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New York

Left: Todd Eberle, Yvonne Force, and Maria Bell. Right: The crowd at Yvonne Force's loft.

Dear Artforum diary, my mission this time was to attend several collectors’ open houses, where big art buyers esteemed for their shopping prowess graciously extend their hospitality so that fellow Armory Show VIPs can check out their stuff. What Imelda Marcos is to footwear, these people are to cutting-edge art. It was a weekend-long schlepathon—in heels, though they weren’t required—but also a chance to see big-ticket contemporary art in its intended setting: some of the swellest pads in Manhattan. Alas, I skipped Jeanne Greenberg’s. The uptown dealer’s event was first thing Friday morning, and a l-o-o-o-ng weekend of vicarious consumption loomed ahead. Her thirty-five- or forty-foot-wide townhouse in the East Nineties also houses her gallery, Salon 94. A fellow collector who’d been there said, “I’d put a moat around it! I’d never let people know I lived that well.” I was already exhausted by the impending binge on objets d’art, plus the heaping side order of real-estate envy.

But inspired by my deep love of art—and nosiness—I forged on. The next stop: Yvonne Force’s cocktail party at her gorgeous west SoHo loft. Art choices as hot as this month’s Gucci purse (Sean Landers, John Currin, Matthew Barney) vied for attention with cool furniture: a vintage sectional sofa by Pierre Cardin and a John Chamberlain couch mysteriously shrouded in white, which no one sat on until several drinks in. One is greeted at the entrance by a bronzey dollar sign, as tall as a short person, lit up with light bulbs, by Tim Noble and Sue Webster. Bling. And probably good feng shui. The place is perfectly, fashionably correct. Yvonne, an art advisor and socialite-rapper, was in her element, twirling around the various collectors and dealers in a strapless Donna Karan with a poufy, tulipy, chiffony skirt. In her office, beneath a rather menacing, heavy-looking assume vivid astro focus light sculpture, she shared a war story about how she prevailed over other art-frenzied shoppers to score the big Martin Eder poodle painting: “They were saying, ‘I’ll donate it to a museum!’ ‘I’m not a flipper!’” Two rapt dealers and I tittered appreciatively.

Uptown, a Jenny Holzer mortuary bench confronted me as the elevator opened onto the luxurious spread of our next host. There was a small Gober thingie, Untitled (Drain), embedded in the wall above it. A cordial blonde asked me to please place my purse on the floor in the foyer, which made me feel ineffably suspect (at least they let me keep my shoes on). After depositing my vintage Gucci near a Richard Long ovoid pebble installation, I wandered among bewildered VIPs poring over their checklists, trying to navigate the swanky pad with a list of rooms but no floor plan. “Is this the 'Wide Hallway'—or is that?” a middle-aged couple wondered sheepishly, in front of a dear little Jim Hodges foil square. There was a hushed vibe, though it was hard to tell whether due to reverence for the sleek Park Avenue digs or that it was early Sunday morning and there were no refreshments. A fellow collector called it “passive-aggressive hospitality. It’s ‘Come to my house. See what I have. Don’t really talk to me. And leave.’ This guy hosted a MoMA board event and made MoMA buy the water! And it’s a $20 million place . . .” In the rear of the apartment, the “Far Back Gallery” (dubbed “The Pussy Room” by a fellow collector) included Thomas Ruff nudes, an Inez van Lamsweerde print featuring Trish Goff’s pubic hairdo, and an erect Robert Gober beeswax candle flecked with pubic-seeming human hair. Yet the trove of “sexy” stuff seemed weirdly antiseptic. The apartment was decked out with one big name after another: A giant Gilbert and George (not one of the “poo” ones) in the kitchen; Gerhard Richter and Agnes Martin in the master bedroom; an “Ed Ruscha bedroom”; a Jeff Koons tchotchke; Cindy Sherman; Damien Hirst; plus art videos (including Wonder Woman, Dara Birnbaum’s appropriation-art milestone) going on every monitor. Mini-installations of pristine art books were displayed here and there. Clearly the abode of an art fan.

Left: Sarah Douglas, Christian Viveros-Fauné, and Joel Beck. Right: Dina, Dianne Wallace, and Martin Eder.

A fellow collector praised our host’s “commitment” to recent art, and the host affably agreed, “Yes, I should be committed!” Moving through the rooms, I heard him recount the same spiel several times about how he got started: “I would just call up artists and say ‘Hey, I’m twenty-three. Can I come to the studio and hang out?’ They all said, ‘Sure.’ I called up Roy Lichtenstein, I called up Jonathan Borofsky . . .” He knows every artist he collects, personally: “I deal with boring people every day as an investment banker crunching numbers. The art is the fun part. I like to hang out with the artists.”

It was particularly amusing to hear him chat in his office with two fellow collectors (a middle-aged couple) about the market, while standing in front of a video of a woman getting f*ed from behind by some guy who was simultaneously putting eye makeup on her (Alex McQuilken’s Fucked, 1999). They were going at it on screen while the three buyers stood there grousing about a certain dealer and how everything has gone to pot lately: “It used to be about building a collection,” sighed our host. “Now he”—the aforementioned dealer—“just wants the highest price.” The lady collector concurred, “It disturbs the order of the universe.” “I’ve been going younger—but prices for younger artists are going up, too.”

On my way out, I almost stepped on the Richard Long ovoid shaped pebble installation right near the front door. That must happen a lot.