Fall from Grace


Left: Grace Jones. (Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan) Right: Isani Griffith with Marilyn Manson. (Except where noted, all photos: Ryan McNamara)

GRACE JONES was the event that night. But nobody, it seemed, not the crowds who came from the Deitch party, not Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, not even Yvonne Force Villareal, her vintage Halston caftan notwithstanding, was being admitted to the Delano basement for the performance. “You reach an age when you just can’t deal anymore with capacity,” Villareal exhaled to a friend after being given that classic doorperson line. People had steadily been dropping away, and, when she and Rohatyn did, many more figured the cause lost. “Now if those two can’t get in somewhere . . .” Nadia Gerazouni from the Breeder gallery snickered later. Still, a dense throng, annoyed and anxious, milled about the spotlighted Audi parked in front (the door policy incidentally increasing advertising impressions for the party’s sponsor), wanting to patch their punctured egos.

There is, however, an easier way into the Delano basement, but one not for people whose self-worth depends on getting velvet ropes unclipped: the service elevator. By the time this route was relayed to artists Mika Tajima, Howie Chen, and Mai-Thu Perret, and by the time we had made it through the cluttered bowels of the building and into the party, Grace Jones had dissipated into a pixelated dream, her latex leggings and velvet bustier seen only on cell phones and later on Patrick McMullan’s website. To some, though, her presence was incredibly corporeal; artist José León Cerrillo, who had enjoyed some intimate onstage dancing with her, gushed about her unexpected “fleshiness.” We missed the show but stuck around to dance and to eat skewered chicken and bacon-wrapped scallops, uncertain whether Jones might perform again at 2 AM, as word had it. Music equipment was being set up, after all, but the Lucite piano and glittery drum kit seemed a little ironic for her.

Left: Salon 94's Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn with Art Production Fund's Yvonne Force Villareal. Right: Photographer Bruce Weber, Nan Bush, and Pharrell Williams.

It turns out they belonged to A.R.E. Weapons. There had been a lot of music that night—there had been Yelle’s concert on the beach (a moment straight out of Vice City, their high-energy electro-pop projecting out from a bright stage under the glass and steel skyscrapers fronting the rolling ocean), and there had been the Gossip at the Raleigh—so when Paul Sevigny started screeching into the microphone, it seemed a fine time to acquaint ourselves with the front door.

The next morning I went to NADA, which looked great, and Pulse, which did not (“It’s shocking how far the step down from NADA is,” one visitor correctly noted), before going to the main fair to see Jerry Saltz’s talk, sensationally titled “This Is the End: The Rising Tide of Money Goes out of the Artworld and All Boats Are Sinking.” Crisis junkies and giddy art-world mythologizers are getting a strong, regular fix these days from the economic collapse, and predicting what will happen to art has become constant white noise. The house was packed.

It was a lyric, freely streaming sort of talk, the logic of which surfaces only in spots. The metaphors were flying. The Borscht Belt humor was in full force (“Use some soap, shall we?” the avuncular Saltz said after having the artists raise their hands). Art dealers, he claimed, are the most interesting people in the art world, more so than artists: “Dealers make a world, and they want their world to be your world. They’re very vampiric.” He prophesied something “even better” than dropping prices: “Marketability will no longer equal likability. Money will no longer be a measure of success, because you’re all going to be relatively fucked up. You’re going to all be relatively the same.” He later mentioned that Jackson Pollock made drips for only four years, after which he “changed his work and willfully went back to hell. You must now be able to do that . . . and where you’re going is not hell, it’s heaven.”

Left: Yelle. Right: GCCC Moscow founder Dasha Zhukova with Derek Blasberg.

In this hell that might be heaven, with dealers acting as vampires or angels, Marilyn Manson is enjoying his first US solo exhibition. He’s a painter. The intended audience of that night’s opening, which inaugurated a gallery called 101 Exhibit, was unclear. Curator Jérôme Sans was there, as was artist Angelo Plessas, but apart from them the crowd was difficult to place. A crew of Mansonites, thin white girls with black hair and dresses, hung around their leader and in front of watercolors that portrayed them in a style resembling Marlene Dumas meets Aya Takano meets, well, Marilyn Manson. In a side gallery, champagne was served alongside Mansinthe, the Marilyn Manson absinthe. The guest of honor posed for some photographs, talked with some visitors, including Sans, and then disappeared.

“He’s in the back-back-back-back,” one person in charge whispered to another. This was the first I had heard of the back-back-back-back, but it sounded hard to get to, so I stuck around the front. Manson’s primary dealer, Brigitte Schenk, in from Cologne, strutted around in a red lace sheath. She pointed David Galloway—an “art historian,” I was told, “who has written on Marilyn’s work, for Art News”—toward the back, and he ecstatically skipped off to join his subject. Every so often, Manson came to the corner, to be immediately enclosed by people photographing with cell phones and professional cameras, his pale pancake skin reflecting the flashes. Ivana Trump showed up in a black sequined dress, and they posed together for a bit.

Left: Lorenzo Martone with Marc Jacobs. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Critic Jerry Saltz.

From there it was Visionaire at the Raleigh, where guests were greeted by shirtless men (many cast the previous night at Twist, the Miami Beach gay bar) on a black shiny stage holding copies of the magazine’s new pop-up issue, some so as to pop up just below their waists. Akari Endo-Gaut, a stylist flown in from New York to manage what little dressing they needed, had given their bottom halves black Converse shoes and black American Apparel pants, the latter of which required the real grunt work. “They would keep going for, like, size 32, and I would have to say, no, 30, 30!”

Not many people made it to the Manson afterparty at Louis, a dark bar in the Gansevoort South, but some did. Jérôme Sans did. Alanna Heiss did too. (In fact, Heiss called Marilyn’s paintings the best work in Miami and had apparently spent the night before driving around in his limo with Klaus Biesenbach and some others, the Mansinthe freely flowing.) Manson conspicuously hid in the corner with his girlfriend. Heiss curled up with Brigitte Schenk. The midget in the Napoleon costume hammed it up. Miami appeared to have bloomed into Weimar Germany, or a staff party for Hot Topic.

I ended up having some Mansinthe by the decorative stainless-steel wall with punched-out Marquis de Sade quotes including OH, SATAN! ONE AND UNIQUE GOD OF MY SOUL, INSPIRE THOU IN ME SOMETHING YET MORE, after which I have flashes of returning to the Raleigh and a very late dinner at Jerry’s, but the images strangely appear as blurs or in double.

Kyle Bentley

Left: Visionaire's Cecilia Dean and James Kaliardos with Marilyn Manson and Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani. Right: A performer at Marilyn Manson's party.

Fair Enough


Left: Dealer Emmanuel Perrotin and artist Takashi Murakami. Right: The Gossip's Beth Ditto. (Except where noted, all photos: Ryan McNamara)

RECESSION MIAMI BASEL looks a lot like boom-time Miami Basel. Since its inception in 2002, ABMB has become an annual ritual of rigorous sublimation and denial, where the cultural spheres of art, fashion, film, and design collide in moments both vulgar and brilliant. Collins Avenue, the strip of sparkling Art Deco hotels buffering the Convention Center from the beach, is the site of much of this alchemy, and the three-block stretch between the twenty-four-hour Walgreens and the Shore Club constitutes a veritable social obstacle course.

But Collins isn’t always the center of the scene. My first stop on Tuesday night was the Ice Palace for NADA’s opening-night gala benefit celebrating the New Museum. The usual bevy of guests trickled in—hardly a flood, but then who wants to pay $150 to come early these days? There was much fair talk—if not necessarily talk of this particular fair. Nicholas Frank, cofounder of such alternative stalwarts as the Milwaukee International Art Fair, is organizing another in a fishing hut atop a frozen lake in Winnipeg. “No hot works allowed.” Meanwhile, Rodrigo Mallea Lira, co-owner of New York’s Fruit and Flower Deli, claimed that his gallery’s oracle, the otherworldly being the gallery consults on all decisions, had called for a cessation on all art-fair participation. “At the end of the road is where the journey begins,” Lira gnomically declared. Walking through the booths, I saw that Lisa Cooley had suave new light works by Andy Coolquitt, while Klaus von Nichtssagend featured smart Styrofoam sculptures by Thomas Øvlisen. Looking around surreptitiously, gallery director Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy kindly demonstrated the sculptures’ portability by picking one up. “Ingrid, no!” joked fellow proprietor Rob Hult. “Put that down before a collector sees you.”

Left: Vladimir Doronin and Naomi Campbell. Right: Whitney curator Shamim Momin.

Everyone who wasn’t at NADA seemed to be at Anri Sala’s opening at MoCA North Miami, or the Naomi Campbell “retrospective” in the design district, or Emmanuel Perrotin’s opening for Gelitin’s new show, “The Pig.” Arriving very late at Perrotin, I bumped into a blissed-out Takashi Murakami, wearing a massive plush ball of a suit and dancing wildly in the gallery’s foyer. “You look familiar. Are you one of Perrotin’s artists?” asked a curious woman. Murakami nodded vociferously but didn’t stop prancing. “He’s finally living his ultimate dream—he’s become a giant cartoon character,” a friend observed. I couldn’t shake from my mind the acute perverseness of the gesture; its amalgamation of “furry” sexual subcultures and his performance of the artist as court jester hit all the right notes.

In the end, though, it was “The Station,” a scrappy but effusive show (curated by Shamim Momin and artist Nate Lowman) down the road from Perrotin, that won the night. “This is Shamim unbridled—no board, no acquisitions committee,” noted one sharp dealer. “It’s better than the biennial.” On the ground floor, Momin and Lowman juxtaposed a massive network of Sterling Ruby pylons with savvy Haim Steinbach displays and Martha Friedman’s labyrinth of knotted monumental rubber bands. “I’ve finally stopped making phallic work!” Friedman enthused. Three flights up a dingy stairwell was the clincher: a slightly scaled-down version of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun,” originally presented in Marfa, Texas. In the sterile retail/residential building housing the exhibition, Freeman and Lowe’s cramped and caliginous meth lab “reproduction” produced another, more sordid, state of mind.

Left: Dealer Larry Gagosian. Right: Dealers Lisa Overduin and Kristina Kite.

By 11:50 AM Wednesday morning, the typical passel of collectors and advisers had formed a phalanx at the main fair’s VIP entrance, gossiping amiably and circling booths on their maps. Inside, dealers sat patiently at their stands, preparing for the onslaught. When the doors opened, the steady stream of card waving and bag checking commenced.

At the fair, it all comes down to place. Contra Dave Hickey’s recent claims in Vanity Fair, an art fair is not so much about diminishing its participants outright as it is about putting them in their place. It may not be the right place, it certainly might not be the place one wants, but everyone—collectors, dealers, artists, press—has a position, and those that find order comforting might take comfort in that. There are benefits to seeing the fair as an object lesson in recondite administration, in the art world’s strange and fluid grammars of categorization. The number one benefit is that it keeps one from taking the process personally. Psychologize it too much and you’ll go nuts.

Every occasion begged for analysis: Is this a sign of collapse? “Usually when I fly down here I think, ‘If this plane crashes it’ll take the whole art world with it,’” said MoMA president emerita Agnes Gund. “This time, there were perhaps five of us.” The front page of the Miami Gazette divined catastrophe in the plethora of open parking spaces around the convention center. Observing the Cassandra-esque trend, Art & Auction’s Sarah Douglas sarcastically noted that there was no caviar at this year’s UBS dinner. But if one meal seemed underwhelming, another was extravagant, and if one event seemed thin, another was “past capacity.”

But a few concrete things were missing—Gavin Brown, Sadie Coles, and Marianne Boesky had all opted out of ABMB for one reason or another. Boesky, who was roaming the aisles at both NADA and Basel, said that she hadn’t even applied this year. “I’ve been told I’ll never get back in, but who can tell?” she added. Rivington Arms had also jumped ship, though only because owners Mirabelle Marden and Melissa Bent had decided to close the gallery. Fairs abhor a vacuum, however, and the smart Young Turks at Wallspace quickly filled the gallery’s spot in Art Positions.

Left: Wallspace Gallery's Janine Foeller with artist Martha Friedman. Right: Art Basel directors Annette Schönholzer and Marc Spiegler.

After all the status jockeying was complete, there were still the objects to contend with. An Alexander Calder jewelry booth at PaceWildenstein raised a few eyebrows. At David Zwirner, Alice Neel portraits and an Elizabeth Peyton made for a sweet, makeshift triptych, while at Hotel Gallery, a set of collaborative paintings between Michael Bauer and designer Peter Saville ruled the roost.

“Sex and death will carry us through any crisis,” quipped Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, eyeing her booth’s sepulchral Vanessa Beecroft nude sculpture and a Stephen Sprouse painting of a man on a cross. I noted that the HAPPY sign blinking on and off seemed incongruous. “If sales are down, tomorrow we’ll put up an Aurel Schmidt drawing that says IT’S OVER.”

So what is the purpose of an art fair in the current market? “Walking in to install on the first day, I felt like a roadie for an old, irrelevant rock star,” I heard a dealer complain. But the fair is also a congregation, a place to powwow. Dealer Brent Sikkema, who from all appearances has fared pretty well in recent years, had a more buoyant attitude. “If we’re not going to be making money, at least we can do it in an interesting way,” he laughed.

At Harris Lieberman’s handsome booth, wallpapered with a mesh coating by Evan Holloway, I talked to co-owner Jesse Washburne-Harris about the market. “Let’s put it this way,” she said, in between bites of her La Sandwicherie sandwich. “Normally, I don’t have a chance to sit and eat lunch. Granted, it’s 5 PM, but still.”

Left: Dealers Michael Lieberman and Jessie Washburne-Harris. Right: Faye Dunaway.

Galleries seemed to be managing to make back costs, and perhaps a bit more, but few people I spoke to were buying. Faye Dunaway, who is working on financing her first feature film, was on a strict budget. This was her second Miami fair, and when I initially spotted her she seemed at home amid the Yves Kleins and Picassos at Galerie Gmurzynska’s cozy beige stall. Later, at Gagosian, she sidled up to me.

“Jackie,” she said tersely, pointing to a compact blue canvas.

I nodded.

“Who did this?”

“Warhol,” I responded.

“Is it a photograph?”

I told her I thought it was a silk screen.

“Hmm . . . Nice shot.”

Nearly every celebrity has a dealer to guide them through the fair: On Wednesday, a giggly Naomi Campbell was tethered to Tony Shafrazi; on Thursday, Jay-Z and Beyoncé took a tour with the formidable Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. (At the sight of Beyoncé, one friend began to sing, “If you liked it then you shoulda put a red dot on it.”)

Left: Collector Adam Lindemann with 303 Gallery's Lisa Spellman. Right: Dealers Michael Jenkins and Brent Sikkema.

Later Wednesday evening at the Raleigh, it was déjà vu as Deitch Projects again flaunted its hipster muscle; this year, the gallery finagled a bigger act for the hotel’s soigné backyard than fair organizers did for the annual Art Loves Music concert on the beach (French electro favorite Yelle), securing the Gossip, boisterous Portland, Oregon–based fag-rock extraordinaires, to put on a show for the gallery’s eclectic clique of artists, curators, and in-town billionaires. Edyth Broad popped in her earplugs as Eli rocked out at a table in the back. A meticulously decorated Rachel Zoe danced front and center with hotelier André Balazs, peering up in awe at voluptuous Gossip front woman Beth Ditto, who was sporting a patchwork dress made by members of the opening drag act, the Kingpins. It wasn’t long before a crowd, Deitch included, clambered onstage.

But no matter how much fun you’re having, there’s always that nagging feeling that somewhere, out there in the palmy, breezy night, someone is having more fun. Even Ditto, our woman of the hour, wasn’t immune. “So,” she cajoled the crowd, “can any of you rich people get me into the Grace Jones party?”

David Velasco

Left: Rachel Zoe. Right: Art Production Fund codirector Yvonne Force Villareal.

Better Late

Mexico City

Left: Artist Francis Alÿs. Right: Dealers José Kuri and Monica Manzutto. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

“WHATEVER TIME THEY TELL YOU to be somewhere, add an hour,” warned an expat friend on my arrival last Friday in Mexico City. That was a conservative estimate. No matter when I reached any of the pre–Art Basel Miami Beach cocktails, lunches, and dinners and gallery, museum, and private-collection previews that Kurimanzutto Gallery had organized to toast its new home in San Miguel Chapultepec, it was always the right time.

For this perpetual latecomer, that was a bonus, though I still missed the Mexican-style Thanksgiving dinner that Jumex fruit-juice scion and art collector Eugenio López cohosted at his Polanco penthouse on Thursday. “We even had turkey!” exclaimed Museo de Arte Moderno board president Lupe (Guadalupe) Articas de Rayos-Cardenas, when she climbed into the silver Chevy Suburban that the Jumex Foundation had supplied for my visit. We were driving south from López’s art-filled apartment to another dinner for the Kurimanzutto contingent at the glass-walled home of Taco Inn owners Monica and Cesar Cervantes––enthusiastic collectors of contemporary art, from the look of it.

Works by Kurimanzutto artists Gabriel Orozco, Abraham Cruzvillegas, and Damián Ortega were prominent, of course, but the first familiar face I saw among those from Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Paris, and London at the buffet table in the garden belonged to New Museum curator Richard Flood. Los Angeles dealer Shaun Caley Regen popped out of the dark, as did curator Francesco Bonami, UCLA art school dean Russell Ferguson, and Ferguson’s wife, Karin Hegel, the director of the Japanese-American National Museum.

Left: Artist Gabriel Orozco. Curator Francesco Bonami.

In fact, an impressive number of dealers, artists, art advisers, collectors, and museum staff—local and foreign—had gathered in this vast metropolis to acknowledge what José Kuri and Monica Manzutto have accomplished in the nine years their sometimes-itinerant gallery has been in business. Passing by the taco table, I bumped into Rirkrit Tiravanija, another Kurimanzutto artist, and another cohost, MUCA (University Museum of Arts and Science) curator Patrick Charpenel, who had organized Kurimanzutto artist Fernando Ortega’s first solo museum show, which opened that day. Charpenel was the only actual host I saw there––López and fellow collectors Isabel and Agustin Coppel were the other names at the top of the invitation, which called for dinner at the unheard-of hour of 7:45 PM. We got there at 10—exactly right for acclimating to the scene.

In short order, I met Museo Amparo director Roberto Gavaldón and Tate Modern curator Jessica Morgan, the organizer of “An Unruly History of the Readymade,” which culled from the eighteen hundred contemporary works in the Jumex Collection, the largest private art holding in Latin America. Standing nearby were the raven-haired Hilario Galguera, whose gallery Damien Hirst has given a shot in the arm since becoming a part-time resident in Mexico, and American Embassy arts attaché Bertha Cea, who is making do with a recession-size budget for bringing American artists to Mexico.

Yet the global economic crisis has actually not affected the Mexican art world so much. While the country has always been depressed, its collectors and artists seem in better shape than ever before. Both López and communications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú are building new art museums in town, and there was no shortage of local fat cats at this or any other party I attended over the weekend. Still, Kuri told me that having a gallery in an art-world outer ring like Mexico City means doing business mostly abroad. “We work with a lot of museums,” he said. “One of us is always traveling for the artists we represent.”

Left: Collector Eugenio Lopez Alonso. Right: The New Museum's Eungie Joo and dealer Shaun Caley Regen.

This time, the art world had come to them. Partly because it was on the way to Miami, but mainly due to Kuri and Manzutto’s good will. Such benevolence was obvious the next morning, when their exhibition, ironically titled “Market Economy,” attracted a few hundred guests to brunch in the sun-dappled garden of the new gallery, a former lumberyard converted by architect Alberto Kalach. From the rafters of the large, open exhibition space, Cruzvillegas had strung a daisy chain of small coconuts (representing the heads of 450 innocents slain in drug wars), snaking it around thirty industrial aluminum shelving units on which artists including Miguel Calderón, Monika Sosnowska, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Carlos Amorales had installed objects reflective of their work or sensibilities. (Each unit, with shelves by three artists, was priced at sixty thousand dollars.)

The gallery organized the weekend like professional party planners––stunning in the land of mañana, mañana––arranging hotels, transportation, and sightseeing, but gave the afternoon over to individual pleasures. Mine came early that day, when I joined curator Benjamin Weil, Berlin gallerist Esther Schipper, Los Angeles architect Kulapat Yantrasast, and Jumex’s Victor Zamudio-Taylor for what we all agreed was one of the most transformative experiences of our lives: a visit to Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s house, a sanctuary of the most refined domestic modernism imaginable. Then, with art adviser Curt Marcus, expat American artist James Brown, and his wife, Alexandra (whose Carpe Diem artist-book press is based in Oaxaca), I made the gallery rounds, crawling through a door cut into the metal gates of Petra Gallery, getting a preview of a show by collagist Raul Ortega Ayala at the magnificent El Eco, designed by Barragán associate and painter Mathias Goeritz, and finally, at Galguera’s two-story town house, discovering Benjamin Torres, a terrific young artist who cuts and pastes up magazines (including an entire run of Interview from 1992) into colorful new pop objects.

But the main event was yet to come: the nearly $150,000 dinner and three-DJ dance party Kurimanzutto hosted for three hundred at the sixteenth-century downtown home of the Museum of Mexico City. Guests sat themselves at tables placed in an interior hall four stories high, and were served a four-course meal catered by Contramar, the best seafood restaurant in Mexico City and an art-world clubhouse. At dinner, I met Rodrigo Peñafiel, of the water-bottling family. Paloma Porraz Fraser, director of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso Museum, called him her Robin Hood. A dynamo of a promoter who rounds up corporate sponsorship for cash-starved Mexican museums, Peñafiel also just opened an instantly fashionable nightclub, Leonor, and has a plan to turn every big commercial-business owner in Mexico into a part-time cultural philanthropist.

Left: Curator Benjamin Weil and dealer Esther Schipper. Right: Collector José Noé Suro.

I left before 2 AM, but others kept going until daylight at Leonor’s or López’s digs. Surprisingly, some still appeared bright-eyed the next morning for Morgan’s open house at the Jumex Collection, located about an hour’s drive from town on the grounds of the juice factory. In Duchampian spirit, Morgan had installed one hundred works by Duchamp, Warhol, Elmgreen & Dragset, Jack Pierson, Francis Alÿs, Jimmie Durham, Urs Fischer, Daniel Guzmán, John Cage, Cildo Meireles, and Marepe within the yellow boundary lines of the actual factory, equating juice crates with art-shipping crates and galleries with production. It was great to find hand-tooled art within a factory setting, but it will be better for artists and artgoers when López makes the collection more accessible to the public.

Collectors Ramiro and Gabriela Garza gave the farewell dinner at their Beverly Hills–like manse, proudly displaying work by Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool—all acquired at the top of the market, no fooling. Art advisers loped between tables as if looking for prey, while nimble-footed collectors like ceramics king José Noé Suro kept his conversations with artists like Orozco going full force. “This will be the last year for Art Basel in Miami,” I heard someone say. An American primary-market collector who canceled her trip didn’t disagree. “I'm glad the frenzy is over,” she said. “I’m only buying art I like from galleries now, so I have time to go home and think about it.” In the austere new year ahead, that sort of thing could move destination galleries like Kurimanzutto right to the center of the earth.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Dealer Brent Sikkema. Right: Artist Miguel Calderon.

Supply and Demand


Left: Artists Mark Wallinger and David Batchelor. Right: Dealer Philomene Magers and publicist Karla Otto. (All photos: Lynne Gentle)

WHEN LONDON does public-transportation chaos, boy does she pull out all the stops. My Tuesday-evening tour of a handful of London’s top galleries was an obstacle course of stumbling blocks and banana skins. But such is life in the city.

Surmounting transport challenges at last, my first stop was Saint James’s, where Hurvin Anderson’s new exhibition at Thomas Dane was enjoying a mellow and respectable attendance. The wainscoted entrance to the gallery is accessible via a narrow staircase that is passable only by one very thin human being at a time. Once inside, I was pleased to discover that I didn’t need to use elbows or a swinging handbag to view the work. While gallery director François Chantala was effusive, Anderson wore the amiable patina of opening-night shell shock. There were rumors of an appearance by the elusive Peter Doig, but by the time my chariot beckoned, he was still nowhere to be seen.

Next on the map was Fitzrovia, where I dropped by a group show at Modern Art organized by French curator Alexis Vaillant, before taking in Miquel Barceló’s strangely beautiful paintings of cephalopods at Pilar Corrias. Again, the turnout was on the quiet side. There was so much to be seen on one night that art enthusiasts were spread like a thin film of butter across the length and breadth of central London. It seemed no gallery was getting a body more than its fair share of the people pie.

Left: Elena Eustafiera, Wallpaper editor Tony Chambers, 032c editor Jörg Koch, and artist Thomas Demand. Right: Artists Louise Wilson and Deklan Kilfeather.

Over at Sadie Coles, Glasgow’s Modern Institute was opening Richard Hughes’s “One Man’s Struggle to Take It Easy,” while London’s eastern quadrant offered an exhibition of John Kørner’s haunting abstract paintings of Danish soldiers at Victoria Miro. Due west, Lisson proffered exhibitions by Giulio Paolini and Fernando Ortega. Reports confirmed a certain unexplained lassitude. Was it Frieze Fatigue’s stubborn grip on the capital or British winter hibernation?

My final destination was Sprüth Magers for arguably the evening’s timeliest and most eagerly anticipated opening: Thomas Demand’s “Presidency,” featuring documentation of a replica of the White House Oval Office he made at the invitation of the New York Times. Fabricated from cardboard, paper, and a carpet made of confetti, Demand produced five photographs of the US president’s “mock office” before, as is his habit, destroying the model. The opening was one of the busiest of the evening, and Demand was duly entertained afterward with dinner around the corner at the discreetly tucked-away 17 Berkeley Street. (It’s so good, apparently, that they didn’t have to name it at all.) The guest list was laden with Tate heavyweights, including curators Mark Godfrey, Stuart Comer, and Jessica Morgan.

Left: Artist Durvin Anderson and Thomas Dane Gallery's François Chantala. Right: Sprüth Magers director Andreas Gegner, Sotheby Institute's Anthony Downey, and filmmaker Ben Lewis.

Artists Mark Wallinger and Jane Wilson were there, as was filmmaker Ben Lewis, who happily (and shamelessly) plugged his own endeavors. According to Lewis, his upcoming film Brave New Art World, which “examines the burst in the speculative art-world bubble,” is being thwarted at every turn. “I was banned from the Frieze Fair and Sotheby’s Hirst auction! Can you believe it?” Maybe someone should tell him that vociferous harbingers of doom are about as welcome these days as Sarah Palin in hunting regalia.

After a brief champagne reception, we sat down for dinner, where I found myself at the center of a trinity of amusing dinner companions. Sitting opposite Tate Modern’s Comer, I was flanked by über-cheerful collector Bayard Ficht on the right and Anthony Downey of Sotheby’s Institute on the left. Conversations ranged from the finer points of “Sophisticated Lowbrow” and the Irish Dr. Downey’s personal model for success. Well, it was the table at the back, after all, and we weren’t claiming to find a cure for cancer. When mouths weren’t full of the succulent roast lamb with creamy piped potatoes or the rich and gooey chocolate dessert, guests sang the praises of both Demand and the Sprüth Magers gang. Blessedly, there were no formal speeches or other nap-inducing nonsense—just an elegantly thrown dinner party for a gang of friends and well-wishers that did what it said on the tin.

Pei Day

Doha, Qatar

Left: The Museum of Islamic Art. Right: Architect I. M. Pei. (Except where noted, all photos: Carol Kino)

ON THE SURFACE, the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, seemed to be all about intellectual content. “It’s not about flash and glitz, it’s about seriousness and engagement,” commented Roger Mandle, the executive director of the Qatar Museums Authority, when the museum first opened to the press last Saturday morning. “The goal of the QMA is to invest in our country’s most valuable resource, its people,” propounded Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani, chairperson of the QMA board, looking quite photogenic in her abaya. (As well as being one of the emir’s children—he has twenty-seven, the Christian Science Monitor says—she is also a graduate of Duke University.)

Judging from the museum itself, which has obviously been carefully thought out—from its glorious I. M. Pei–designed building to its jewel-like collection of Islamic art—it is easy to buy the idea that Qatar is on its way to establishing itself as the Middle East’s center of gravitas.

But there was also a decidedly zany aspect to the weekend’s proceedings. It seems that when you do anything involving the royal family of Qatar, the event is likely to be ultralavish, laden with security precautions, incredibly well meaning, and—last but not least—horribly disorganized. Although the speeches and fireworks went off like clockwork, every other aspect of the proceedings seemed to be in a perpetual state of flux, with plans being made, scrapped, and reconceived up to the last possible moment. “All the events that have the royals keep changing,” a local journalist complained. “There are a lot of capable people in Doha. Maybe they’re just not working for the royal family at the museum.”

Left: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Thomas Campbell and Philippe de Montebello. Right: Tribeca Film Festival cofounder Craig Hatkoff, QMA CEO Abdulla Al Najjar, and H. E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairperson of the QMA board of trustees.

One of the most curious aspects of the opening was that the fourth estate was consistently afforded first-class treatment. Journalists were ferried to the opening ceremonies by dhow (a traditional wooden Arab sailing vessel) “because they thought people would enjoy it,” said Miranda Carroll, the former communications chief of the Hammer Museum, who now works for the MIA. As our boats sailed to the man-made island the museum calls home, we lounged languidly on cushions, attended by scores of security forces and two turbaned attendants, who plied us with sweet tea and bitter Arabian coffee. When we docked, the emir let us use his own personal open-air elevator, a miraculous contraption that begins looking out across the water to the royal palace and then rotates 180 degrees on the way up, so that the passenger ends up facing the museum.

Meanwhile, common dignitaries—like Sir Norman Rosenthal, former director of the Royal Academy, and Philippe de Montebello, who is reportedly being wooed by the QMA for some undisclosed position—arrived via bus and had to walk in on their own two feet.

A fraction of the guests had been invited to celebrate the evening inside the museum with the emir’s own entourage. Rosenthal and His Eminence of the Met were not among them. Like the rest of us, they had to make do with an open-air party room outside, furnished with Persian rugs, tented areas, and red velvet banquettes laid out on the sand, from where we watched the proceedings by closed-circuit television. Waitresses sporting bobbed, Louise Brooks–style wigs passed around Coca-Colas and fresh mango and orange juice. There were sumptuous foods, and in the middle was a huge dessert table with chocolate fountains, which had to be turned off when a breeze picked up and they began spattering the guests.

Left: Artist Jeff Koons. Right: Tribeca Film Festival cofounders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal.

Rumor had it that Nicole Kidman was checked into the local Sheraton and a Hollywood couple with six children was shacked up at the Sharq Village and Spa—clearly Brad and Angelina. But when push came to shove, the “celebs” could be counted on one hand: Jay Jopling, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Ronnie Wood, and a young blonde, presumably Wood’s twenty-something girlfriend, Ekaterina Ivanova. They spent much of the evening huddled together in the corner of a stuffy tent. (Maybe they were hiding from the renegade chocolate fountains.) But the best action was to be had in spotting the many major museum powers in attendance: Serfiraz Ergun of the Sabanci, Henri Loyrette of the Louvre, Sir Nicholas Serota of the Tate, Mark Jones of the V&A, and not just one Metropolitan director, but two—Thomas Campbell, whom de Montebello jovially referred to as “the usurper.”

“Have you ever seen all of them in one place before?” a friend marveled. It was sort of like being in a room with the heads of the Five Families, except there were more like twenty.

Then, on the video screen, someone singled out Robert De Niro at the emir’s celebration. Why on earth was he there, when the heads of the world’s major museums were outside?

The next day, at another press conference, the mystery was revealed: Qatar had just formed a partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival, which thenceforth would also operate a “world-class” program in Doha. The sheikha explained that she got the idea for the project during her postcollege internship for the festival in New York; something to keep in mind, perhaps, for companies interviewing royal interns.

Carol Kino

Left: Dealer Jay Jopling and musician Ronnie Wood. Right: Artist Damien Hirst.

Fly by Night


Left: Gunnar B. Kvaran, director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Yoko Ono, and Biljana Ciric, curator of the Ke Center for the Contemporary Arts. Right: The crowd outside the museum. (All photos: Mathieu Borysevicz)

IN RECENT MONTHS, beginning with the ShContemporary fair and the Shanghai Biennial in September, a veritable swarm of international art cognoscenti has passed through the city. In October, the eArts Festival brought Christian Marclay and musician Elliott Sharp to Shanghai, while the opening of ShanghArt gallery’s “Involved” drew the likes of Luc Tuymans and Knut Åsdam. Just last week, James Cohan’s Shanghai outpost presented its third exhibition, giving the space over to Folkert de Jong’s jolly, Styrofoam-sculpted simians. But perhaps no one was more anticipated than Yoko Ono, whose first solo exhibition in China, a retrospective of her instructional works titled simply “FLY,” opened last Saturday at the Ke Center for the Contemporary Arts.

“We’ve been discussing this exhibition almost since we opened the space, nearly two years ago,” Biljana Ciric, the curator of the privately run nonprofit, noted at the opening. The exhibition was co-organized by Gunnar Kvaran, director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, where “FLY” originated, but it was Ono who conceived and curated the show. Describing her arrival in the city’s hypermodern Pudong airport, Ono exclaimed, “I felt like Marco Polo must have felt when he first came to China.” Not only was this Ono’s first solo exhibition in the country, it was also her first time visiting Mainland China. Ono, like many Japanese, was educated in the Chinese classics, and she admitted that she learned her life strategies from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. She closed the press conference by painting her Chinese name not on the paper prepared for it but on a nearby window curtain.

Left: Artist Zhang Huan. Right: Artist Rutherford Chang with David Chan, director of the Shanghai Gallery of Art.

The following day, a twenty-person viewing limit left hundreds of would-be admirers stranded outside the museum, stampeding the artist’s Ex It, a series of wooden caskets, which had been installed in front of the entrance. Overhead, a promotional video blasted John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” A drizzle steadily grew. At the rear of the crowd, ShanghArt director Lorenz Helbling and artist Zhou Tiehai shook their heads at the hopeless, rain-soaked queue and opted to head off early for the dinner. As the shower gave way to a downpour, the museum’s doors swung open and the wet masses funneled into the already overcrowded exhibition. “A typical Shanghai scene,” needled one local standing above the hordes on a platform built into the gallery.

While hundreds participated in the artist’s famous Conceptual-art tutorials, which included works such as the 1966 Blue Room Event and the more recent Wish Tree, Ono herself was performing upstairs in the museum’s lounge area, “bringing new meaning to the term ‘disco dancing,’” as artist Rutherford Chang observed. Around 9 PM, her dance for the masses gave way to a more exclusive dinner at the recently opened Kee Club, a Hong Kong nightlife classic recently transplanted to Shanghai’s Dunhill mansions complex, a spectacular courtyard in the center of the city.

The comparatively sober dinner was attended by Helbling and Zhou, the photography duo known as Birdhead, artist Zhang Huan, Shanghai Gallery of Art director David Chan, dealer Meg Maggio, and Ono’s attentive staff. After dessert, Ono descended to the postdinner cocktail party for a final photo op before heading back to her hotel to sleep off the jet lag, leaving the dwindling crowd to soak up her blessings of universal love, and the pouring rain.

Mathieu Borysevicz