Hollywood and Rhine

Cologne
04.24.08

Left: Dealer Gisela Capitain. RIght: “Open Space” curators Meyer Voggenreiter and Kathrin Luz with dealer Daniel Hug. (All photos: Saskia Draxler)


Given that Art Cologne, founded in 1967 as the world’s first contemporary art fair, was, due to lack of interest from international dealers and collectors, more or less declared dead two months ago, it was a welcome surprise last weekend to find the city on the Rhine living up to its avant-garde reputation. The week’s first event to properly mix jet-setters with laid-back Rhineland bourgeoisie was a ceremony the Monday before last at the Museum Ludwig honoring Peter Doig, winner of this year’s Wolfgang Hahn Prize. Doig, ever gracious, mentioned in his speech how proud he was to receive the award—despite having never before heard of its existence. The afterparty took place in the city’s famous Wartesaal, formerly the waiting room for Cologne’s train station and the venue (during the 1980s) of a well-known German talk show. Per the artist’s request, guests—among them Phillips de Pury’s Michaela Neumeister, collector Julia Stoschek (sporting a new pageboy haircut), AXA’s Bodo Sartorius, and artists Andreas Gursky and Jonathan Meese—danced to a set comprising nothing but reggae music. Museum Ludwig director Kasper König was joined on the floor by his dealer sons, Leo and Johann.

The next morning, Art Cologne opened its doors for a professional preview. In the past, the ground floor featured contemporary galleries and the upper floor modern dealers. Over the past four years, however, the grounds have become increasingly dominated by “Open Space,” an unconventional area (this year featuring fifty galleries) where booths lack walls, copious seating is available, and the floor is covered by a white velourlike carpet, both strange and beautiful. This unique arrangement was organized by Kathrin Luz and Meyer Voggenreiter, who will be working with Art Cologne’s new director, Daniel Hug, who begins in May. Wandering the space, attendees encountered artist Christian Jankowski playing a television-show moderator who auctions art in front of a patient audience, and Kitty Kraus’s ice sculpture, at Gabriele Senn’s booth, covered in black ink and melting into dark puddles. Young German artist Thomas Schroeren also impressed with his work Teach Me Some Manners at the booth of Berlin dealer Sandra Bürgel. As for the rest, a reduction in the number of galleries from 190 to 151 raised standards of quality, and the mood at the preview was typically buoyant.

Left: Artist Isa Genzken. Right: Dealer Daniel Buchholz.


That evening, the LA dealers Patrick Painter and Javier Peres joined Reiner Opoku, an art consultant and founder of TheArtFund, to open a temporary exhibition called “My Generation” at the spacious postindustrial venue Spichernhöfe, in the Belgian quarter. Directly across the street, collector (and notorious party animal) Sabine DuMont-Schütte hosted a reception in a tiny bar with canapés, wine, and lots of Kölsch. The crowd bounced back and forth between grand, flashy international statement (featuring the art of Liz Craft, Andre Butzer, and Tim Berresheim, among others) and cozy neighborhood get-together.

More LA imports were featured two nights later at the Excelsior, a five-star hotel located across from the Cathedral. There, in the banquet hall, Voggenreiter and Hug presented “Hotel California: Art from Los Angeles,” featuring works by, among others, Kirsten Stoltmann, Sterling Ruby, and H. K. Zamani. The champagne flowed in celebration of this cross-continental axis, and Hug, eager to begin his work resurrecting the fair, toasted all those present.

Saskia Draxler

Upwardly Mobile

Milan
04.22.08

Left: Architect Rem Koolhaas. (Photo: Fondazione Prada) Right: A view of Peter Greenaway's Ultima Cena di Leonardo. (Photo: Luciano Pascali)


“Absolute mayhem” would be an understated way to describe Milan’s Salone del Mobile, which opened last Wednesday to roaring crowds of shoppers and speculators. Though I knew going in that the Salone is the world’s largest furniture fair, being among 350,000 design aficionados is much more intimidating in real life than one would imagine—especially when they’re all packed into the megalithic fairgrounds at Rho. Credit crises may be buckling some bank accounts, but it’s reassuring to know that there’s still a (huge) market open to people in need of that extra-special creative trimming to make their house a home.

Throughout the five-day event, the impeccably dressed, bleary-eyed masses spilled forth into dozens of parties that overlapped nightly in the Zona Tortona, where galleries served champagne in containers designed by Karim Rashid. Elsewhere, Axor played manufacturer to Philippe Starck, the designer with the Midas touch, who presented a line of haute-couture showerheads, and Bisazza showcased two otherworldly installations: Andrée Putman’s checkerboard corridors and a remarkable mosaic-covered life-size jet by Jaime Hayon. The leather wings, marble stairs, and glass cockpit made up for the lack of motor, and it did have brass propellers. The hottest enfant terrible among London’s design companies, Established & Sons, threw a party in an abandoned swimming pool called La Pelota, where a great stack of drawers by Shay Alkalay acted as the centerpiece, and lumber board brought a certain gravitas to the Richard Artschwager–inspired tables by Tate Britain architects Caruso St. John.

Left: Filmmaker Peter Greenaway. (Photo: Luciano Romano) Right: A view of the party for Established & Sons. (Photo: Ilze Godlevskis)


This fantasia of beautiful things did not detract from auteur Peter Greenaway’s multimedia extravaganza, Ultima Cena di Leonardo, which was shown at the Sala delle Cariatidi in Palazzo Reale, one of historic Milan’s most stunning buildings. Splashes of light flitted across a to-scale, high-resolution projected digital image of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In keeping with its fascist heritage, the typically mercurial Italian government vetoed the use of the original painting just days before, perhaps due to the nature of the projected images, which included Leonardo’s painting of Jesus’s genitalia.

Around the corner, the SaloneUfficio touched on a topic grudgingly familiar to many of us today—the Office as Creative Hub—with Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Art Sign Offices at the Loggia dei Mercanti, once a commercial center in medieval Milan. There, eight structures mapped “the human body at full stretch in mind,” riffing on another of Leonardo’s concepts, the equilibrium between man and universe. Bright orange grid walls sheltered human-powered objects consistent with the fair’s sustainable-energy theme. With slogans like “Third Paradise” and “Love Difference,” Pistoletto also made manifest another of the week’s leitmotifs: eroticism in unlikely places.

Overwhelmed by all the benches balanced against invisible walls and chairs conjoined with unidentifiable organic substances, I savored the opportunity to stand still for a bit while waiting to enter Swarovski's Crystal Palace event in the Zona Tortona on Wednesday night, hosted by Nadja Swarovski. Outside, a battered, flaxen-haired Londoner attempted to control the increasingly edgy queue of two hundred. But once inside, aggression receded as revelers mingled amid the glimmer of chandeliers by deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid, a mosaic wall by artist Marcel Wanders, and a giant crystal-coated globe by design team Studio Job. That same evening, right next door, Wallpaper* hosted a party featuring work by Thomas Demand and Jeff Koons in a multilevel architectural miasma.

Left: Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. Right: Armida Armellini; Manlio Armellini, managing director of Salone del Mobile; Rosario Messina, chairman of Salone del Mobile; Letizia Moratti, mayor of Milan; and Vittorio Sgarbi, Milan's councillor for cultural affairs. (Photos: Luciano Pascali)


By Thursday, I was already suffering from overexposure to ingenuity, but the historic unveiling of Rem Koolhaas’s designs for the new Fondazione Prada snapped me out of my stupor. The foundation was established by Miuccia Prada and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, in 1993, and in 1996, they invited legendary curator and critic Germano Celant to join as artistic director. For their latest construction, Prada and Bertelli commissioned Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture to redesign an old distillery that they own, Largo Isarco, into a space for both contemporary and traditional art.

Speaking on a panel with Celant and Bertelli in one of Largo Isarco’s lofty structures, Koolhaas said his designs involved “abstract transformations of scale,” adding that, in the final space, “we can work with artists on such transformations.” Equally democratic, Celant stressed the importance of putting culture on display and the necessity of integrating curating and architecture. Prada and her providential son Francesco watched quietly from the second row, enjoying the eloquent and businesslike Bertelli, while Vogue’s Hamish Bowles glowered astutely.

The following evening, on the other side of town, Prada’s current Fondazione hosted an opening for twenty-nine-year-old artist Nathalie Djurberg’s exhibition “Turn into Me.” Large sculptural installations featuring trees, houses, and a grotesquely realistic warty potato encased stop-motion films laden with orifices. Stray body parts from a giant woman lay half-encased in the floor, making reference to Djurberg’s earnest passion for Bataille’s “The Solar Anus.” The “death of mutual existence,” as stated in the press release, fueled her project, which found a strangely perfect home at Prada, an institution known more for its discreet ensembles than for any fascination with fecal matter. Some of Djurberg’s earliest advocates, UCLA Hammer director Ann Philbin and curator Ali Subotnick, joined the Serpentine Gallery’s Hans-Ulrich Obrist in admiring the sexually deviant scene. Surveying the work myself, I reflected on the Salone’s creative exuberance and thought I understood Milan’s slow-moving nature a little more—the city needs to conserve every ounce of energy to get through a week like this.

Left: Critic and curator Germano Celant, Rem Koolhaas, and Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli. Right: Artist Jannis Kounellis. (Photos: Fondazione Prada)


Bomb Squad

New York
04.18.08

Left: Rodney Graham in performance. (Photo: Amy C. Elliott) Right: Mikhail Baryshnikov. (Photo: Chance Yeh/Patrick McMullan)


“It’s benefit season again,” sighed one guest as we hunted for our place cards at Bomb magazine’s gala last Friday. Indeed, said season comes with its own brand of subjects, ranging from the predictable—“My friend just bought a new country house on the North Fork”—to the positively absurd, like the tidbit about the guy who trained his dog to growl every time it hears the words “Mark Morris.” The Morris comment wasn’t a total non sequitur: The venerable choreographer had been enlisted to toast his celebrated colleague, Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the evening’s three honorees. The other two were painter Mary Heilmann and Wooster Group director Elizabeth LeCompte.

Banquet-style tables had been installed in the Bowery Hotel for the occasion. Pink petals abounded. Beneath a heated tent erected over the balcony, early birds surveyed wares at the silent auction: a moody Peter Doig painting starting at $12,500, as well as a much-discussed Joel Shapiro print. Other goodies included Adam Helms’s ink-on-mylar drawing, with its talismanic figures, and a well-composed, enigmatic lithograph by Mamma Andersson.

“I can’t play my standards,” said downtown music maven Marc Ribot, the gala’s DJ. He watched a nearby game of pool while a ’50s jazz number played over the loudspeakers. “Even I wouldn’t want to listen to myself play John Zorn all night,” he explained, adding that his musical inclinations were more suited to “a ’60s whorehouse.” Was he still talking about Zorn?

Left: Artists Marilyn Minter and Mary Heilmann, dealer Tim Nye, and Bomb editor in chief Betsy Sussler. (Photo: Dawn Chan) Right: Choreographer Mark Morris. (Photo: Chance Yeh/Patrick McMullan)


The evening’s joke toasts did their best to live up to our current era’s confessional milieu. Morris’s speech, for instance, opened thus: “Even before Mikhail and I became homosexual lovers, I was familiar with his work.” Minter, saluting Heilmann, remembered those good old days when Heilmann was a surfer and a “smoking babe.” Added Minter: “We were homosexual lovers as well.” Not to be left out, LeCompte followed Casey Spooner’s own toast with the claim: “Casey and I are getting married.”

Over dinner, I discussed some of the more interesting interpretations of Bomb’s name with one of the magazine’s founders, artist Michael McClard, while buyers hurried back to the auction to make their final bids. Dealer faced dean when Anthony Grant and Robert Storr battled over a Nancy Dwyer text piece. Others seemed less enthusiastic: Under another piece, one collector had scratched their name out and scribbled MISTAKE: BUYER’S REMORSE. But regrets and second thoughts aside, everyone went home seemingly heartened by the evening.

Friday’s gala may have been a bit tonier, but Saturday’s Rodney Graham concert certainly didn’t lack production value. Held at the Abrams Art Center, the show, sponsored by nonprofit production organization Public Art Fund, promised the artist-musician’s psych-rock songs and an “amazing Rotary Psycho-Opticon.”

Left: Curator Robert Storr. Right: Ellen LeCompte, director Charlie Ahearn, and Wooster Group director Elizabeth LeCompte. (Photos: Dawn Chan)


Lois, the opening act, got the night off to a rocky start, making a case for the irrelevance of singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars. I was relieved when the curtain rose, revealing, for all to behold, the mysterious Psycho-Opticon: an Op-art backdrop with five circular holes cut to form an imaginary pentagon. Behind the holes whirled a second layer of psychedelia—a pinwheel of stars and stripes.

Much has been made of music-lyric alchemy, that mysterious whole bigger than the sum of its parts. Graham’s got it figured out, that’s for sure: When singing “Just how low / Does your love meter go?” his melody stays unexpectedly high, then takes a last-minute woebegone dip. But it was actually his lyric–Psycho-Opticon pairing that did the most magic. Graham’s doleful quips complemented the contraption’s relentless, mind-melting effects; a terrific tone—wry and dogged—emerged from the mix.

Those who got a behind-the-scenes glimpse postshow discovered that the multistoried whirling backdrop was powered by one Sam Hyatt, “a friend of an intern” who had been instructed to pedal as she felt inspired. As I headed out of the theater for Triple Canopy magazine’s launch party in Brooklyn, I bumped into critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith. Saltz was making his way backstage—he said he wanted to try powering the Psycho-Opticon bike himself. After all, who says the critic no longer drives contemporary art?

Dawn Chan

Left: The Rodney Graham Band. (Photo: Amy C. Elliott) Right: Critics Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz. (Photo: Dawn Chan)


The L Words

Los Angeles
04.16.08

Left: Lawrence Weiner with hostesses. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan) Right: Artists Catherine Opie and Walead Beshty. (Photo: Glen Helfand)


“I think that line over there is for LA Art Weekend people,” said someone behind me as I stood in queue at the Hammer Museum last Thursday night, waiting for an appearance by Albert Maysles, elder statesman of American cinema verité. I half-expected to see officials sporting LAAW badges, but no such distinguishing markers were apparent. Having thoroughly consulted the itinerary of LAAW events—a compelling list of museum visits, openings, screenings, parties, and the like—I still wasn’t sure what, exactly, the Weekend constituted, other than a way to link disparate art and culture events in Los Angeles. (And some pretty good ones at that.) No choice but to go with the flow, beginning with a brief visit to the well-attended Maysles tribute in the museum’s magenta-hued Billy Wilder Theater. Hammer director Ann Philbin made some initial remarks, noting that she and her staff were starstruck on meeting the Grey Gardens codirector—and they’ve encountered their fair share of Hollywood talent. Maysles received an immediate standing ovation, which he humbly waved away; he seemed more interested in screening some of his portrait films, like an interview with Truman Capote from the early 1960s, material that Philip Seymour Hoffman must have studied before he nailed the writer’s fabulously bitchy drawl.

I squirmed though, recalling that Catherine Opie’s opening at Regen Projects—for a new series of photos of high school football games—would be wrapping up soon. I slipped out of the theater and, making a straight shot down Wilshire, arrived at the gallery in surprisingly good time. The crowd was spilling into the courtyard, beneath an outdoor text work by Lawrence Weiner, whose Whitney- and MoCA–organized survey was slated to open on Saturday at the latter museum’s Geffen Contemporary outpost. The relaxed, celebratory crowd inside the gallery, a mix of artists, collectors, entertainment lawyers, and art students, heated up the space. Whitney curator Donna De Salvo, in town for the MoCA exhibition, was chatting with Barbara Kruger, and there was Philbin, who must have snuck out of her museum even before I did. Opie was typically affectionate and clearly enjoying the attention. I’d seen her recently at a lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute, and she seemed concerned about how she went over. “They loved you,” I assured her—and they had.

Left: Artist Philip Maysles with filmmakers Liz Goldwyn and Albert Maysles. (Photo: LA Art Weekend) Right: Dealer Kim Light and collector Rosette Delug. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan)


Curator Gary Garrels noted that the Hammer had acquired more than one photo from the show. At the subsequent dinner at Dominick’s, 130 adoring guests took over the restaurant, eating family-style. The artist herself sat at a table near a crackling fireplace across from her partner, Julie Burleigh, and next to Shaun Caley Regen, who toasted her heartily.

Friday morning, amid a summery heat wave, I set off for the Weiner preview. By the time I arrived, the public remarks had already been made, and MoCA curator Ann Goldstein and De Salvo were sitting in the reading room happily comparing notes. In the Geffen’s ample space, the exhibition plays like a glorious force of nature—the angled walls form canyons of text, and bits of light stream in from skylights. Weiner ambled contentedly through the galleries, which also include a suitably bohemian companion show: a survey of Allan Kaprow’s Happenings and environments.

That night, Weiner danced beside a swimming pool (with one of his works emblazoned on the bottom) to a funk band at a buffet dinner in his honor at the modernist Beverly Hills home of MoCA trustee Rosette Delug. The clear, balmy night seemed made to order for the event, and the city’s twinkling lights spread out before us.

As with Opie, everyone had good things to say about Delug’s spirited hospitality. Last October, she threw an infamous party for Takashi Murakami, populated with naked Playboy Playmates painted to resemble manga characters; there were two such Playmates on hand for Weiner, only this time they sported painted-on majorette costumes. (Your guess is as good as mine.) The ladies served premium vodka from shot glasses made of ice to a crowd that included Ed Ruscha and his son Eddie, John Baldessari, Raymond Pettibon, and LACMA director Michael Govan. More thematically appropriate party ephemera included red and gray M&Ms printed with Weiner’s name, and yellow cocktail napkins emblazoned with one of his text pieces.

Left: Black Frame's Brian Phillips, Farmlab's Lauren Bon, and REDCAT's Clara Kim. Right: Artist Raymond Pettibon with Russell Ferguson, chair of UCLA Department of Art. (Photos: Glen Helfand)


Guests were free to wander Delug’s art-filled home, but a small, excited crowd formed when someone cracked open a closet to reveal an immaculately arranged collection of designer shoes and bags. “Now this is art,” gushed a besotted attendee sporting a luxury brand or two herself. With equal excitement, artist Mark Bradford informed me that George Soros, the billionaire political philanthropist, was in the house. I wouldn’t recognize the guy if I saw him, but the idea that he was mixing with the crowd added a layer of absurd gravitas to the party. Later, to top it all off, one hearty, fully clothed reveler cannonballed into the pool.

Saturday paired glamour with philanthropy, when REDCAT hooked up with the weekend’s organizers to arrange a visit to Farmlab, the eco-conscious project of self-professed artist and philanthropist Lauren Bon. After a swanky Beverly Hills brunch of mimosas and truffle-oil-drizzled morsels at the Maison Martin Margiela, a group of CalArts supporters, and out-of-towners including David Selig, owner of New York’s eco-friendly restaurant Rice, convened at a compound in a gritty patch of warehouses and empty lots downtown to hear Bon’s convincing pitch on urban farming, water use, and tango dancing. We trekked through the dusty field in hundred-degree heat (parasols and hats provided).

The weather sapped my energy, so I lounged in the shade, then met a friend for dinner before schlepping back to Culver City for a party at Royal/T, a sprawling boutique touted as “LA’s first Japanese-style cosplay café”—which I assume explains the women in maid costumes offering trays of tea sandwiches and chocolates. Sipping on one of the free-flowing watermelon martinis, I couldn’t help but feel refreshed by the positive vibe. If only every art weekend went down this easy.

Left: Visionaire's Cecilia Dean. Right: Collector Lisa Feldman, artist Mitsuhiro Okamoto, and Royal/T owner Susan Hancock. (Photos: LA Art Weekend)


Strange Brew

Brussels
04.14.08

Left: Curator Anne Pontégnie and Gagosian's Serena Cattaneo Adorno. Right: Artist Mike Kelley. (All photos: Nicolas Trembley)


Last Thursday evening marked the first time that all three floors of Brussels’s new Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, two floors of which had been inaugurated last year, would be open. The occasion was Mike Kelley’s first retrospective in Belgium, a confluence of exciting events that led Herman Daled, the museum’s president and an avid collector himself, to announce in his opening speech: “Wiels is born tonight.” Housed in the former buildings of the historic Wielemans-Ceuppens breweries, designed in 1930 by architect Adrien Bloome, the museum is for this show plunged into darkness, Kelley having requested that all the windows be covered. “I’m not an Impressionist,” the artist said. “I don’t need daylight.”

The exhibition, “Educational Complex Onwards: 1995–2008,” borrows its title from one of Kelley’s more famous works: a large-scale model, first shown at Metro Pictures in 1995, that represents the various schools the artist has attended. Many of the exhibited pieces revolve around the author’s themes of autobiography and memory and, according to Anne Pontégnie, the show’s curator, “succeed and respond to one another like episodes in a serial, allowing us to understand the internal development that characterizes the last two decades of Kelley’s works.” On the third floor, “Day Is Done,” a series of video installations based on photographs found in high school yearbooks that was presented two years ago at Gagosian’s branch in Chelsea, New York, was partially reproduced and provided something of a grand finale.

Gagosian had invited about eighty people to that night's exhibition preview and subsequent dinner at the breweries. I asked Pontégnie why she thought opinion concerning Kelley was so effusive, and she deduced it was because he was one of the first artists of his generation to say no to Minimalist aesthetics and, in the process, to work with unusual materials.

Left: Dealer Catherine Bastide and Museion director Corrine Diserens. Right: Wiels president Herman Daled.


“Where’s Mike?” was undoubtedly the question heard most throughout the evening. Mike was indeed there, talking with dealers like Ghislaine Hussenot and with representatives of international institutions who had made the trip to Brussels, including Nicholas Serota of the Tate; Ralph Rugoff of London’s Hayward Gallery; Kasper König of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne; Corinne Diserens, director of the Museion in Bolzano, Italy, which will open in May; Xavier Douroux of the Consortium in Dijon; and Dirk Snauwaert, Wiels director. Most of the works came from private collections—including that of François Pinault (who was absent that night)—with a minority coming from Belgium itself. Still, given the venue, it was hardly surprising that so many Belgian collectors were milling about: Anton and Annick Herbert, Sylvie Winckler, Filiep Libeert, and Bruno Van Lierde (who is building a center for his collection), to name a few.

At the dinner, in the magnificent ceremonial hall of the restaurant located in Brussels’s famous Grande Place, the panic caused by the seating arrangement was quickly resolved when everyone decided to sit wherever they liked. I found myself next to artists William Pope.L, whose show was opening the following day at the Galerie Catherine Bastide, and Pierre Bismuth, who had just come back from a residency in Oslo at Marta Kuzma’s Office for Contemporary Art Norway. Other artists present included Lee Ufan, who was accompanying dealer Micheline Szwajcer, and painter (and Wiels board member) Luc Tuymans.

The evening was relaxed, as everyone chatted over foie gras and an assortment of white fish, with frequent smoke breaks on the terrace. Kelley toasted Pontégnie, noting that he “did it for her,” and everyone applauded. Some decided to leave for one last drink at the famous artist-friendly bar L’Archiduc, but no one seemed set to stay out late, since Friday’s party was expected to attract 700 guests. It would have been 701, but unfortunately, I had to be back in Paris.

Nicolas Trembley

Left: Collector Annick Herbert. Right: Artist Luc Tuymans.


Suddenly, Last Summer

New York
04.10.08

Left: Photographer Terry Richardson with artist Jack Pierson. Right: John Waters, Ryan McGinley, and Parker Posey. (All photos: David Velasco)


I don’t know of any young artist besides Ryan McGinley who can evoke Andrew Wyeth without seeming arch or trite. Or one modish enough to conjure an opening where downtown socialites the MisShapes have to be seen to maintain cred, yet still solid enough for the New York Times Magazine’s prim photo editor to accept his invitation to dinner. His deft straddling of wholesome and hip has a broad appeal that drew a crowd to last Thursday’s opening of “I Know Where the Summer Goes” big enough to have broken a Team gallery record, or at least its fire code.

Even after I pushed through the mob to the wall to look at the pictures, my view was blocked by gawkers whose backs were almost brushing the art, surveying the mingling morass in the center of the room. There, McGinley, looking all-American in a blue suit and a tie with red hearts, greeted guests with sustained buoyancy as interns studiously recorded his every move in photo and video.

In the show itself, models perform acts of quaint mischief—lighting sparklers, doing cannonballs at the old swim hole—in a fantasy landscape where time and underwear don’t exist. John Waters, who compares McGinley to the title character in Waters’s own film Pecker, called it “very Zabriskie Point,” though I found it more chaste (even with the token crotch shot) and less urgent than Antonioni’s epic. Overall, the series is ripe with languid sincerity and deserves its title, which comes from a Belle and Sebastian song that lilts, “No one likes a smart-ass.”

Left: Genevieve Jones and MisShape Leigh Lezark. Right: Artist Edward Mapplethorpe, dealer Alison Jacques, and artist and writer Jack Walls.


The photos’ indolent tone was in fact the result of months of hard labor, during which the artist documented, as he does, antics from a cross-country road trip of his own rigorous planning. Coley Brown, one of McGinley’s gangly muses, said the artist continued photographing in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes (shooting another model, Marcel, for the enigmatic picture Question Mark) even as a violent hailstorm broke out, and his coterie of skinny, naked people darted to avoid being struck by lightning. “I thought someone was going to die,” Brown said. Near-death experience aside, he would happily do it all again (“If I get invited,” he added wistfully). But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. A friend told me how he dissuaded a willowy art student from applying: “Afterward, he’d be like a reality-TV has-been.” Others had more old-fashioned reasons for demurring. “I was supposed to go,” said Richard Bars, McGinley’s ex-boyfriend. “But I refused to take my pants off.”

The crowd began to thin around eight, and half an hour later, Team owner José Freire sounded his megaphone’s siren to expel the last of the stragglers. A decidedly smaller crew made their way south to the Odeon, the storied Tribeca setting of Bright Lights, Big City, which Team had rented out for the dinner. There I chatted with McGinley’s mother, learning that his artistic talent was first recognized when he took first place in a ShopRite drawing contest. He won a fourteen-inch truck. When the waiters began taking orders, I sat kitty-corner to writer Ariel Levy, who quoted McGinley at length in her article on Dash Snow for New York magazine early last year. Surely the experience of writing that tale of drug-fueled privilege prepared Levy well for her forthcoming New Yorker profile of First Lady–hopeful Cindy McCain.

Left: Ryan McGinley with Team gallery owner José Freire. Right: Model Coley Brown.


Few artists were present, though former mentors, like Jack Pierson, Jack Walls, and McGinley’s old Parsons professor George Pitts, attended. McGinley dined with Waters and Michael Stipe, their dates, and Parker Posey. While McGinley is soon to make his silver-screen debut—he has a cameo leading a gay rights march in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, about the eponymous San Francisco mayor—I doubt he was asking his famous friends for performance tips. What he really wants to do is direct, and after two or three more road trips, he hopes to start making films.

The evening climaxed when, a little after 11 PM, Freire climbed atop a banquette, turned his bullhorn back on, and gave a glowing toast to his artist. Guests lingered for over an hour more, until the youthful contingent moved on to the Bowery Electric—the bar that recently displaced the CCTV haven Remote Lounge—where McGinley ushered a small crew past security. I withdrew around 2 AM, just before a set by the Virgins, McGinley’s friends and his perennial afterparty favorite. When I started toward the door, McGinley ambushed me with a bear hug and thanked me for coming—a disarming moment, since we’d met only that night. Ever the skeptic, I wondered if I was being cajoled into a world of fandom as artfully constructed as Planet Road Trip. But as the embrace ended and I mumbled chummy congratulations at McGinley’s shoulder, I decided it wasn’t a bad club to be in.

Brian Droitcour

Left: Artist Dan Colen. Right: Tim Barber and Marcel.