton, John Stezaker, and Carey Young. (Photo: Sarah Thornton)


The trio admired Prince’s obsessive collecting of everything from signed first-edition books to American muscle cars, particularly as it is relevant to his art, but opinions diverged when it came to withholding work. Fellow appropriationist Stezaker admitted that he couldn’t bear to let go of certain pieces. “Picasso kept back his best drawings to reassure himself that he was a great artist,” he said. “I like to have something in my possession to remind myself that I’m not shit.” Periton shook his head and said that while he had “a lot of records, books, some art, and other frivolous stuff that I don’t need,” when it came to his own work, he was “pooing all over the place.” Young, who had just sold nine works to the Tate, admitted straightforwardly, “At this early stage of my career, I’ve got too much of it and I’m glad to sell it.”

Next thing I knew, I was in a black cab on my way to Annabel’s—a notorious members-only restaurant with a lot of dark corners in which expensive people get up to no good. Here, the crowd was on a different cloud from the jeans-and-T-shirt artists in the park. In fact, there were so many glittering girls that I never figured out which one was Daria “Dasha” Zhukova. I thought I saw Roman Abramovich, but it turned out it was Viktor Pinchuk. (These billionaire oligarchs all look alike.) As the paparazzi snapped up singer Bryan Ferry and supermodel Stella Tennant, Art Monthly editor Patricia Bickers quipped, “I just don’t understand why the press don’t ask me what I’m wearing. I would tell them. Marks & Spencer, H&M, Top Shop!”

Left: Dealer Rafael Jablonka with Frank Dunphy, Hirst's business manager. (Photo: Dafydd Jones) Right: Art Monthly editor Patricia Bickers with artist Simon Patterson. (Photo: Sarah Thornton)


After eating a meaty meal in my assigned seat at table 10, I set to work trying to get a sense of what was really going down at this ad hoc power summit. About the work in the show, one collector told me, “Everything is going through Larry. Rumor is that the extra-large ‘Cowboy’ is going for ten million dollars, but don’t quote me.” As he continued to tell me about how he preferred to buy from Barbara Gladstone and Sadie Coles, I noticed Prince listening intently to Frank Dunphy, Damien Hirst’s business manager, and wondered about the nature of his independent financial advice. Then, at 11 PM, Hirst (who must own at least one “Nurse” painting) sauntered in to pay his respects.

Eventually, the crowd ebbed and I took one last look around. On the dance floor at the very back of the room, Sadie Coles director Pauline Daly was doing a mesmerizing solo performance to Estelle’s dance hit “American Boy” while a handful of Serpentine staff stood in what looked like a postmortem huddle. The white-clothed tables were entirely abandoned except for the long central one over which Peyton-Jones had earlier presided. On it sat two men in a sober tte--tte. I couldn’t hear what Gagosian and Prince were saying to each other, but Estelle’s crystalline voice rang clear, “Take me on a trip, I’d like to go someday. Take me to New York. I’d love to see LA. I really want to come kick it with you. You’ll be my American boy.”

Sarah Thornton

Lucky Charms

Santa Fe, NM
06.26.08

Left: Artist Piero Golia with SITE Santa Fe curator Lance Fung. Right: Mongolian chef Chow Ke Tu performing the honorary blessing for Shi Qing's contribution. (Photos: Carole Devillers)


There are many touristy stereotypes concerning Santa Fe, New Mexico, a UNESCO-certified “Creative City.” (For one thing, as I discovered, it’s the sort of burg where housekeeping leaves a smudging stick of sage on the pillow in lieu of a mint.) Similar bromides accompany SITE Santa Fe’s international biennial, typically known for entertaining novel curatorial conceits. Last weekend’s opening of the biennial’s seventh edition, optimistically titled “Lucky Number Seven,” found high concept hitting the high desert. Curated by former dealer Lance Fung, the show was conceived as a loose set of ephemeral “site-inspired” commissions by twenty-two emerging artists. Participating artists were recommended by an advisory team of eighteen international curators and institutions, each of whom proposed three to five artists who, once vetted by Fung, were set loose in a severe, geometric space designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

Since none of the work had been shown before, the exhibition’s gambit relies on a measure of luck—not to mention trust in the curatorial partners and the artists themselves, who spent a good chunk of time in Santa Fe working on their projects. (In a nod to the surprise factor, the “Lucky” logo is a stylized fortune cookie.) Of course, the success or failure of opening-weekend festivities also relies on chance; who knows which, if any, of the tiers of receptions, meals, and exhibition tours will go smoothly? This being Santa Fe, events were marked by a relaxed pace, warm breezes, and generally friendly demeanors—though given the city's compact art community, one didn’t have to go far to find skeptics. “I feel like I need to do research before seeing this show,” a local told me.

Usual biennial suspects were refreshingly absent. This was no “Grand Tour” affair (though there were reportedly two “Gagosian girls” in town for Friday’s gala dinner). Few present were familiar with the young, unrepresented artists in the show, and there weren’t many recognizable art folk milling about, save Fung—whose face pops up on brochures and in every local publication—and brassy local Judy Chicago, who was hard to miss at Thursday’s press preview, where she chatted with Bulgarian SITE artist Luchezar Boyadjiev (who, like Chicago, wore dark glasses in the galleries). “We were in a show in Japan together,” Chicago proudly announced.

Left: Artists Judy Chicago, Luchezar Boyadjiev, and Nadine Robinson. Right: Artists Nick Mangan and Ahmet gt. (Photos: Glen Helfand)


Early Thursday, Fung delivered an energetic speech to the press and assembled dignitaries, describing his show as one about “creating community” and “developing a family” of artists by spending time together on-site. The social events seemed conceived with similar spirit. The Friday-night gala, immediately following a champagne preview, took place in a tent decorated with swaths of red fabric and orblike Japanese lanterns. The Asian-style meal was christened with a Mongolian ancestral blessing, during which a long table of donors and political officials were offered ritual morsels of lamb and shot glasses containing a clear, unidentifiable liquid. It was a piece by Mongolian artist Shi Qing, whose contribution to the exhibition involved staging dinners of cross-cultural cuisine in local restaurants (regional food playing a large role in facilitating southwestern identity). Here, sitting through the performance was a lot like waiting to say grace—plenty of us just wanted to eat.

During dinner, few seemed willing to pass any sort of judgment on the show, and before long the event morphed into a more public, second-tier afterparty headlined by the Los Angeles–based band Dengue Fever. The band’s mix of a Cambodian vocalist and Southern California–style rock somehow struck many as “Doors-y” and even lured George King, the director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, onto the dance floor.

The next day, various groups of SITE visitors were herded into shuttle buses for a tour of the off-site “Lucky” works installed in trees, parking lots, museums, and vacant buildings around town. Some out-of-towners also had the opportunity to see a number of Richard Tuttle and Gerhard Richter works and an outdoor Olafur Eliasson sculpture (the one on the cover of his Taschen monograph) at the home of collectors Mickey and Jeanne Klein, where the glass-box architecture, high-design furniture, and New Mexican vistas were equally breathtaking. Soon after, there was an afternoon reception for sculptor Susan York at the Lannan Foundation’s digs in the former Laura Carpenter gallery space. There I spotted a tan, trim Lucy Lippard sprint by, as I compared notes on the Klein collection with artist Roy McMakin, who’d just opened a handsome show at James Kelly Contemporary. Previous SITE curator Klaus Ottmann, out with dealer Leslie Tonkonow, was perfectly content to be without responsibilities.

Left: Curator Klaus Ottmann, artist Susan York, and dealer Leslie Tonkonow. (Photo: Glen Helfand) Right: Ferran Barenblit, director of Centro de Arte Santa Mnica, and artist Marti Anson. (Photo: Carole Devillers)


Late that afternoon, there was a nearly sold-out panel discussion with artists and curators in the auditorium of the local Dance Institute. Everyone was on good behavior until the Q&A, when William Wells of Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, one of the advising institutions, publicly questioned a rejected proposal by Egyptian artist Wael Shawky that involved appropriating Native American tribal rituals. SITE’s director Laura Heon capably responded, noting the local tensions around the issue, but artist Rose Simpson, a local representative in the exhibition (collaborating with family members Eliza Naranjo Morse and Nora Naranjo Morse), gave a more impassioned retort, acknowledging the deceptive “authenticity” of Santa Fe culture. Soon after, a stream of people noisily descended the bleachers and drove to a barbecue held in the old event tent, which, since the previous night’s dinner, had been accented with gingham tablecloths and wagon wheels suspended from the ceiling. The tangy, meaty meal, however, didn’t quite mollify the hungry masses—food ran out quickly, and reportedly a fistfight erupted over the limited seating.

A warm New Mexico night, and probably a few margaritas, went a long way toward healing any potential wounds, and Sunday’s farewell brunch on an outdoor patio was infused with a sunny, familial vibe. LA-based Italian artist Piero Golia, whose participatory leap-into-the-void installation, Manifest Destiny, is among the biennial’s iconoclastic highlights, wistfully summed up the experience of the artists: “I feel like it’s the end of summer camp.” Looks like someone got lucky.

Glen Helfand

Left: Helen Molesworth, curator of contemporary art at the Harvard Art Museums; artist Roy McMakin; and Michael Jacobs. Right: Dealer Miguel Abreu with artist Scott Lyall. (Photos: Glen Helfand)