Sexy Back

Berlin
05.07.08

Left: Collector Axel Haubrock with dealer and Gallery Weekend manager Michael Neff. Right: Curator Daniela Palazzoli, Isabella Bortolozzi, and artist Danh Vo. (All photos: Saskia Draxler)


Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, has described his city as “poor but sexy.” Cheap, safe, and social, Berlin offers haven to all kinds of creative freelancers. Although it may be laid-back, however, it is not particularly cosmopolitan. Thus the annual Berlin Gallery Weekend, initiated in 2005 by a number of established Berlin galleries as an attempt to glamorize and internationalize the local art world, has in the past seemed more hopeful than realistic.

This year’s edition opened last Thursday with a VIP tour of the private homes of select dealers. Collectors and journalists were driven through Berlin’s thin traffic in black Audi limousines. What we saw, basically, was a variety of interior-decorating styles. Guido Baudach’s place, for example, had a vintage, flea-market look, while Markus Lüttgen and Thomas Flessenkemper’s apartment high up in one of the Soviet-style towers at Straussberger Platz—where a new showroom for Axel and Barbara Haubrock’s collection and the new Texte Zur Kunst office have recently opened—had a slicker aesthetic. The latter’s interiors were designed by architect Etienne Descloux, who has been hired by many dealers (to design both their homes and galleries), including Giti Nourbakhsch, Isabella Bortolozzi, and Jörg Johnen. Lüttgen pointed out his living-room window to the opposite tower, where David Adjaye is renovating collectors Gaby and Wilhelm Schürmann’s apartment and where Adamski Gallery is located. Straussberger Platz, it seems, is shaping up as something of a hot spot. Many of the hosts seemed a bit reserved (some might say “German”), except for Baudach, whose house has a natural openness and has probably seen many jovial get-togethers.

In the evening, the caravan moved on to the new five-star Hotel de Rome for Gallery Weekend’s opening reception, sponsored by Axa Art. The atmosphere was professional yet stylish. Lively conversations went on between collectors—among them the Haubrocks, Kasia and Pawel Prokesz, and August von Joest—and dealers. “Independent collectors” were also present, an Internet-based organization formed by Wilhelm Schürmann and others who think that not only artists but also collectors have to group together to strengthen their position vis-à-vis the multiheaded monster called the art market.

Left: Artist Carroll Dunham. Right: Collectors Kasia and Pawel Prokesz with dealer Giti Nourbakhsch.


Many of us reconvened at 1 PM the next day for a Felliniesque event: the laying of the cornerstone for an avant-garde condo building at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, designed by architect Roger Bundschuh in cooperation with artist Cosima von Bonin, that will be inhabited mostly by art-world players like Munich collector Peter Wiese and Chinese artist Zhao Gang. Sunglasses were needed, perhaps because, in the bright sunlight, the guests’ morning-after faces looked just a bit too real.

Some of the openings that night were sparsely attended, leading us to wonder whether the whole event was a bit overambitious, given the actual size of the local audience. Bortolozzi had her hip, youngish crowd, while the “serious” people went to David Claerbout’s brilliant show at Galerie Johnen. Carlier Gebauer was exhibiting many Erik Schmidt paintings in their giant new gallery in Markgrafenstrasse. It seemed, however, to be just a regular night of openings—except, of course, for the black limos. Eigen + Art, which was opening a Carsten Nicolai exhibition, was full as usual, as was Contemporary Fine Arts, exhibiting work by Tal R. Both galleries held their dinners, which were somewhat rowdy affairs, at Clärchens Ballhaus, an old GDR dancehall that has been turned into a kind of touristy pizza place. Everybody was there: Gerd Harry Lybke’s male artists (Martin Eder, Jörg Herold, et al.) made a powerful impression, while August von Joest told anecdotes about his first Neo Rauch purchases and about the neighborhood complaints regarding the penthouse swimming pool he shares with Corinna Hoffman.

Left: Artist Erik Schmidt. Right: Artist Kirsten Ortwed with dealer Aurel Scheibler.


Saturday had two events titled “The Opening” by British artist Merlin Carpenter, who is represented by my partner, Christian Nagel. The first took place at the Mercedes headquarters—the largest auto showroom in the world—where Carpenter made guests wait about an hour until he finally drove by in his own polished 1980s Mercedes. Leaning out the open window, he painted four white hanging canvases with a comically oversize brush, leaving only a few hasty marks. A similar performance took place two hours later at the Cornershop, a clothing store in Mitte. Both were attended by what Diedrich Diederichsen once called “hipster intellectuals”—some Texte zur Kunst writers, Volksbühne music booker Christoph Gurk, curator and Frieze editor Jörg Heiser, Diederichsen himself, and artists Michael Beutler, Sarah Staton, and Josephine Pryde, all of whom mixed amicably with Gallery Weekend VIPs like Jeane Freifrau von Oppenheim and her friend Ingeborg Baronin von Maltzahn. Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, who had just left her position as Art Basel codirector, made a surprise appearance.

The weekend’s main event was meant to be Saturday’s grand gala dinner at the Berlin Convention Center. Following Thursday’s luxurious kickoff at the Hotel du Rome, however, the gathering seemed anticlimactic. The party just never took off. Gregorio Napoleone was dying for a hamburger and begged his gorgeous wife, Valeria, a ravenous art collector, to leave early. Freda and Izak Uziyel, opting for kindness, made no comment. Christian Boros seemed still to be riding high on the opening of his collection’s showroom during the Berlin Biennial. Still, everybody tried to be as cheerful and entertaining as possible, toasting to Berlin’s great future—a future that we have been anticipating for more than a decade. But if you really want “sexy,” better drinks and cozier spaces would do the trick.

Saskia Draxler

Left: Collector Christian Boros. Right: Artist Katja Barth with dealer Guido W. Baudach.


Space Oddity

Pittsburgh
05.05.08

Left: Carnegie International curator Douglas Fogle with artist Mark Manders. Right: Richard Armstrong, director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, and Richard Flood, chief curator at the New Museum. (All photos: David Velasco)


“Are we alone in the universe? Do aliens exist? Or are we, ourselves, the strangers in our own worlds?” Sounding a bit like the promotional spiel for a sci-fi convention, the tagline for the Fifty-fifth Carnegie International—which curator Douglas Fogle blithely titled “Life on Mars,” after David Bowie’s 1971 classic—inspires visions of Roswell, tinfoil hats, and Heaven’s Gate. Not an entirely unappealing set of connotations (for this conspiracy theorist, at least), but a strange one nonetheless for North America’s most venerable periodic exhibition of contemporary art.

Arriving in Pittsburgh early Friday morning for the opening festivities, I spotted a placard at the museum’s entrance featuring a skeletal Tyrannosaurus rex inviting visitors to ROAM OUR WORLD. I took a moment to nudge my inner child, though there were plenty of outer ones at hand. On that particular morning, the museum seemed a veritable Kid Nation, with middle schoolers stomping around Manfred Pernice’s deconstructed installation of vitrines and eating lunch in the courtyard amid Susan Philipsz’s a cappella recording of “The Banks of the Ohio,” two of the exhibition’s 204 works (by forty international artists).

Upstairs, however, the galleries devoted solely to the International were much quieter. Curators, artists, and installers (performing last-minute touch-ups) roamed the halls, surveying Fogle’s handiwork. Hovering near one of his installations, A sheet of paper on which I was about to draw, as it slipped from my table and fell to the floor, Ryan Gander pondered his piece, as well as the city’s unique history. (In his hotel room the night prior, he and gallery mate Phil Collins had reenacted scenes from Dawn of the Dead, which was filmed at the nearby Monroeville Mall.) The work typically consists of one hundred laser-cut crystal balls, but Gander only used forty here. “I didn’t want to interfere with Wilhelm Sasnal’s area,” he claimed. “That’s not proper biennial artist behavior,” joked former Whitney director David Ross. “You’re being far too generous.”

Left: Artist Ryan Gander with Artists Pension Trust chairman David Ross. Right: Artist Matthew Monahan.


Other artists were perhaps more willing to indulge their inner diva. When Fogle placed one of Maria Lassnig’s curiously deformed self-portraits behind a set of Matthew Monahan’s towering, misshaped sculptures—a clever, though imposing, juxtaposition—Monahan disagreed. “I’ll move it myself if I have to,” noted the artist’s resolute mother. In the end, though, it seems a compromise was reached, and Lassnig’s painting was simply placed on the wall opposite.

Spelunking Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation Cavemanman, a vast horror vacui warren of brown packing tape and photocopied historical and sociological scholarship, I bumped into trustee emeritus Ann Wardrop. “I simply love being in the museum when it’s empty. Don’t you?” she exclaimed with a childlike grin. In another large room, filled with Wolfgang Tillmans’s variegated photographs, a host of curators—Daniel Birnbaum, Lars Bang Larsen, Richard Flood, and Fogle himself—congregated. “I have the distinguished honor to be the youngest-ever curator of the Venice Biennale,” the fresh-faced, forty-five-year-old Birnbaum jokily boasted. “And after this year, you’ll never look quite this young again,” teased a glowing Flood, before turning to receive Fogle with a warm, congratulatory hug.

Perhaps most surprising in “Life on Mars”—especially given recent trends in major New York surveys, such as the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the New Museum’s “Unmonumental”—is the preponderance of figuration (or disfiguration): works by Monahan, Hirschhorn, Andro Wekua, Mark Manders, Kai Althoff, and Barry McGee each feature distorted humanoid sculptures, while Lassnig, Sasnal, Bruce Conner, and Daniel Guzmán play with the figurative in two dimensions. Also common are evocations of swiftly tilting planets and the universe’s terrific, alienating vastness, beginning, of course, with Paul Thek’s much-disseminated brochure-cover work Untitled (Earth Drawing I), but also including pieces by Friedrich Kunath, Vija Celmins, Mark Bradford, Rivane Neuenschwander, and quite a few others. Everything chimes. Dramatically cinching it all is Mike Kelley’s wondrous, colorful laboratorylike installation, inspired by the fictional city of Kandor (the capital of Superman’s homeland of Krypton), which dominates the ground floor of the Hall of Sculpture. For all Fogle’s talk in the press about “Life on Mars” as a metaphor for human connection, the exhibition also comes across as a literal enactment of its title. There is “Life”—numerous mutated, alien forms—and there is “Mars”—solemn representations of planets, suns, and nebulae, entropic horizons.

Left: Ann Wardrop, Carnegie Museum trustee emeritus. Right: Architects Ravi GuneWardena and Frank Escher with artists Sharon Lockhart and Alex Slade.


That evening, a largely black-tie crowd descended on the museum for the gala benefit. A bevy of Chelsea dealers (Barbara Gladstone, Tanya Bonakdar, Anton Kern, Brent Sikkema, Michael Jenkins, Paula Cooper, and Andrea Rosen among them) chatted with their artists and Pittsburgh’s elite; they didn’t seem to talk much with one another, though. Most everyone seemed ebullient about the exhibition. Madeleine Grynsztejn—curator of the lauded fifty-third survey in 1999, and newly minted director at the MCA Chicago—gave praise in passing: “It’s beautiful, tender, and human. He really hit it out of the park.”

Following a formal awards ceremony, during which Carnegie Museum director Richard Armstrong announced the winners of the Fine Prize for emerging artist (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) and the Carnegie Prize (Celmins), attendees spilled into the museum’s baroque music hall for a somewhat less punctilious “strolling dinner,” featuring buffet tables laden with charred ahi and strawberries filled with minted cream cheese. Some patrons roamed the galleries, while others ventured outside into the warm spring air to scope out Doug Aitken’s new outdoor video projection migration, featuring indigenous American animals exploring hotel rooms across the US.

A little after 10 PM, school buses began shuttling guests from the museum to the Brillobox, a two-story lounge and dance club on Penn Avenue featuring red-velvet wallpaper and high tin ceilings. There, Bradford and Peter Fischli impressed us all with their dancing stamina, even, near the end of New Order’s “Perfect Kiss,” helping to coax a reluctant Fogle onto the floor. Soon enough, the entirety of the club’s second level was packed with sweating and ecstatic bodies; miles away from their home turf, suddenly no one seemed shy.

David Velasco

Left: Artist Eoghan McTigue with critic and curator Lars Bang Larsen. Right: Artist Haegue Yang.


Risky Business

New York
05.03.08

Left: Film still from Guest of Cindy Sherman. (Photo: Spencer Tunick) Right: Gabriella Kessler, filmmaker Paul H-O, and Serena Merriman. (Photo: David Velasco)


The first thing to say about the “Red Carpet Arrivals” screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival is that there were no red carpets. Or star arrivals. Or maybe just not for art-world documentaries. Well, huffle-doody-doo. But there were long lines for “eligible badge holders,” “rush” ticketees, and regular paying punters. My press badge was apparently so eligible that I didn’t have to wait at all, which made up for the lack of processional glamour. I was prepared to get all Joan Rivers on these people, but maybe we should all be thankful I didn’t have the chance. What do I know about shoes anyway? What I do know something about is professional jealousy, which turned out to be the subject of Guest of Cindy Sherman, Paul H-O and Tom Donahue’s art-world-as-domestic-drama doc.

Paul H-O is an affable surfer dude–cum–art nut who for years, starting in 1993, shot with future Artnet.com editor in chief Walter Robinson a public-access video show called Gallery Beat, which could just as easily have been titled Paul and Walter’s Excellent Art-World Adventure. If October occupies one end of the art-critical spectrum, then Gallery Beat resided on the other. In their heyday, Paul, Robinson, and their pals would cruise SoHo openings, mug for the camera, get up in famous artists’ grills, and generally make a low-wattage nuisance of themselves. Some artists wouldn’t talk to them. Others they actively pissed off. One of the early highlights of Guest is a younger Julian Schnabel telling the Gallery Beaters, with a straight face, that their efforts are “masturbatory.” Oh, the ironic ’90s.

Sherman, already a sensation due to her “Untitled Film Stills,” happened to enjoy watching Gallery Beat, and while everyone in the haute art world clamored for interviews with her, she decided she’d prefer to talk to Paul H-O. This was like Nicole Kidman granting exclusive access to a pimply teenage blogger from some godforsaken dungeon in Secaucus. Over the course of several videotaped studio visits, a romance developed between the unlikely pair, and Paul, fleeing an eviction lawsuit in Brooklyn, moved in with Cindy.

Everything is hunky-dory for a few years, until Paul’s new Web venture Artlike fails as Cindy’s star continues to rise. He starts taking antidepressants, shooting surf videos on Long Island, and musing bitterly about how easy things come for Cindy. Attending galas and openings with his celebrity girlfriend, Paul finds himself cut out of paparazzi photos and shunted to remote tables with GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN place cards. They go to couples therapy, and Cindy steals Paul’s shrink. He does an interview on cult radio station WFMU about the situation. Finally, the inevitable breakup. Paul is shown inflating a blow-up mattress in a one-room apartment. The above unfolds as a radically truncated story drawn from endless hours of video footage from Paul’s archive—starting with Gallery Beat, he made of his life a reality-TV show—with his own voice-over narration.

Throughout this entertaining, incestuous film, art-world personalities and assorted stars appear as talking heads. Eric Bogosian says, with conviction, “The art world is such bullshit.” John Waters sneers, “I’m glad the art world is elitist. I think art for the people is a terrible idea.” Elton John’s young husband sympathizes with Paul’s plight, recounting how he once threw a hissy fit at a gala that got Uma Thurman ejected from her spot next to Captain Fantastic. Molly Ringwald’s husband, Panio Gianopoulos, also acknowledges occasional discomfort with his Mr. Man role.

After the screening, Paul and codirector Donahue took questions. Artnet’s Charlie Finch loudly brayed that Cindy should be “hung from the rafters” for “censoring” parts of the film (the artist had final-cut approval but still ended up disowning the project). Paper’s Carlo McCormick, sitting nearby, told him to shut up. Finch: “Don’t ever tell me to shut up, Carlo!” This felt like a real-life coda to the film. I said it was incestuous.

Left: Film still from Universe of Keith Haring. Right: Filmmaker Christina Clausen. (Photo: David Velasco)


If Guest was a ’90s-to-’00s affair, with dated but recognizable fashions and the interview subjects in attendance only slightly aged, The Universe of Keith Haring was a galaxy far, far away. Even for someone who was in high school during the era, the early ’80s appeared impossibly, remotely exotic. Directed by German documentarian Christina Clausen, Universe traces the meteoric rise of the geeky kid from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, who entered the School of Visual Arts during the rapturous gutter-glitter years of late-’70s and early-’80s New York, inhaled disco, hip-hop, and the Mudd Club, then exhaled his Pop graphomania worldwide for a decade, until his untimely AIDS-related death. Whatever one thinks of Haring’s art, the film is undeniably moving. In Clausen’s sensitive portrait, laced with Haring’s student films and candid interviews with Kenny Scharf, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Bill T. Jones, Yoko Ono, and the artist’s family and friends, Haring emerges as an irrepressible creator and extraordinarily generous soul who simply loved life too much.

Encouraged as a child by his father, a gifted draftsman, to learn to draw with his eyes closed and to invent cartoon characters, Haring “probably was smoking pot,” as his mother endearingly says, when he decamped to Pittsburgh and then New York as a young man. At SVA, Devo, the B-52s, and semiotics were formative influences, as was the “gay paradise” of the St. Marks Baths. His early, more crowded work owed a slight debt to R. Crumb and featured oodles of penises. As hip-hop swept the city, Haring admired subway graffiti artists, falling in with Fab 5 Freddy, LA2, and Samo (the young Jean-Michel Basquiat). He painted his iconographs on blank ad spaces in subway stations, occasionally getting arrested, and gave out buttons to riders in order to “bring the museum to the people.” Before he had representation, he sold his own artwork. By the time he was picked up by Shafrazi, he began making work that, as his mother says, “people could actually put in their homes.”

The rest is pop history. He became world-famous very quickly, at the center of a scene that included the aging Warhol and the emerging Madonna, and eventually took Andy as his date to the Madonna–Sean Penn wedding. The Paradise Garage was his living room, Grace Jones’s body his canvas. He kept his homosexuality from his sweet but conservative family, bringing boyfriends home for Christmas as “bodyguards.” He painted murals in cities around the globe, including one on the Berlin Wall, and designed iconic anti-Apartheid imagery. Then came AIDS, or “gay cancer” as it was first known. One of its most famous early victims, Haring asked a friend to inform his parents but later came out in Rolling Stone to raise awareness. The party invitations stopped arriving. Already a manic personality, Haring’s last months found him visiting every museum he could find, advocating for ACT-UP, making more public art, setting up a foundation, and telling friends, “I have so much to do.” Scharf cries as he tells of his old friend’s last moments. Ono claims Haring spoke to her afterward, telling her to place a piece of one of his bones at the obelisk in the Place Vendôme in Paris.

When the lights came up, several of Haring’s friends and colleagues warmly complimented the filmmaker on her work. I went outside, and as I wandered through the financial district, I began see urban microgeometries in a new, playful way. Haring’s style became so commonplace during his life, but it still has the power to change your point of view, which is perhaps what he was after the whole time.

Homecoming Kings

San Francisco
05.01.08

Left: Artist David Ireland. (Photo: Peg Skorpinski) Right: Lawrence Rinder, dean of the California College of the Arts, CCA Wattis curator Jens Hoffmann, and Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff. (Photo: Nikki Ritcher)


Institutional memory is rarely as sentimental as it was in the Bay Area last week, when several respected curators made high-profile homecomings. Things kicked off on Wednesday with Ralph Rugoff’s visit to the Wattis Institute for the opening of “Amateurs,” his group show surveying strategic uses of amateurism in contemporary art. Rugoff is currently the director of the Hayward Gallery in London, but he helmed the Wattis from 2000 to 2006 (heady days when Matthew Higgs was also part of his curatorial team). The irony of the exhibition’s premise was well suited to an art school—the gallery is on the campus of the California College of the Arts—where many young artists aim to buff their work to a professional state.

The show features several of Rugoff’s old favorites—Jeremy Deller, Andrea Bowers, Jeffrey Vallance, Michele O’Marah, Jim Shaw—as well as some relative newbies to the local scene, among them Jennifer Bornstein and Johanna Billing. Only a few, such as Harrell Fletcher, attended the reception, but the low-key opening crowd had its share of ardent fans—both for the artists and the curator. Thomas Demand, in town for a weeklong teaching stint at the San Francisco Art Institute, was excited to meet painter Robert Bechtle, who was himself checking out a work by the Long March Project.

Rugoff seemed happy, noting that it didn’t take him long to get back into the Wattis groove. He must have had a flashback watching the hors d’oeuvres disappear into the mouths of hungry students. No snacks remained when Lawrence Rinder, the Wattis’s first director and current dean of the college, introduced Jens Hoffmann, current Wattis director, for the official remarks.

Left: Dealer Chris Perez with Jacquelynn Baas, interim director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and artist Lutz Bacher. (Photo: Glen Helfand) Right: Artists Robert Bechtle and M. Louise Stanley. (Photo: Peg Skorpinski)


At that point, I ducked into the show for a quick session with the Unlicensed Therapist, a project artist Josh Greene first realized in 2001, when, the catalogue notes, it sparked concern from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. In a compact office-style installation outfitted with couch, chair, and a well-placed tissue box, I unburdened myself of work-related anxieties (my words were confidential, Greene calmly assured me). Reentering the reception, I bumped into an art consultant who admitted she was depressed. “The Pennsylvania primary,” she said, rolling her eyes. Gossiping about unfilled administrative positions (and decampments) at various local art institutions, however, brought some levity to our conversation.

Memories went back a bit further at the thirtieth birthday bash for the Berkeley Art Museum’s Matrix program, which, when launched, was among the country’s first museum contemporary-art project spaces. Crossing the Bay Bridge during Friday rush hour tested my nerves, but I finally arrived and made it up to a terrace gallery in the Brutalist museum building, where a crowd of trustees, artists, and museum staff had gathered beneath a sign featuring the title of a James Lee Byars installation: THE PERFECT AUDIENCE. I just missed remarks from guest-of-honor artist David Ireland (who, being somewhat frail—and popular—was at that moment being escorted to another event by two assistants), and Constance Lewallen and Elizabeth Thomas, Matrix curators past and present, respectively. I couldn’t see who was speaking, but I did spot a nattily dressed Rinder, who also held that post before his stint as a curator at the Whitney, standing nearby.

Left: Steve Beal, provost of the California College of the Arts, Carlie Wilmans, executive director of the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and Anne Hatch, CCA chairman of the board of trustees. (Photo: Nikki Ritcher) Right: Filmmaker Martha Colburn and writer Kevin Killian. (Photo: Glen Helfand)


The roster of curators past and present was represented via an exhibition, fittingly titled “Matrix Redux,” that featured works from former shows, which, along with a slide show of works by artists not included in the exhibition, brought to mind a retrospective of the various actors who have played James Bond—some having made more of an impression than others during their reigns. Hoffmann whispered something to me about the fleeting eight-month tenure of Chris Gilbert, who departed the museum in May 2006 amid controversy over one of his exhibitions. “Weren’t all his shows about Venezuela or something?” Hoffmann asked. Indeed, all two of them were.

A moment later, the crowd erupted with howls of approval when it was announced that Rinder had accepted the position of director at the Berkeley Art Museum. Scuttlebutt about this development had been circulating for weeks—we were all discussing it at Rugoff’s opening—but the excitement was charged with genuine surprise and good will at Rinder’s return to Berkeley. He regaled us with recollections of his first days at the museum in the late ’80s, sporting “cutoffs and hayseeds in my hair,” and with anecdotes about Raymond Pettibon accidentally dropping his cash honorarium on a Berkeley sidewalk and Kiki Smith getting all earth-mothery with trustees. It wasn’t clear how those memories will play into the hundred-million-dollar capital campaign he’ll have to facilitate (the museum is planning a new building designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito), but he didn’t seem to be breaking a sweat on Friday, proclaiming: “I’m so thrilled to be here!”

At that point, the party opened up to the cheaper-ticket crowd, who seemed happy to be there as well. We all wandered the tiered galleries, watched projected animations by Martha Colburn (an upcoming Matrix artist), and listened to Deerhoof play an eclectic live set in a gallery usually hung with Hans Hofmann paintings. On my way out, I snagged one of the commemorative cupcakes frosted with numbers that referred to the sequentially titled Matrix shows. “123 is the number for ‘V-Girls,’” an enthusiastic woman behind the buffet told me after consulting a sheaf of papers. I had to rack my brain when I got home before I recalled that this was the short-lived institutional-critique performance group that included Andrea Fraser. Here’s hoping that art history and dessert are linked more often.

Glen Helfand

Left: Artist and critic Jordan Kantor, artist Thomas Demand, and Jens Hoffmann. (Photo: Nikki Ritcher) Right: M. Louise Stanley. (Photo: Peg Skorpinski)


Captain Cooke

London
04.29.08

Left: Claudia Schiffer with producer Rebecca Green. Right: Dealer Stuart Shave with artist Nigel Cooke. (Photos: Lynne Gentle)


Thinking myself terribly clever, I arrived early to the inauguration of Stuart Shave/Modern Art’s new West End gallery last Thursday evening, under the assumption that this would guarantee a leisurely private viewing of Nigel Cooke’s exhibition “New Accursed Art Club.” Imagine my chagrin when, by half past five in the afternoon, the joint was already jumping, and caps were flying off beer bottles faster than rattled gallery staff could ice them down. Clearly, there are a lot of clever people in London. I double-checked my watch as the crowds pushed in.

And what a crowd it was. Artists great and small, glacially groomed international collectors, dealers, curators, family members, and jovial gate-crashers—nobody, but nobody, it seems, doesn’t love Stuart Shave. And everybody, but everybody, was queuing up to buy Cooke’s work. In terms of positive vibes and support, this event was a love-in.

Having been together since the beginning—Cooke has been represented by the gallery since its inception in 1998 and had his first solo show with Modern Art in 2002—it seems fitting that Shave and Cooke should come full circle for the inauguration of this fine new space. Designed by architect David Kohn, the project was a year and a half in the making, but well worth the wait. The venue is an artist’s dream—no period architectural foils to surmount and a great location in London’s burgeoning art epicenter, Fitzrovia. Both Cooke and Shave appeared composed and ready for action, but the pungent, fresh scent of linseed oil and plaster in the air suggested that preparations for the opening went down to the proverbial wire.

Left: Dealer Andrea Rosen with writer and curator Susanna Greeves. (Photo: Lynne Gentle) Right: Frances Morris, curator of permanent collections at Tate Modern, and art critic Louisa Buck. (Photo: Gareth Harris)


And the people kept coming. The show was going up in a blaze of glory, and those with vested interests stayed prudently close. Cooke’s New York dealer, Andrea Rosen, was on hand to lend support, seldom straying more than ten feet from the show’s jaw-dropping centerpiece, the eponymous New Accursed Art Club, 2008. Rosen held forth with London counterpart Sadie Coles; if only latecomer Maureen Paley had arrived sooner, the formidable trio could have held an impromptu power summit.

Tate Modern curators Stuart Comer and Frances Morris mingled with Frieze honcho Matthew Slotover, while myriad artists stood chatting amiably in clusters. My own conversation with artist Tim Stoner was unceremoniously interrupted by the hoo-ha accompanying the arrival of Claudia Schiffer. Watching impressed people ogle celebrities while trying to look unimpressed is always a chuckle, and watching them trying to “pap” Schiffer with their camera phones, while pretending to make a phone call, was even better.

The convivial bonhomie continued on at the afterparty held at art-world watering hole St. John. Critters predictably ruled the evening’s menu: skewered baby birds and pink Lord of the Flies–like piglets reposed on trays—the latter bunned-up and passed alongside platters of whole, unpeeled vegetables. As a southerner, I’m used to an “everything but the squeal” dining ethos, but several squeamish guests, having looked their dinner in the eye, decided to pass on much of the main fare—though the fish and chips were delicious.

Left: Artist Tom Burr, Tate Modern curator Stuart Comer, and writer Alice Rawsthorn. Right: Nigel Cooke. (Photos: Lynne Gentle)


Jane and Louise Wilson (looking less twinlike with each passing year) strode in and made a beeline for the food. “Where’s the grub? I’m bloody starving,” declared Jane in her broad Geordie accent. Filling me in on their forthcoming film short for Film Four, she explained that not only does their mother babysit on demand, but she typed up their film script as well.

As the evening wound down, Shave and Cooke showed signs of blissed-out battle fatigue, lurching arm in arm from the building like an old married couple celebrating their silver anniversary. If Thursday night was an indicator of the future, the charmed pair will be dancing the samba at their golden.

Lynne Gentle

Pieces of April

New York
04.27.08

Left: Issue Project Room founder Suzanne Fiol with Steve Buscemi. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Collector Beth Rudin DeWoody with Hunkmania performers. (Photo: Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan)


April may be the cruelest month for mixing memory with desire, as T. S. Eliot had it, but living in London he may not have realized what a fine time it is to be in New York—especially if you like showmanship. Take last week, which began for me in top form on Monday night, when vocalist Adam Dugas and harpist Mia Theodoratus gave an invitation-only recital in the faux-baronial (i.e., Julian Schnabel–designed) environs of the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Before a flickering hearth, and dressed in white tie and tails, the ultrasuave Dugas (familiar to some as the creator of the “Chaos and Candy” holiday show at the Box) put his pipes in the unexpectedly subversive service of a half-dozen musical numbers dating from the sixteenth century to the present.

The set went over big with the equally well-turned-out audience, which included Justin Bond (of Kiki and Herb), the Wooster Group’s Kate Valk and Casey Spooner (also half of Fischerspooner), architect Charles Renfro, and former New York City Ballet dancer Ryan Kelly and his partner in the Moving Theater, Brennan Gerard (currently in residence at the Park Avenue Armory). Much of the evening’s fun was in apprehending what tunes we were actually hearing in Theodoratus’s arrangements, which sounded at first like vaguely familiar madrigals, show tunes, and romantic ballads. As it turned out, they were actually hit pop songs by Radiohead, Britney Spears, Gnarls Barkley, and Donna Summer (“I Feel Love,” in French), though barely recognizable as such. By the time Adam and Mia, as they were billed, performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for their finale, they had created a whole new genre of Name That Tune cabaret.

Left: Andrea Glimcher, artist Alex Katz, and Art Production Fund's Yvonne Force Villareal. (Photo: Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan) Right: Musician Casey Spooner. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky)


I may have started the week on the top shelf, but, this being New York, there was nowhere to go but up. Tuesday brought me to another intimate and rousing evening, this one in Henry Richardson and Sarah Stranahan’s Upper West Side apartment, where actor Steve Buscemi and artist Robert Longo had gathered friends and supporters of Issue Project Room, the adventurous music and performance space that began on the Lower East Side five years ago and has left it—like so many of the artists, writers, and musicians the venue hosts—for the outer reaches of Brooklyn. (At the moment, it resides in the Old American Can Factory, near the Gowanus Canal.) Spunky founder and director Suzanne Fiol used the occasion, which featured solo turns by Elliott Sharp and Emily Manzo (on guitar and piano, respectively) and a completely hilarious reading by Jonathan Lethem, to launch a two-million-dollar fund-raising campaign. The sum is what Fiol needs in order to open the doors of Issue’s new downtown Brooklyn headquarters at 110 Livingston Street, a glorious McKim, Mead, and White building that formerly housed the Board of Education offices and that the city agreed to sell to (what else?) a luxury-development company, as long as it gave the ground floor to an arts organization. Issue won the spot.

As Buscemi and Longo both noted, New York has very few public venues remaining for performers to experiment and grow, the way each of them did in the 1970s and ’80s (at places like Club 57 and the original Kitchen in SoHo). “I wish I was more like the characters I play in movies,” Buscemi admitted. “So I could rob banks and give all the money to Issue Project Room.”

The Creative Time benefit on Wednesday night made me wonder whether a robbery might just be the ticket. The capacity crowd of five hundred art-worlders who filled Guastavino’s, the white-tiled Terence Conran party palace beneath the Queensboro Bridge, brought the thirty-four-year-old public-art organization some $1.1 million—a bonanza, of course, yet just half of what the nascent Issue Project Room needs. All the same, as one guest observed, “Who said art benefits couldn’t be fun?” This one was unforgettable, and not just because the Creative Time goody bag—a roomy white-leather carry-on by Matt Murphy (producer of White Columns’s cool canvas totes as well)—was genuinely good but also because the event doubled as a birthday party for the irrepressible collector and philanthropist Beth Rudin DeWoody.

Left: Artists Adam Dugas and Mia Theodoratus. (Photo: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Collector Jane Holzer. (Photo: Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan)


DeWoody’s son, Carlton, and his lifelong pal Ariel Schulman (of Supermarché) started the evening off in high-flying spirits with a bouncy video set to the tune of the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love”—swapping “love” out for “Beth.” Indeed! In a surprise performance, introduced by Broadway musical director Susan Stroman, DeWoody came onstage dressed in a hobo costume with former hoofer Frederick Anderson and did the famous “We're a Couple of Swells” soft-shoe that Judy Garland and Fred Astaire did in Easter Parade.

I don’t know how many collectors with no song or dance training would be brave enough to do such a thing in public, but DeWoody absolutely pulled it off, clearly astonishing fellow patrons like Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, John and Amy Phelan, Catherine Orentreich, Dana Farouki, and the entire Rudin family, as well as artists Mariko Mori, Donald Baechler, Alex Katz, Marilyn Minter, Rob Wynne, and about forty others who contributed to the silent auction. As DeWoody later told Creative Time director Anne Pasternak, there aren’t many arts organizations or institutions that would let her perform at a benefit.

But there was an even bigger surprise in store, this one for DeWoody, when she rose from her bows to be surrounded by thirteen male strippers from Hunkmania. People who had begun leaving the dinner stopped in their tracks as the well-choreographed hunks stripped to their shorts, on which were sewn letters that, when the men lined up for DeWoody’s inspection, spelled out CREATIVE TIME. Long after she came offstage, she still looked stunned. “I'm having post–stage fright,” she said, as guests around her madly scrambled for the gift boxes that waiters were carrying on silver trays. One box, it was rumored, contained a ticket for the bearer to receive a Cartier watch. Yet, perhaps playing it cool, the lucky guest didn't step up to claim their prize. Didn’t matter. In the art world, where illusion is king, everyone is a winner.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Creative Time's Anne Pasternak and Salon 94's Jeanne Greenberg-Rohatyn. Right: MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach.