Fresh Prince


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 cliché 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 tęte-ŕ-tęte. 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

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 Ögüt. (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 Mónica, 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)

Cy Unseen


Left: Filmmaker Gerry Fox and artist Tracey Emin. (Photo: Gareth Harris) Right: Dealer Leslie Waddington and Tate Modern director Vicente Todolí. (Photo: Rolf Marriott)

The early signs were not encouraging. A decidedly thin crowd had gathered at the start of the evening for the opening of Cy Twombly’s exhibition at Tate Modern, the artist’s first retrospective in fifteen years. A long row of keen black-shirted waiters greeted the few visitors filing into the upper echelons of the gallery. But where were the rest of the guests? Gradually, as the red wine flowed and the asparagus sticks (vegetables are all the rage at Tate) were devoured, a steady stream of stellar artists and dealers turned up to pay homage to the Rome-based superstar who, characteristically, decided not to attend his own private view. (His son, Alessandro, came instead.)

First up was Conrad Shawcross, the young British sculptor known for his eye-catching wooden contraptions, who was full of beans and more than happy to divulge his numerous future projects. He noted that he’s just about to head across the pond for a six-month residency at New York’s Location One institute, a center devoted to merging art and technology. His US jaunt culminates in a new project to be unveiled at Art Basel Miami Beach in partnership with the Paris-based dealer Emmanuel Perrotin. 
Shawcross was the first person that evening to argue that the Twombly show “rises as you go through.” The same point was made by the ubiquitous party boy and dapper coauthor of The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, Peter York (“The show gets hotter and hotter”), who grabbed me midway through the exhibition to playfully ask, “How did that octogenarian manage to hang works all the way up there?” Before I could hazard any guesses as to curator Nicholas Serota’s approach, which was widely applauded by the private-view throng, I was waylaid by the porkpie-hatted Gerry Fox. The amiable documentary maker disclosed that he’s just put the finishing touches to a film on Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles for a Tate Modern exhibition launching this autumn. Tracey Emin, fresh from her barnstorming stint at the Folkestone Triennial, joined in the conversation and waxed lyric about the work on view. “I love Poems to the Sea,” she said, referring to a 1959 work hanging in the gallery. Rock star Bryan Ferry ran past and also joined the chorus of approval. “I’m a huge fan,” he shouted over the crowd, while Lady Helen Taylor, wife of dealer Timothy, said that she would definitely be making a return visit. Gagosian director Robin Vousden (predictably) couldn’t utter the superlatives quick enough: “Brilliant . . . glorious . . . exhilarating.”

Left: Artist Dexter Dalwood. (Photo: Gareth Harris) Right: Art historian Tim Marlow with Gagosian's Robin Vousden. (Photo: Rolf Marriott)

Would anyone be prepared to voice criticism? A few rebels could be found out on the Tate’s veranda, a heady haven for art-world smokers. Chirpy artist Dexter Dalwood, resplendent against the backdrop of St. Paul’s cathedral, was less shy than others. “Twombly was fantastic until 1988,” he confidently declared. After a lively debate about the problems of making art when you’re an “art titan” (as Twombly so obviously is), an equally academic discussion ensued with Chris Stephens, a curator of the Tate’s forthcoming Francis Bacon show, about the late British-art bad boy’s love of all things French. Big-name dealers Nicholas Logsdail and Victoria Miro strolled past while photographer Johnnie Shand Kydd and artist Maggi Hambling encircled the canapés.

Distraction then came in the form of artist Ed Linse, a member of the collective Artists Anonymous, who studied at one time with Georg Baselitz at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. When pushed to describe the experience of being taught by the high-profile veteran, Linse would only quip: “The worst thing one could say about Baselitz is what he says himself.” Apparently, even German art giants experience self-doubt.

Gareth Harris

Left: A view of the crowd. (Photo: Rolf Marriott) Right: Tate curator Chris Stephens. (Photo: Gareth Harris)

Riding the Wave

New York

Left: Musicians Jim Sclavunos and Lydia Lunch. (Photo: Chad Beckerman) Right: Critic Byron Coley, Abrams editor Tamar Bravis, and Thurston Moore. (Photo: David Velasco)

How many photographs of downtown scenestress and musician Lydia Lunch can one person stand? Scholars in future generations will now be able to piece together pretty much every outfit the postpunk doyenne ever wore in her first five years in New York, thanks to an avalanche of documentation in books from the past couple years: Marc Masters’s No Wave, Paula Court’s New York Noise, and Thurston Moore and Byron Coley’s just-released No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976–1980. Like any good insular art scene, No Wave kept outsiders (and audiences) at bay but photographers on hand. If you were one of the ten to fifteen unhappy-looking observers at the Mudd Club, the Kitchen, CBGB, or Tier 3, watching some legendarily abrasive band, odds are your pain is now catalogued and immortalized.

Draw a gently curving line, more or less, from the location of Dave’s Luncheonette, the oft-reminisced-about late-night Canal Street hangout, out through the Mudd Club, which sat a couple blocks south, and you’ll soon hit the site where KS Art stands today. It was there on Friday night that a party was thrown in celebration of the release of Moore and Coley’s book. In the flyer-and-photo-bedecked gallery, tourists past and present gathered to ogle both the walls and one another: Swimming through the soupy, overheated confines were Moore and his wife, Kim Gordon, Coley, Lunch, the Contortions’ James Chance, one-time Sonic Youth drummer and Lunch cohort Jim Sclavunos, musician Alan Licht, and many of the photographers—Robert Sietsema, Julia Gorton—whose work hung on the walls. Across the street, people glanced nervously at the Knitting Factory, where the main event—a Teenage Jesus & the Jerks reunion, for which Lunch had flown in from Barcelona—was scheduled for 8 PM sharp. KS Art proprietor Kerry Schuss, perhaps sensing some apprehension on my part, attempted reassurance: “They’ve been rehearsing for days!”

Left: Musician Lee Ranaldo and artist Leah Singer. (Photo: Laura Levine) Right: Kim Gordon. (Photo: David Velasco)

Lunch, who, in 1976, at sixteen, left her parents’ home in Rochester, New York, and who, two years later, was proclaiming herself “the best thing to happen to music in 250 years,” has evidently been a good sport—judging from the hours of interviews she gave to Masters, Moore, and Coley—about the canonization she resisted so thoroughly in her first go-round. (She’s loudly on record as being skeptical of No New York, the Brian Eno–produced compilation that helped give No Wave a name and Teenage Jesus a platform.) But what easier target for a notoriously audience-hating band like Teenage Jesus (from which original member James Chance was tossed merely because he couldn’t help but interact with the band’s crowds) than a sold-out, reverential sea of fresh faces?

First, though, we were treated to some trivia: a set by Information, the NO magazine–affiliated, constantly morphing No Wave footnote whose baffling presence was perhaps the evening’s most authentic curveball. “We’re quite amused you all came back,” noted the band’s Chris Nelson, utterly sarcastically. In turn, the band covered a song by the even more ephemeral Blinding Headaches (a trio perfectly memorialized in a Sietsema photo from No Wave, playing an LES rooftop show to all of seven distracted-looking friends). Information’s fifteen-minute set wrapped up with an elaborately announced, ten-second, one-chord-and-done “song.” In between, of course, came the amplified toy piano, the trumpet, and the unbelievably loud steel drum.

As for Teenage Jesus—with Sclavunos back on drums and “surprise guest bass player” Thurston Moore—they were as fleeting, nasty, screeching, and brutish as one could have hoped. Sclavunos stood behind his instrument, staring straight ahead; Moore scrutinized the set list, fiddled with his guitar, and absorbed Lunch’s abuse: “This is what happens when a member of Sonic Youth joins the band,” she spewed. “Fumble, fumble, fumble.” Whatever thrill there was in seeing our own alt-rock gods cut down before their elders quickly faded when Lunch turned toward us. “You have no fucking clue,” she said, glaring straight out into the rapturous applause: “Thanks for nothing.”

Shabby Chic

Folkestone, UK

Left: Folkestone Triennial curator Andrea Schlieker (left) with artist Christian Boltanski (right). (Photo: Barry Duffield) Right: Nathan Coley's Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens. (Photo: Martin Herbert)

“A walk from riches to rags” is how Folkestone Triennial curator Andrea Schlieker described the event she has been working on for the past three years. It was Friday, the exhibition’s opening day, and we were standing at the “riches” end: the sunlit ballroom of the Metropole Hotel, a luscious relic of the Kentish coastal town’s Edwardian boom years as a holiday resort. As David Batchelor’s Disco Mechanique—comprising dozens of motorized faux glitter balls made from thirty-four hundred interlaced pairs of colorful Brazilian sunglasses—twirled in the room’s center, Schlieker promised “a string of pearls from the east to the west,” one made up of twenty-two artist projects, mostly by marquee names but with a surprising number hailing from the region, who have “responded to and articulated the town’s different levels of wealth.”

Though the artists frequently depart from Schlieker’s template—while nevertheless paying admirable attention to the local—“different levels” is right: Folkestone, like many an English seaside town, is half-sunk in desuetude. English tourists have long since taken to going abroad to escape English weather, and the town’s industry isn’t entirely healthy. “Since the ferry terminal to France closed down, Folkestone’s been on the slide, so the triennial is great,” one optimistic invigilator opined later, as we stood on a breezy hilltop at the far end of town. There, I was trying to fly one of Nils Norman, Gavin Wade, and Simon and Tom Bloor’s kites emblazoned with sardonic bits of “regeneration-speak”: e.g., UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT and HIPSTERIZATION STRATEGIES. Here, and in Adam Chodzko’s video, Pyramid, housed in a disused town-center shop and depicting Folkestone as first cursed, then magically rejuvenated, one sensed that if artists are going to be instruments of regeneration, they’re not necessarily going to keep quiet about it.

Left: Anthony Reynolds Gallery's Maria Statha with artist Mark Wallinger. (Photo: Martin Herbert) Right: Artist Tracey Emin. (Photo: Barry Duffield)

Will the triennial boost tourism? “I’m just here to see Folkestone, really,” offered current Turner Prize nominee Mark Leckey, who I bumped into on the windswept beachfront while I failed, even with map in hand, to find one of Tracey Emin’s miniature Baby Things bronzes (socks, shoes, teddies, etc.). Jeremy Deller, there to choreograph a series of outdoor slapstick performances, was relatively circumspect. “It’s just more art, isn’t it?” he said, reasonably enough. By this point, we were on a coach, hurtling toward lunch and overtaking curator Greg Hilty, who was riding a strange bike with a loudspeaker attached. Those who mocked him—me included—hadn’t been apprised of Kaffe Matthews’s Marvelo Project, wherein GPS technology triggers sounds as you ride her cycles around town. “Hark how fresh and varied the sonic landscape becomes,” Matthews writes in the catalogue. The sounds might at least drown out certain noises that are fresh in a different way. For example, the Folkestone youth we encountered shortly before, leaning out of their passing car and gleefully shouting “Cunts!” at our group, which included Richard Wentworth, who at that moment was explaining his series of signs identifying nonindigenous trees growing in the area. “Folkestone,” sighed Wentworth absently, giving the hooligans the peace sign.

Lunch, in a big tent in a spectacularly dismal part of the docks, turned out to be fish and chips, with—heresy!—no salt and vinegar, which suggested a few gaps in the organizers’ knowledge regarding the fundamentals of the seaside experience. (Should this disaster ever afflict you, try art historian Claire Bishop’s lateral solution: a drizzle of white wine.) Some things you can rely on, though: As the afternoon wore on, in classic English seaside style the rain fell. Cue punters taking shelter beside Mark Dion’s Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit, a bird-shaped info center on wheels, where the affable American dispensed facts about the local birdlife; or in Tacita Dean’s screening room, where the Berlin-based expat is presenting a characteristically beautiful 16-mm film of a boat crossing the English Channel at sunrise.

Left: Artists Jeremy Deller and Pae White with Andrea Schlieker and dealer Cornelia Grassi. (Photo: Barry Duffield) Right: Artist Adam Chodzko. (Photo: Martin Herbert)

And then—prior to a packed evening party back at the marquee, which led into a firework display—the sun came out again, as if it had been planned that way by the show’s ultimate organizer (that being Roger de Haan, former chairman of Folkestone’s biggest employers, insurance and holiday specialists Saga, who has invested heavily in the town and “lives in a weird glass house” outside it, according to a local cabbie). On the train home, it became apparent that there are some things you don’t really want second helpings of—such as fish and chips, even when purchased by Antony Gormley and consumed in the genial company of Sir Nicholas Serota and his writer-curator partner, Teresa Gleadowe, curators Alex Farquharson and Polly Staple, and Cabinet magazine’s Brian Dillon (who’d all already moved on to matters other than Folkestone). Over at the next table, meanwhile, the ideal tribute to an enjoyably exhausting day came from Leckey—who, by then, was lodged deep in blissful sleep.

Martin Herbert

Left: Mark Dion's Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit. (Photo: Martin Herbert) Right: Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar (on left). (Photo: Barry Duffield)

Guilty Pleasures


Left: Collector Dakis Joannou and Lietta Joannou. Right: Dakis Joannou's yacht “Guilty.” (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

There are three kinds of power in the art world. One comes from money, another from fame. Then there is the power of art itself to provoke emotion. All three were on jubilant display last Monday and Tuesday in Athens, as Greek construction tycoon Dakis Joannou introduced one hundred or so select artists, dealers, curators, and fellow art patrons to the latest incarnation of the Joannou Collection and the christening of “Guilty,” a thirty-eight-yard-long yacht with a razzle-dazzle finish by Jeff Koons.

These temptations made the prospect of an expenses-paid trip just too irresistible. How much harm could it do to submit to the charms of the bourgeoisie, if research required it? As a Joannou guest, I was taken to the Semiranis, a candy-colored, acid dream of a hotel (one of several that the collector owns in Athens) and shown to a bungalow by the pool. There I found some familiar faces: artists Ashley Bickerton, Ricci Albenda, and Roberto Cuoghi lounging about with curators Ali Subotnick and Cecilia Alemani. All had played a part either in the decor of the yacht, which is loaded with art and overdesigned furniture, or in “Fractured Figure: Works from the Dakis Joannou Collection,” the current show at Joannou’s Deste Foundation, organized over the past few years by Jeffrey Deitch with Massimiliano Gioni, who arrived late in the day with his Wrong Gallery compatriot Maurizio Cattelan, a Joannou favorite.

Whenever you put a group of art-world personages together for a few days in one another’s exclusive company, it’s going to start feeling like a Shriner’s convention at some point—or maybe summer camp. The hair comes down, and everyone gets a new best friend. (At one point, even archrivals Larry Gagosian and Deitch buddied up. “He thinks it would be a good idea for me to open a gallery in Rome,” Deitch said.)

Left: Artist Jeff Koons and designer Ivana Porfiri. Right: Dealers Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian.

Some guests that evening, who included globe-trotting dealers Marian Goodman, Emmanuel Perrotin, Carol Greene, Marianne Boesky, and Eva Presenhuber; collectors Marion Lambert, Dinos Martinos, and Maja Hoffmann; and Tate director Nicholas Serota and Kunsthalle Zürich director Beatrix Ruf chose to speed-walk through the exhibition, a creepy affair replete with enough macabre sex, death, dismemberment, and disillusionment to feel threatening. “These are dark times,” the sunny Joannou told me. “The artists recognize that. We should, too.”

Urs Fischer had “fine-tuned” the installation, as Deitch put it. (Fischer also designed the large-format, two-volume catalogue.) The other artists present that day took the time to examine each work. “I don’t get this,” Bickerton muttered about a John Bock installation. “I love this,” he said of Paul McCarthy’s flesh-colored Paula Jones, which Joannou had bought directly from the studio. (It consists of table-mounted fiberglass renditions of certain politicians—half-human, half-pig—giving each other a royal forking.)

Cattelan provided the sobering finale, All, a row of gray marble body bags laid out on the floor (eat your heart out, Carl Andre), also purchased from the studio. The piece did not refer to a specific incident, Goodman said; more than one person named it Cattelan’s “masterwork,” the one that would “kick his career to a whole new level.” Still, Cattelan had plenty of dystopian competition—from Gregor Schneider, Kiki Smith, Pawel Althamer, and Andro Wekua, as well as Bickerton, whose corpulent fiberglass torso, FOB, tucked into a small room at the entrance between Terence Koh’s white-chocolate “mountains” and Koons’s convex chrome Moon, made up the show’s most inspired ménage. “You know what FOB means?” Bickerton challenged Deitch, Joannou’s longtime consultant and Deste’s chief curator. “Fresh Off the Boat?” the dealer replied. “First On the Beach,” said Bickerton, a dedicated surfer who lives in Bali.

Left: Artist Roberto Cuoghi. Right: Dealer Marian Goodman.

Meanwhile, guests like Gagosian, Jean “Johnny” Pigozzi, and Simon de Pury seemed more engaged by the cocktail mixer on the roof. What is an art event these days, after all, if not a bonding ritual? Art was the main topic of conversation, though other matters did come up. “You know what's wrong with guys like Jean Nouvel?” inquired the jovial Tony Shafrazi. “They never think of putting a window in the bathroom. I mean, the smell!”

After a Dionysian sunset, we were all loaded into vans and taxis and taken to Joannou’s home, where a ton of art—by Richard Prince, Piotr Uklanski, Christopher Wool, Wangechi Mutu, Cindy Sherman, Seth Price, and Chris Ofili, to name a few—was on view. The marble conversation pit of a reception area alone was a veritable hall of contemporary sculpture fame: Charles Ray’s giant woman in a blue dress, a Robert Gober drain, Koons’s Michael Jackson and Bubbles, and one of his “Equilibrium” tanks, the work that made Joannou so crazy for young art in the first place. (His Koonses now total forty-eight.) There was also a suite of delicate pencil studies of costumed female figures by a more recent discovery—a forty-five-year-old native Athenian named Christiana Soulou, who starved herself prior to making them. “I had to destroy the image of myself to get to the bones,” she said. (The drawings represent her recovery.)

After helping themselves to the lavish buffet dinner, guests gathered at long tables on the terrace overlooking Athens, beside the lap pool. “I really shouldn’t be here,” Serota confessed, casting an eye at Gagosian. “I’m supposed to be installing a Cy Twombly show that opens next week.” I sat with Goodman, talking about the diminished American presence at Art Basel the week before, where Europeans, particularly Russians, as well as Chinese and Indian buyers, flexed all the muscle. “I’ve seen this coming for a long time,” she said, then introduced me to Panos and Sandra Marinopoulos, who later treated me to a view of their smart collection of photography—most of it American.

Left: Artists Maurizio Cattelan and Urs Fischer. Right: Collectors Maja Hoffmann and Jean Pigozzi.

After dinner, Albenda stole the show by partnering with Andrea Rosen Gallery director Laura Mackall and tearing up the dance floor—actually a skylight over the sculpture pit—at the feet of Koons’s red Balloon Dog. In fact, the house DJ got everyone on their feet, including Hoffmann, Presenhuber, and Gioni, who danced together wildly by the pool. Surprisingly, all the ouzo did not keep anyone from showing up on time the next morning—OK, it was nearly noon—to see the yacht. “Is that a Koons or a Lichtenstein?” asked one wag in my van as we drove into a marina that Joannou told me he had bought outright the week before.

The yacht’s exterior did look like a Ben-day dot painting, but, Koons said, it was based on a World War I camouflage pattern designed to confuse rather than hide. The dizzying, chromatic graphics did make the unusually jutting planes of the ship, designed by architect Ivana Porfiri, hard to make out on the water. The touchy-feely interior was all mirror, silver leather, and dyed materials. “Isn’t it wonderful how you just want to touch everything on board?” Koons asked, smiling. (“He sounds so much like Ronald Reagan!” Bickerton said, in a whispered aside.) The decor also included a lot of art, curated by Alemani, including wall paintings by David Shrigley, another by Albenda, and Guilty, an unusual text painting by Sarah Morris bought because, well, Joannou said, “I had to.” The yacht already had the name. “Guilty,” he said. “It just seemed right.”

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Jeffrey Deitch. Right: The “Guilty” group.