Empire State of Mind

New York
11.20.14

Kim Gordon at “The Return of Schizo-Culture” at MoMA PS1. (All photos: Charles Roussel)


“MEDIOCRITY IS THE NEW BLACK, PEOPLE!” Bemoaning New York’s post-millennial makeover as a “luxury vitrine for the rest of the world,” as Semiotext(e) founder Sylvère Lotringer put it earlier in the day, Penny Arcade exhorted the young, attractive crowd of art-world punters to reboot themselves into an earlier, more oppositional iteration of the city’s arts community. The occasion for the packed VW Dome at MoMA PS1 last Sunday afternoon was “The Return of Schizo-Culture,” a six-hour, multi-participant, multimedia event that attempted to evoke the spirit of the Schizo-Culture conference, an anarchic four-day colloquy of French theorists and American radicals organized by Lotringer and Semiotext(e) at Columbia University in 1975.

An umbrella metaphor for the “revolution in desire” heralded by the work of Deleuze & Guattari and Michel Foucault, among others, “ ‘schizo’ does not refer here to any clinical entity,” as the press release for the original event defined it, “but to the process by which social controls of all kinds, endlessly re-imposed by capitalism, are broken up and opened to revolutionary change.” The Schizo-Culture conference brought together (and, in some cases, rent asunder) Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, William S. Burroughs, R. D. Laing, Arthur C. Danto, Ti-Grace Atkinson, John Cage, Judy Clark, Richard Foreman, and others, all charged with presenting papers, panels, performances, and workshops on institutional and semiotic systems of control and strategies to evade them, focusing on the oppression inherent in psychiatry, prisons, language, and the patriarchy. (Foucault’s Discipline and Punish had just been published in France.)

The cross-cultural (dis)connections of the weekend were amusingly encapsulated by Danto, the American philosopher and critic, recalling the conference in 1997: “Sylvère, for some reason, put me in the same slot that first evening as Lyotard, a man who has what I think of as the true gift of incoherence. The rest of the French have been trying to achieve it, but he was born with it, like perfect pitch.” Guattari was booed off the stage by Atkinson and her supporters; Foucault and Guattari quarreled throughout the weekend; Lyotard was snubbed by his French colleagues; Burroughs aired his suspicion of intellectuals; fights broke out in the audience during talks; and provocateurs from Lyndon LaRouche’s Labor Committee loudly and repeatedly accused Foucault (and other presenters) of being on the CIA payroll. (The second time the charge was leveled, Foucault was ready, telling the provocateur, “You’re entirely right. I was paid by the CIA, R. D. Laing was paid by the CIA, Lotringer himself was paid by the CIA. The only one here who hasn’t been paid by the CIA is you, because you have been paid by the KGB.” At which even the heckler laughed and sat back down, duly disciplined.)

Left: John Giorno. Right: Schizo-Culture catalogues.


At this distance, these huffy internecine squabbles seem little more than apt instances of Freud’s narcissism of small differences, ably parodied in Monty Python’s Life of Brian in the form of tiny anti-Roman resistance groups and their contempt for one another: “Judean People’s Front? Pigs! We’re the People’s Front of Judea!” But the fissures were real; the American Left was already fragmented by 1975 and would atomize even further in the coming years.

Fast forward to 2014: I found myself sitting on the floor of a geodesic dome hosted by MoMA, on the site of a former public school, in an event series sponsored by Volkswagen, watching Lotringer and roughly thirty friends and colleagues, mostly from the New York arts underground of the 1960s–’80s, as they tried to “recreate chaos” by presenting a “series of singularities” that might, at least for one afternoon, destabilize our increasingly professional, culturally conservative city. (For a musical lesson on how New York has changed since the ’70s, compare the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered” to Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.”) “We’re part of a machine that you can’t attack anymore,” Lotringer lamented in his introductory remarks. He described Semiotext(e), longtime cult publisher of continental theory and other avant-garde writing, as “always close to the art world but not part of it, separate from careerism and institutions; not the art world, but art.”

After a paint-peeling performance of bagpipes accompanied by an abrasive electric violin, master of ceremonies Penny Arcade announced, “Once gods bestrode New York City; one of these was Richard Foreman.” The experimental theater veteran took the stage for a Q&A, still resembling Harvey Pekar after all these years. Foreman said that we should celebrate Lotringer for bringing a whole trend of thought to the US (French poststructuralist theory), which offered Foreman a “way to reframe a world that I didn’t like.” “It’s over now,” he admitted, “everyone’s dead.” “Theory is a training of the mind,” he said, allowing one “to become a different person and then write as that different person.”

Writer Ann Rower followed, reading a funny, autobiographical piece about a lesbian couple in Las Vegas, visiting the area to attend the Semiotext(e)-related Chance Conference in 1996 (which I covered for Artforum as a young freelancer). Downtown poet and Burroughs colleague John Giorno, irrepressibly spritely at seventy-seven, delivered a poem called “Thanks for Nothing,” a less mordant echo of Burroughs’s “Thanksgiving Prayer,” in which Giorno recalled dead peers like Warhol and the Beats but said that he didn’t miss them at all (even if he hoped that they would come back to fulfill our every wish).

Suicide frontman Alan Vega appeared with his wife and son, performing a scatological spoken-word piece (with screams, growls, and “fucks”) over a minimalist electronic loop, his family interjecting words and phrases into the fractured narrative. It’s hard to imagine a less familial man than Vega, but there they were, the picture of a certain kind of domestic bliss. Poet Eileen Myles came next, carrying a red Netflix DVD envelope, which she asked an audience member to mail for her. She read a piece about “mean lesbians, drinking in the ’70s,” in which she gets into a fight with a cop and is maced for her troubles. Penny Arcade muffed Lynne Tillman’s name and occupation, calling her “Liz” and introducing her as a poet. Tillman graciously rolled with this, reading an early piece of hers about random sex with men. She riffed on the statistic that men think about sex every seven minutes (and how difficult it was for her mimic this), and mused about having sex with actors, but only in particular roles (e.g., Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans).

Left: Lix Lamere, Alan Vega, and Dante Vega. Right: Penny Arcade.


Taking a break from MC duties, Arcade performed her own spoken-word piece over an audio collage of loops of iconic songs from the ’60s through the ’00s, centered on longing for a future analogous to the New York arts scene of her youth, taking great pains to differentiate such longing from nostalgia. (Her performance was emblematic of the entire event, an appropriately schizophrenic mix of Boomer narcissism, “kids these days” finger-wagging, and legitimate but hopeful critique of today’s New York.) Punk godfather Richard Hell read from the “cold-ass genre novel” he’s currently working on, a decidedly pre-feminist blast of pornographic machismo reminiscent of Henry Miller (“male sex stuff,” I wrote in my notes). A power trio of young bros played a pair of typically jagged, aggro John Zorn compositions, the composer running out to hug them enthusiastically afterward.

Having just gotten off a plane, apparently, Kim Gordon took the stage in a short orange dress carrying a vintage Fender Jaguar. After reading a short, poem-like piece about a male rock god of some sort (from her description, I imagined Kurt Cobain), she strummed the guitar, which was in an atonal tuning that made Sonic Youth sound like the Monkees, and started enacting rockish gestures with it, swinging it around on its strap, coaxing feedback, banging it on the floor, scraping its strings on the edge of the stage. Her face remained still the entire time. No one does “jaded” better than Kim Gordon.

Except perhaps Gary Indiana, who appeared in a black velour tracksuit with red piping, accompanied by electric violinist Walter Steding, who was wearing a gaucho hat equipped with light emitting diodes on each side. They blinked randomly to no discernible effect. His playing was only slightly more irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard. This was in support of Indiana’s “found poem,” apparently culled from far-flung precincts of the Internet. He claimed that he had once assembled the fragments into some kind of order, but that he lost the plot, literally and figuratively. Scientists, Halloween costumes, Heidi Klum, and instructions for poaching the perfect egg all drifted by in the obfuscatory haze. After Indiana gave up, the violinist played us out with a wah-wah pedal, his hat lights blinking.

Left: Walter Steding and Gary Indiana. Right: The crowd at “The Return of Schizo-Culture” at MoMA PS1.


This was somewhat anticlimactic. I mean, no one fought, there were no baseless CIA accusations, no booing, heckling, or ideological superslams. The foundations of the intellectual establishment had not been undermined, let alone destroyed. Neither MoMA nor Volkswagen were brought to their knees in the face of “nomadism” and “chaosophy.” (To the contrary, MoMA turned the dome into a giant veal-fattening pen, periodically issuing edicts that people were to move forward, move closer, sit, stand, etc. to make room for even more people who wanted to get in. It had a whiff of the carceral, so exhaustively explored by Foucault.)

The biggest problem had to do with the stakes of the event, which should have been high given the intensity of the original conference and how badly things need to be shaken up today. While there was a quasi-revolutionary kickstarter mood to the whole thing, it was essentially an afternoon of quirky entertainment. Phallocentrism, complacency, and gentrification were addressed and mildly troubled, but that was about it. Certainly there was nothing along the lines of this pronouncement from Guattari at the original Schizo-Culture event, “We are moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication. […] Compared with the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinements as part of a wonderful happy past.” Put that in your iPhone and smoke it.

Andrew Hultkrans

Gallows Humorism

New York
11.18.14

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown with collector Adam Kimmel. Right: W Magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi, China Chow, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, and artist Francesco Vezzoli. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THE OTHER DAY I heard an artist call November one of the two “big months” for art in New York. The autumn air is crisp, the moon is high, and the prices achieved at auction jump over it. Blue-chip dealers compete by opening big-ticket solo shows aimed at massing collectors, and nonprofits dive into the money pool with fall benefit galas.

This year, November brought the Independent Projects art fair to a groaning table that literally gave way during “Paradiso,” Performa’s chaotic, November 4 fundraiser. Despite the serene presence of Kickstarter cofounder Perry Chen among the performance biennial’s 550 guests, crowdfunding here seemed almost wasteful. Strangely billed as a tribute to the European Renaissance and thirteen (thirteen!) “Renaissance women”—working artists and serious collectors—the evening turned on an infantilizing, play-with-your-food performance designed by the mischievous Jennifer Rubell.

Do people ever enjoy eating rubber chicken? That was Rubell’s unspoken question. I have another. Do the philanthropic really require spend-a-lot/get-a-little extravaganzas to part with their money? Will they not respond to a simple request for surplus, tax-deductible dollars without seeing their names on a program (or a building), or posing with window-dressing like Francesco Vezzoli (a Performa veteran) and Charlotte Gainsbourg—the tolerant guest hosts for “Paradiso” with W magazine editor Stefano Tonchi.

Left: Artist Jennifer Rubell. Right: Artist Joan Jonas and Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg.


Passive dining was not an option at the ornate Weylin B. Seymours, a late-nineteenth-century Brooklyn venue better known as the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank. It’s important to note that the gala fell on a national Election Day, and that the vote did not go well for many who were present. So swatting Rubell’s gallows-hung, rubber chickens with sticks during cocktails felt vaguely appropriate.

Ditto the action that followed the soup course, served by bare-chested/bare-assed waiters in suspenders and chaps, and waitresses in the flowing, white robes of a Hemingway-era, wartime nurse. With conversation restricted by seating only on one side of the long, narrow tables, cautious guests were encouraged to get up and toss their crockery in with the now-guillotined chickens beneath the gallows. Performa’s actual value to the city aside, watching privileged people throw away food for fun was a little too Marie Antoinette for some. Later, I heard, the still-gleeful destroyed their tables with hammers, so as to release the chocolate desserts tucked inside them.

By that time, however, Performa honorees Joan Jonas and Maja Hoffmann had escaped to the Harlem home of Gavin Brown and Hope Atherton, where they could enjoy a civilized meal among the artists, collectors, dealers, and curators who gathered with the family of the late Elaine Sturtevant to celebrate the opening of her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

Left: Dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and artist Wangechi Mutu. Right: Artist Frank Stella and collector Michael Ballack.


Both Brown and MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, who organized the concise exhibition, gave emotional toasts to the artist, so long unrecognized in her native country. (She had lived for years in Paris.) “She showed us what an artist is,” Brown said, characterizing the exhibition as “an extraordinary show in a place she’s always belonged.” In his testimonial, Eleey recalled Sturtevant saying that, “To be a Great Artist is the least interesting thing I can think of,” and read a 1972 letter of hers that made the occasion feel like a séance. “Why do you do other people’s work?” the dealer Virginia Dwan once asked Sturtevant. “I hesitate to answer,” the artist replied, “only because the closer something is to the truth the more it has distrust of words.”

Two days later, Brown outed seventy-eight-year-old Jonas as the latest addition to his roster by devoting his corner of Independent Projects to a work of hers from 1976. It wasn’t the only historical entry at the forty-one-gallery fair, which continued as a “curated” exhibition for six days after its November 9 closing. What I can say about it is that I still remember it—not my usual experience of an art fair.

One showstopper was the scarily lifelike, Flea Market Lady (1990) by Duane Hanson at Brendan Dugan’s Karma Books stand. Neglected vintage works included 1988 felt banners by Mike Kelley at Skarstedt, 1962 window-shade collages by Robert Moskowitz at Kerry Schuss, 1967 drawings by the little-known John Tweedle at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, David Medalla’s bubbly “Cloud Canyons” kinetic sculpture at Venus Over Manhattan, and career-spanning collages by ninety-year-old Gianfranco Baruchello at Massimo De Carlo.

Left: MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, MMK curator Mario Kramer, and dealer Thaddeus Ropac. Right: Artist Christopher Williams.


If they all came as pleasant surprises, another work was utterly hair-raising. That was Sculpture Tactile, an unrealized and totally obscure, circa 1957 sculpture by Yves Klein that Dominique Lévy produced for the fair. Visitors walked up to a white box on a pedestal and stuck an arm into a hole, only to recoil with shrieks of horror at the touch of something warm and mysterious. (A naked yoga practitioner was inside.) “That’s a slam-dunk,” said an excited Sam Falls, whose sun-bleached paintings were on show at Hannah Hoffman. “Eww!” exclaimed Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs. Jerry Saltz went back more than once.

Dealers of the new didn’t stint on quality either, and many brought works with a strong architectural presence. Michele Maccarone scored with collaged paintings by Rosy Keyser; Maureen Paley with a mirrored-wall installation of Liam Gillick’s film tribute to Richard Hamilton; Mitchell-Innes & Nash with Virginia Overton’s no-exit, found-wood structure; and Lisson Gallery with Access Boot, Haroon Mirza’s, rubber room–like, light-triggering, acid-house sound installation. It’s his best, or most accessible, work to date. Bjarne Melgaard, at least, pronounced it “awesome.”

In other words, the vibe was excellent, and turned electric whenever John Giorno got up to perform before his sexually aggressive, 1982 text paintings at Max Wigram’s stand. Yet a pall fell over the proceedings as word got around that the building, the former Dia Center in Manhattan, had been sold to a developer planning to convert it to—what else?—unaffordable apartments. (It’s already overshadowed by the humongous Foster + Partners tower rising behind it, and surrounded by other glass-walled, high-rise constructions that threaten to turn West Chelsea into a cold-canyon Krypton.) “We’re looking in Harlem,” reported Independent cofounder Darren Flook. Dealer Andrew Edlin, director of the Outsider Art Fair, is also facing eviction from the building, only two years after his fair seemed finally to find a proper home.

Left: Dealer Doris Amman, artist Francesco Clemente, and dealer Mary Boone. Right: Dealer David Zwirner.


After surviving Hurricane Sandy two years ago, neighborhood galleries remain undaunted. That night, the High Line Art program opened “Pier 54,” its first exhibition to appear indoors. “We’re so excited,” HLA curator Cecilia Alemani said. “We don’t have to worry about the weather!” A very satisfying, feminist retort to “Pier 18,” an all-male project conceived by Willoughby Sharp in 1971, “Pier 54” documents performances carried out for Liz Ligon’s camera by twenty-seven female artists on the Hudson River’s last unreconstructed pier. (It’s the one that greeted survivors of the Titanic, and the one from which the Lusitania disembarked, later to be torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.)

Rachel Churner is a victim of current torpedoing by landlords. Surrounded by friends for the opening of “The Last Picture Show”—her Tenth Avenue gallery’s finale—she gave an affectionate and appreciative farewell speech that sounded the saddest note of the night. David Zwirner took his own shot over a bow—of Larry Gagosian’s ship, so to speak—by opening a show of 1990s Franz West sculptures at his gallery on West Twentieth Street. Not to let anything, or anyone rest, he also presented exhibitions of new works—by Neo Rauch and Christopher Williams—in his galleries on West Nineteenth. “We’re fully loaded!” he admitted.

Picking up where his recent MoMA retrospective left off, Williams’s pitch-perfect exhibition included a photograph of a magnificent show rooster with those of shiny car fenders and eviscerated cameras. “I’ve been reading poultry magazines,” he explained, before heading to the gallery dinner at Indochine (which would celebrate its thirtieth anniversary the following day). On West Twenty-Sixth Street, Fergus McCaffrey engineered another sublime pairing—of manipulated photocopy prints that Sigmar Polke based on illustrated magic books and eye-opening works in several media by the late Austrian feminist, Birgit Jürgenssen. And on West Twenty-Fourth, 303 Gallery showed paintings on industrial tarps that Valentin Carron based on 1950s and ’60s book covers, and remarkably “soft” belts cast in glass.

“No one believes anything is handmade anymore!” Francesco Clemente protested during his opening at Mary Boone Gallery, where he had painted the inside walls of two Mughal-style tents embroidered in India—a pink one for devilish imagery, a blue one for angelic. Even though a suited-up Alex and Ada Katz departed early (for the Guggenheim’s Dior-sponsored gala), they left only after heaping Clemente with compliments echoed by everyone who joined him for dinner at the Top of the Standard.

Left: Publisher Dorothee Perret and artist Oscar Tuazon. Right: Dealers Maureen Paley and Oliver Evans.


Here, guests segregated themselves not in tents but on banquettes—the art crowd (Brice, Helen and Mirabelle Marden, Cecily Brown and Nicolai Ourossoff, David Salle, Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant) in one, the society figures (Anne Bass, Bob Colacello, Doris Ammann) at another, while writers Fran Lebowitz and Tanya Selvaratnam ate at the bar.

At En Japanese Brasserie, the group that Andrew Kreps and the Modern Institute gathered for a post-Independent dinner numbered only twenty, but conversation was so lively it actually heated the private, upstairs room.

The following night, Frank Stella sent up temperatures during his opening at Marianne Boesky by buddying up with retired German soccer star-turned-collector Michael Ballack. Before them stood two very large sculptures, a new, smooth and shiny one from 2014, and a twisted, dirty-steel one from 1995. “I love it!” Boesky said. “It’s like beauty and the beast.” A change of pace came a few doors away at Matthew Marks, who brought to light a cache of truly charming paintings by the obscure Albert York, and presided over the opening of a show by Martin Puryear on West Twenty-Second Street. Some sculptures were cast iron rather than wood; one of the former (Up and Over) looked so impossibly soft and erotic that it was hard to steal away to far-off Red Hook. But that’s where Dustin Yellin’s vast Pioneeer Works is located, and where Bosco Sodi found ample room to hang The Last Day, a glistening, fifty-seven-foot long painting resembling a rough moonscape.

As the contemporary auctions loomed large, the weekend was filled with more action in galleries. George Condo brought his strongest painting in years to Skarstedt. Among the five shows at White Columns were drawings of imaginary black men who never shave by one Derrick Alexis Coard, a developmentally disabled man who has stuck to the same subject for fourteen years—with affecting results. It was more of a family affair at Maccarone, where the brothers Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen combined forces in timber, concrete, and glass. Next door, an absent Urs Fischer had a huge crowd doing double-takes at paintings that were digital prints of paintings of digital photographs. And last Monday—usually a day off—three Chelsea galleries opened shows by top-branded artists. Paul Kasmin jumped on the rolling Polke bandwagon; Thomas Houseago departed from his white plaster monsters long enough to install his apartment-size, white plaster Moun Room at Hauser & Wirth; and in his first New York show since 2009, Takashi Murakami landed at Gagosian showing a nightmarish underbelly that few have detected in his work before.

Left: Artist Alex Katz with Ada Katz. Right: Raphaelle Condo, artist George Condo, and curator Stacy Engman.


Murakami produced all of it after the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, known there simple as “3/11.” I happened to be with Murakami in Tokyo on that frightening day, the first I saw of the sensitive, outraged, philosophical and political side of this artist since “Little Boy,” the manga group show he brought to the Japan Society here in 2005. Nothing gets his dander up like a nuclear explosion, or the threat of it.

For his show, Murakami dressed not in a suit nor in one of his happy-face flowerballs but in the tattered traditional garments of a mythical character in one of his paintings. Long, prosthetic toes extended from his bare feet. Gripping his head with tiny hands was a grinning, gray-haired, silicone gargoyle with three pairs of eyes, big ears and wire-rimmed spectacles just like his own. Interesting to see what kind of spirit Murakami identifies with—part demon, part enlightened soul. “Happy to see you again,” he said.

So it goes in November. This week, Creative Time will hold a benefit “slumber party”—an all-night soiree at NeueHouse, where for $485 you can hang out with artists, dance, and sleep around. If you absolutely need to get something back for making a charitable donation, this is one way, I suppose, to train for December’s Miami Basel.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Artist Sam Falls.


My Bo

Bogotá
11.15.14

Left: MALBA curator Agustín Pérez Rubio, Museum of Fine Arts Boston curator Liz Munsell, MAMM curator Emiliano Valdés, ArtBO director María Paz Gaviria Múñoz, Tate Modern curator Tanya Barson, and Museum of Contemporary Art senior curator Alma Ruiz. Right: Curator José Roca. (All photos: Frank Expósito)


FOREIGNERS WERE ASSURED they would be safe. Amid the Bogotanos that went outside for a smoke during the blackout at a salsa club on the eve of ArtBO was María Paz Gaviria, ArtBO’s director. Her eyes widened as she spoke: “I’m very happy to have everyone here,” she said, referring to the dealers from twenty-some countries who had traveled to Colombia’s capital for the fair. Curator Emiliano Valdés had just arrived, at the party and also in the country, for his new post as chief curator at Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín. He stood with María Mercedes González, director of the MAMM, which is currently undergoing a twelve-million-dollar expansion. ARCOmadrid director Carlos Urroz Arancibia was also in town to promote his fair’s 2015 edition, where Colombia would be the featured country for the first time.

Gaviria was celebrating her third year as director of the fair, though it was rumored this, the fair’s tenth anniversary, would be her last. Some thought it was due to a strain on her relationship with Bogotá’s Chamber of Commerce, which created and continues to sponsor the fair. Their seemingly opposing views of how the fair should look—Gaviria, increasingly international; the chamber, less so—was argued to be the root. The chamber had also excluded her father’s gallery, Nueveochenta, from participating in prior editions, citing a conflict-of-interest law, even though the gallery almost exclusively represents a roster of contemporary artists from Bogotá. But this year Nueveochenta was present, showing, among other things, monumental drawings on Plexiglas by Colombian artist Jaime Ávila.

Left: Artists Catalina Sanint and Antonio Caro. Right: Artist Mateo López.


The Bogotanos call it soroche. As altitude sickness continued to set in the next day—Bogotá is over a mile and a half above sea level—the art world began the fair’s VIP program, which, at its first stop, had guests playing house at collector Katherine Bar-On’s apartment in Barrio Los Rosales. NMAC Foundation director Jimena Blázquez and JJ Foundation director Nicole Junkermann sipped coffee with Madrid CA2M director Ferran Barenblit on the balcony; the clouds were noticeably closer. Art adviser Ana Sokoloff and collector Gloria Saldarriaga wandered through the house, while Casas Riegner’s Catalina Casas spoke about her gallery’s show with Colombian artist Mateo López, whose schematic drawings were exhibited at the fair and whose installation Casa Desorientada (Disoriented House) one could sneak into in the city’s botanical gardens later in the day.

The opening for Fundación MISOL’s annual prize followed, celebrating the work of artist Erika Ordosgoitti and curator Alejandro Martín. The former took on the tradition of body art by incorporating social media in video and prints while Martín, among other interventions, regally transformed the upstairs with heavy, red velvet drapery. Even though it was in a white-cube space, the air was slightly burlesque, which seemed appropriate for an unveiling of new work. Fundación MISOL president Solita Mishaan seemed perpetually in the midst of a series of interviews and quick exchanges. One was with Blázquez, who spoke about the logistics of running a public, collecting foundation. “We choose artists because we want their work to be part of museums, not in collections,” Mishaan responded. “If MoMA was interested in this piece,” she said as she pointed to one of Ordosgoitti’s videos housed in wooden scaffolding, “I would give it to them.”

Casa Triângulo dealers Ricardo Trevisan and Rodrigo Editore navigated the growing crowd, while Instituto de Visión dealers Omayra Alvarado and Beatriz López took shelter in a not yet populated hallway on the first floor. Alvarado and López had just finished putting the final touches on their new space in the gallery district of Barrio San Felipe, which they were inaugurating the next day with a three-part group exhibition. As MISOL welcomed more people, the art world decamped to the garden where the fair had invited artists to create site-specific works. Along with López, artists such as Colombians Nadín Ospina and Andrés Jurado dealt with the built environment in an installation titled Insulas (Islands) of shrunken global monuments in another pond and in an installation titled Teatro de Insectos (Theater of Insects) that included a monitor amid the humid overgrowth in an elaborate greenhouse.

Left: ArteBA director Julia Converti and dealer Elba Benitez. Right: Artist Alicia Barney.


Most galleries at the fair came from South and Central America. São Paulo–based Galería Luisa Strina showed the conceptual paintings of Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero, while Buenos Aires–based gallery Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporáneo brought soot mandalas by Argentinian artist Tomás Espina. Henrique Faria Fine Art gave their space over to handheld, trepanned sculptures of Fernando “Coco” Bedoya, and Revolver Galería displayed geometric shelving by Peruvian artist Daniel Barclay. Galeria Jaqueline Martins showed the spatial works of Brazilian modernist Martha Araújo, while 80M2 Livia Benavides displayed Peruvian artist Iosu Aramburu’s abstractions of Le Corbusier architectural renderings, which were quickly picked up by Jorge Pérez for his Pérez Art Museum Miami. From Europe, Paris-based Mor Charpentier installed a full wall of eye-catching photographs by Carlos Motta, and Berlin-based Galerija Gregor Podnar included the relational resin-poured and cardboard sculptures of Slovene artist Tobias Putrih, a series that would also be shown outside of the fair at the latest exhibition of FLORA ars+natura, the Bogotá-based exhibition space and artist residency led by the curator José Roca.

For the second year running, Roca had also curated the fair’s solo projects section, El Uso Estético del Objecto (The Aesthetic Use of Objects), which focused on the boundary between art and design. Works appeared in a variety of recognizable functional forms: a sitting area (Daniel Acosta at Casa Triângulo), concrete architectural models (Héctor Zamora at Luciana Brito Galeria), cabinets (Sebastián Errázuriz at Cristina Grajales Gallery), and latex pants (Ana Laura Aláez at Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz). “Fernando Botero famously said that abstract art was only useful to decorate apartments,” the curator noted. “These works have something to them that bring them into the realm of art, or maybe they don’t. I think 90 percent of people who go to Daniel Acosta’s booth don’t recognize that’s a piece at all. This is a test to the power of the piece, which was intended to be a pavilion that generates conversation.”

Left: Fundación MISOL director Solita Mishaan and artist Erika Ordosgoitti. Right: NMAC Foundation director Jimena Blázquez and JJ Foundation director Nicole Junkermann.


“When the sun shines so brightly, it means a storm is coming,” someone said at the opening at Instituto de Visión the following morning. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition focused on environmental “bio-art” and included work by Alicia Barney, Ana María Millán, and Carolina Caycedo. “It used to be so bad here that the cartels would steal my Artforums,” Barney said about Bogotá. “They needed it to sneak in drugs.”

Caycedo’s film depicts the current building of El Quimbo, the country’s first hydroelectric power plant to be constructed by a transnational company. When finished, the plant will dam Colombia’s greatest river, the Magdalena. Caycedo’s work considers the lives of the Colombian people who depend on the river to survive. As onlookers sat there watching Zoila Ninco, an artisanal fisherwoman and day laborer featured in the film, rain and hail suddenly beat heavily on the gallery’s roof. The pipes began to rattle, and soon water pushed past the doorway. There was no escaping it. Art and nature had found each other.

Frank Expósito

Close Calls

Turin
11.12.14

Left: Eric Doeringer's The Hug at the opening of Artissima. Right: Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto with artist and curator Maurizio Cattelan. (Photos: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima)


ONLY MINUTES INTO THE OPENING and the palace was packed. Just after 6 PM, on the wet streets of Turin, a suited and heeled mob pushed at the doors of Palazzo Cavour for SHIT AND DIE, Artissima’s inaugural event. Artissima is owned by the region and is as much festival as fair; its off-site exhibitions, falling under the umbrella “One Torino,” and on-site prizes are as much a draw as the commercial galleries boothed in the Lingotto Oval event center. Curators Maurizio Cattelan, Myriam Ben Salah, and Marta Papini culled the title from a work by Bruce Nauman, waiting until the last moment to announce its feculent fatalism. “Many of the places we borrowed from—museums and institutions—said they wouldn’t have loaned to us if we’d told them the name,” said Ben Salah. Over the next few days, every time I ran into Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, she relayed a new story of defending to local politicians first the show’s title and then its contents, which included, to the officials’ dismay, an abundance of engorged cocks.

I finally shimmied through the mob and into a long line that curved up the stairs past Eric Doeringer’s The Hug: forty thousand single dollar bills attached to the wall, rippling with each halting lurch of the line. Once inside, I found less an exhibition than a lusty funhouse filled with fictive, beautiful, and slightly fucked-up visions of its impresarios, altogether reflecting on the witchy, gritty, and sometimes utopic tales and legends of Turin. There was a hall of tumescent fetishes by Pascale Marthine Tayou; an Ancient Greek orgy chamber drawn on-site by Dasha Shishkin and arrayed with pussies by VALIE EXPORT (1969) and Tracey Emin (2000); and a hirsute, half-staffed male nude by Sylvia Sleigh (1974). In the office of the former owner—Italy’s first prime minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour—under the plastic-wrapped walls and furniture hung a diminutive photograph of Toulouse-Lautrec defecating on a beach, alluding to the Count’s rumored coprophagia. Near the champagne bar, Ben Salah introduced me to Cattelan; gold-booted and entouraged, he thanked me for all my good work and then stamped my forehead with the words SHIT AND DIE. It felt like some kind of smirking baptism.

Left: Artist Dawn Kasper. (Photo: Andrew Berardini) Right: Collectors Beatrice Trussardi, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and Lavinia Elkann. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima)


Some fraction of the opening crowd walked to the dinner in the regal seventeenth-century Palazzo Graneri della Roccia and then to “SHIT AND PARTY” at an underground club that I might have stumbled into around 4 AM during last year’s fair, speakers pumping Spice Girls and a floor packed with hormonal teenagers. Even now the dance hall was aromatic with teen spirit. The party crackled out early for a lot of us, hotel-bound in anticipation for the fair’s opening the next day.

The rippling glass skin of the Lingotto Oval beamed brightly against the gray, autumnal sky, providing at a distance a first shimmering glance of the gathering crowd. Passing through security, I aimed for the heart of the fair, both literally and figuratively: two sections—Present Future and Back to the Future—that feature solo booths from emerging and historical artists, respectively. Organized by Luigi Fassi with Catalina Lozano, Piper Marshall, Jamie Stevens, and Xiaoyu Weng, this year’s Present Future had Dawn Kasper—vigorously working two giant paintings in the booth while her dealer David Lewis vigorously looked on from an office chair—and Robin Cameron, who built a boneyard of ceramics and an homage to Matisse’s cutouts at Room East. But the winner (especially for the jury that awarded her the Illy Prize) was Rachel Rose’s spooky video-collage at High Art, comprising transient bursts of noise with announcements, like Negativland frenetically searching for a way out of Philip Johnson’s Glass House.

In Back to the Future, I lingered around Saltoun’s installation of Hans-Peter Feldmann and Friedl Kubelka, Lutz Bacher at Buchholz, and Channa Horwitz at Ghebaly (another prize winner), before wandering into the main fair’s jungle of booths. A warped mirror hid inside a small house by Tom Burr at Franco Noero, while a decapitated head softly bounced down stairs in an Ed Atkins video at Bortolozzi. At Ibid Projects, Magnus Edensvard curated a meditative group show on studies and still lifes, anchored around a beautiful sculpture by Anthea Hamilton. Edensvard proudly described how each work fit into the whole. “I’ve been coming to Artissima for years,” he said, “mostly for conversations like the one we’re having now.”

Left: Curators Luigi Fassi and Liza Mazza. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima) Right: Curator Piper Marshall. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


The opening concluded with a performance by Nico Vascellari. A crowd gathered over a highway underpass next to the Lingotto, while a DJ played a recording of the last speech from Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983), in which a man sitting astride an equine statue of a Roman emperor declaims on the need for humanity to return to its foundations before setting himself on fire with a Zippo. Vascellari walked across the highway and sat astride the cement divider, the cars speeding by barely missing his legs.

The following night I ran into the artist at the headquarters for the concurrent dance festival, Club-2-Club. I found Vascellari, who was also in the music festival, beyond a carousel playing “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” and inside a live scoring by artist-filmmaker Carlos Casas. “I felt like I had to risk my life to honor that speech,” said Vascellari, “to reveal what’s truly at stake.”

If only the stakes were always so clear. An hour later in an industrial neighborhood between the Turinese suburbs of Grugliasco and Rivoli, I found myself led along a walkway lined with flaming logs into a warehouse filled with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s sizable collection of sizable art: a crashed foil car, Cartwoman (2012), by Andra Ursuta, stood a few feet from Paul McCarthy’s carny-ride Bang Bang Room (1992), doors and walls slamming and turning. Two beautiful Charles Rays from 1986 and 1990 stood meters away, alongside works of more recent vintage, i.e., last year, by Helen Marten and Alis/Filliol.

Left: Perfomance by Nico Vascellari. Right: Curator Myriam Ben Salah. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)


Anticipating their collection’s twentieth anniversary next year, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo decided to install the show at this anonymous warehouse instead of at their normal space on Via Modane, and to host a special dinner for four hundred of their closest friends (though Francesco Bonami, until recently the Fondazione’s artistic director, skipped out early). We sat at silver-foil tables surrounded by silver-foil walls; several diners wondered whether we were seated in a Rudolf Stingel, though if it was it didn’t stop one couple from carving their names into its surface. After dinner and a turn on the dance floor, Patrizia interrupted our headbanging to drag us to the bar for glasses of thirty-year-old Nonino grappa poured, incredibly, by Antonella Nonino.

Standing under heat lamps with the smokers outside, the third person that day told me they were leaving either curating or criticism to work in a gallery. A few others complained about the distressing fate of that grand Turinese contemporary art museum, the Castello di Rivoli, whose directorship remains vacant and funding and administration uncertain. The flaming logs at the beginning of the evening had burned to smoldering charcoal, but in a projection playing both inside and outside the building, Fischli & Weiss’s kitty happily lapped its milk without a hint of slowing down.

Andrew Berardini

Left: Curators Gianni Jetzer, Lorenzo Benedetti, and Beatrice Merz. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima) Right: Dealer Isabella Bortolozzi. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


Supreme Being

Los Angeles
11.09.14

Left: Comedian and singer Bridget Everett. (Photo: Jose Negrete) Right: Tenacious D's Kyle Gass and Jack Black. (Photo: Ryan Chin)


“FUCK THIS VIP SHIT—I want some real California dick!” cried a braless Bridget Everett as she made her way toward the general admission section of the crowd. Everett eventually found an object for her affection, a masked dandy she nicknamed “Corky” (cause he was “Down’s-y in the eyes”), whom she cajoled into playing a grown-up game of airplane, bearing the weight of her significant frame right there in the middle of the stage. Soon enough she was motorboating Peaches (the musician, not the fruit), forcing a security guard’s head up her dress, and crooning gorgeously about lady parts of various shapes and sizes. The sun was still shining, but she was working on her night moves.

FOMO abounded among the ten thousand attendees at the second annual Festival Supreme, a ten-hour comedy, music, and visual art event organized by Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. Many sported elaborate costumes as we navigated the fifty-plus live acts across four stages, as well as a fifty-four-thousand-square-foot art installation, all in an early-twentieth-century Shriners temple located in downtown Los Angeles. The lineup was sick (Fred Armisen, Margaret Cho, Nick Kroll, to name a few), and as if that weren’t enough, special, surprise guests included Weird Al Yankovic, who shredded the Keytar with Tenacious D, and Zach Galifianakis, who starred, along with Orange Is the New Black’s Lauren Lapkus and Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott, in a live rendition of Scott Aukerman’s podcast and IFC show Comedy Bang! Bang!

The heart of the festival lay in its focus on comedy music, a seemingly puerile medium with surprisingly lofty potential. “The whole singer-songwriter reveal-your-feelings thing gets to be kind of embarrassing,” explained Gass. “But comedy in music is like a Brechtian alienation device—we’re removed from our feelings to reveal real truths.” For Peaches, incorporating humor into her music allows her to promote a political agenda “without scaring people off.” Plus, she added, “It’s really depressing when bands take themselves too seriously.”

Left: Tenacious D performing with Weird Al Yankovic. (Photo: Jose Negrete) Right: Zach Galifianakis. (Photo: Ryan Chin/Goldenvoice)


A significant portion of Black’s efforts went toward producing and promoting the festival’s visual art component, the enormous, multiartist Circus of Death spearheaded by sculptor and painter Steven Hull. Black has supported Hull’s efforts in the past, such as the artist-run Las Cienegas Projects, and in this case, shelled out $150,000 for the installation, which featured a haunted church/bouncy house by Jim Shaw (who also performed in the space) as well as twenty monster costumes by Marnie Weber (inhabited by Otis College of Art and Design students). “Creating an art element to the show was a survival instinct,” Black told me. “We want this festival to live on, and this is what really sets it apart.” When I referenced Black as a legitimate arts patron, comedian Tim Heidecker quipped: “Yes, yes, of course—as any millionaire should be.”

By design, a good deal of the acts, such as Eric Andre and Maria Bamford, were unusual or experimental in some way. “We definitely like edgier, performance art stuff,” Gass told me. In his set, comedian T. J. Miller conformed to the nonconformist context: “With all of these incredible, unique performers that I admire on the lineup, I just couldn’t come out here and do older stuff that I knew would kill. I had to take a risk.” This included absurdist material about giraffes, and the reading and subsequent burning of a philosophical tract by Eugène Ionesco. The cheering crowd was on board with it all.

Although encircled by many high-minded performances and artworks, FS was still a raucous festival (perhaps due to its proximity to USC), with requisite vomit, brawls, and bathroom lines. (I was even knocked in the jaw by an exuberant fellow spectator.) Comedy musician Bo Burnham’s show seemed like a rejoinder to the privileged party vibe, and kicked off with a sobering, prerecorded announcement: “The world is not funny. Twenty percent of the world does not have access to clean drinking water.” The track eventually let up a bit: “The world is not funny. Guy Fieri has two functioning restaurants.” Burnham then belted a stunning, satirical song about his (and many of the audience members’) “plight” as a straight white male: “I’ve never been the victim of a random search for drugs, but don’t say my life is easy till you’ve walked a mile in my Uggs.”

Left: Peaches. (Photo: Oliver Walker) Right: Comedians Lauren Lapkus, Kate Micucci, and Riki Lindholme. (Photo: Miriam Katz)


As the sun set, the vibe became even more frenetic, and the choices between acts became even more difficult. Enjoy the Workaholics’ rap as “Hip-hop wizards”? Join Everett and Cho in a three-way grind during Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away” finale? The one true moment of stillness came toward the end of the night, when for the first time during the entire fest there was only one performance to attend: the 25th anniversary reunion of The State, the beloved MTV sketch comedy show, featuring all eleven members performing resounding renditions of iconic numbers such as (my personal childhood favorite) “The Jew, the Italian, and the Red Head Gay.” Thousands looked on in rapt attention, including the pop star Pink, who, perhaps slightly self-conscious of her red carpet–ready attire amid the casual crowd, asided as I snapped a photo: “Just tell ’em I’m in costume like everyone else.”

For State fans it was nostalgia city; for everyone else, it was a chance to see some of the most vital forces in comedy today. Overall, Festival Supreme felt like a living history of comedic production over the past forty years, from Dr. Demento to Weird Al to Tenacious D; from Cheech & Chong to the Workaholics. “We wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for them,” said the Workaholics’s Blake Anderson about the stoned elder statesmen. And whether she likes it or not, Peaches has to be a touchstone for Awkwafina, the YouTube celebrity/potty-mouthed singer. “Music just elevates things,” remarked Gass at the end of the evening, more than a bit wistfully. A little Brecht goes a long way.

Miriam Katz

Left: Jack Black with artist Steven Hull. Right: Steven Hull's Circus of Death installation. (Photos: Miriam Katz)


Dancing with the Stars

Los Angeles
11.06.14

Left: Artists Barbara Kruger and Christopher Williams with curator Ann Goldstein. Right: Director Quentin Tarantino. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


WHAT HAPPENED TO ART in the twentieth century was film. It gave fine artists a new medium and storytellers a visual language. Today, artists like Steve McQueen make movies, but established moviemakers rarely make art. Not in Hollywood, anyway, where these days the art and film worlds each operate in a separate and unequal universe.

The seams were plainly showing last Saturday night, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held its fourth annual Art + Film Gala. Gucci sponsored the evening, which honored Barbara Kruger and Quentin Tarantino. Both marry words to pictures. As Tarantino would tell the six hundred–plus people who came to dinner, “It makes sense.”

Little else did. Designed to mine the extraordinary wealth accumulated by people in the movie business while forging a bond between the art and film communities, the event raised $3.85 million—a paltry amount, given the deep pockets in the room and the needs of a museum as encyclopedic and sprawling as LACMA. The event was cochaired by trustee and former fashion designer Eva Chow and Leonardo DiCaprio, and entertainment industry figures (Jennifer Lopez, Amy Adams, Jamie Foxx, Demi Moore) outnumbered art people to such a degree that some artists attending felt dissed. As one put it, “It’s like we’re the bottom-feeders here, and this is our turf.” Clearly, the museum will have to try harder to achieve integration. “There’s that actress,” said one artist as Dakota Johnson walked by. “The one in 50 Shades of Grey—what’s her name?”

Left: Collector Maurice Marciano, artist Sterling Ruby, and collector Steve Roth. Right: Jennifer Lopez with LACMA trustee Eva Chow.


It’s not as if there aren’t enough billionaires in the art world. The recent “Two x Two for AIDS and Art” in Dallas raised $7 million. And earlier this year, Guess Jeans cofounder Maurice Marciano, who attended the gala with fellow LA MoCA trustee Lilly Tartikoff Karatz, gave that institution $25 million.

LACMA has received such donations in the past, and it will be looking for more if it’s going to realize director Michael Govan’s ambitious plan to remake its campus with a futuristic $650 million redesign by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. (Five days later, the museum made public a major bequest of forty-seven nineteenth- and twentieth-century artworks [by Degas, Manet, Picasso, etc.] from former Univision CEO A. Jerrold Perenchio. The city’s board of supervisors also approved the new Zumthor building and put $125 million toward its construction.)

However, on Friday, following a pre-gala press conference with Govan and Chow, a tour of the museum’s current exhibitions showed the institution to be already thriving.

I saw an illuminating monographic show of the Jazz Age African-American painter Archibald Motley; a tightly focused Marsden Hartley exhibition; a gorgeous German Expressionist film show; a not-to-be missed display of samurai armor; and a superior selection of recently acquired abstract works by contemporary artists—the first collection show of this kind at the museum. It was fun to be there. There’s no reason it shouldn’t attract pots of money.

Left: LACMA director Michael Govan with LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans. Right: MoCA director Philippe Vergne with collectors Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and Bruce Karatz.


Yet everywhere I went that day and the next, I heard grumbling. At $5,000 a plate, and $100,000 for a table of twelve, the LACMA gala is the art world’s priciest benefit. “I’m too cheap to go,” said Stefan Simchowitz at Gagosian Beverly Hills on Saturday afternoon, when the gallery held an invitation-only preview of “Robert Rauschenberg: Works on Metal.” He added, “I’d rather eat at a Chinese restaurant and just give money to the museum.” Not that the notorious art-flipper is typical, but supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle was having a competing party, and the benefit concert that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Anthony Kiedis were hosting that night to benefit the Silverlake Conservatory of Music was drawing off people who felt excluded from the LACMA shindig. Certainly, the artists and collectors rushing Matthew Marks Gallery for the debut of two perfect metal sculptures by Charles Ray were no more interested in the gala than the young artists and writers who dressed with great imagination for a Friday night Halloween party at the Silver Lake home of partner dealers Alex Freedman and Robbie Fitzpatrick.

Still, because both Kruger and Tarantino are wild cards in Hollywood—commentators on, rather than regurgitators of, mainstream culture—I would have thought them a bigger draw for art types. LACMA took a risk by honoring them before a crowd more smitten by a Steven Spielberg. For all the glamour of the evening—and it had plenty—it lacked the megawattage of the Warren Beatty–Jack NicholsonTom HanksJane FondaDiane Keaton bunch that showed up for the museum’s 2012 tribute to Stanley Kubrick and Ed Ruscha. This time out, even James Franco kept a low profile.

Actually, said LACMA curator Stephanie Barron, “We’re up to about 15 percent art world this year.” As opposed to about 2 percent in the past? Some of the artists present (Christopher Williams, Diana Thater) are friends of Kruger’s. Sam Durant and Pierre Huyghe have current or upcoming shows at LACMA. One artist (Thomas Demand) is married to Barron’s curatorial assistant (Nana Bahlmann). Two others (John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha) are past honorees. Wyatt Kahn escorted China Chow, who dressed in a Hershey Bar wrapper gown (by Jeremy Scott for Moschino)—the most amusing and adventurous outfit of the night.

Left: Collector Stefan Simchowitz. Right: Artist Charles Ray.


Strangely, no other directors were on hand to support Tarantino, who arrived solo. At dinner, he was seated beside a thickly bearded DiCaprio and opposite Kruger, whose seatmates were Govan and Olivia Harrison, the first wife of George Harrison and producer of the recent HBO documentary about him. Nearby was a young Qatari sheik, Anjelica Huston, and the evening’s power couple, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West, who were vocal in their admiration for Kruger’s work. (A tribute film made for the occasion by Pippa Bianco reminded guests that when Kardashian posed nude for the cover of W magazine’s art issue a couple of years back, Kruger’s ironic white-on-red text ribbons veiled the model’s private parts.)

But it took a long time to get to that film and to the honorees. “Can’t I go home now, please?” groaned Mark Bradford during an unexplained and extended lull between the main course and the speeches that utterly stripped the event of momentum. Tacita Dean, currently in residence at the Getty, filled the gap by following Los Angeles Times arts reporter David Ng on “a tour of the celebrities in the room.” But it was Dean who introduced me to an actor who has starred in Tarantino films, Christoph Waltz. “Our children go to school together in Berlin,” she explained. “What do you think?” he asked, breaking from a conversation with LACMA curator Salvesen. “Is it better to be iconic or a curator?” (He didn’t think he’d ever be a curator, though it was charming to hear him consider the possibility.)

Finally, Govan introduced Kruger by praising her as “an artist of the present and the future.” Extolling her work and her thinking with the example of Untitled (Shafted), the Orwellian (George, not Orson) work adorning the elevator of the BCAM building at LACMA, he stepped aside for Bianco’s film, to which Kruger contributed a voice-over (and a hilarious takedown of the hundreds of times other people have ripped her off), but in which she did not appear. “You don’t have to be the face of your work,” she said in the kick-ass closing moment. In an age, and a town, obsessed with image branding, this came across as both refreshing and threatening.

Left: LACMA curator Stephanie Barron with artist Thomas Demand and LACMA curator Nana Bahlmann. Right: Artists Ana Privacki and Sam Durant.


But it was the living, breathing (and Gucci-clad) Kruger who made the evening worth the bother. After addressing her audience as “formidable, deeply powerful, gorgeous, and bling-festooned,” she spoke forcefully for the value of public education and public institutions like LACMA, pulling no punches on the importance of taking responsibility for the culture we create. The Harvey Weinsteins and Brad Greys in the room sat up straight. (“It’s a platform, you know,” she said afterward.) She also did something really classy. Breaking from her personal concerns, she surprised everyone with a clear and well-informed appreciation of Tarantino’s career. “That was the most unpretentious and gracious speech I’ve ever heard,” Waltz observed.

So when actor Tim Roth leaped to the stage to introduce the director, there was nothing for him to say but, “Thank you, Barbara Kruger!” On the other hand, he appeared so out of it that he had nothing to say anyway. “Quentin is deeply special,” was all he could manage, before finishing up with, “Quentin, I love you!” Well, a party is only as much fun as its embarrassments, I suppose, though one wished John Travolta or Uma Thurman had been there to do the honors.

Tarantino then took a page from Kruger’s playbook to advance his own film enthusiast’s agenda. After an emotional acknowledgment of how much more meaningful it was to be paid respects in his hometown than it has been in Paris and other places that have already done the same, he castigated Hollywood for not leading the world in film-as-art. “I’m proud to be a break in your wall!” he concluded. (LACMA does collect films by artists like Dean, McQueen, Huyghe, Agnès Varda, Allan Sekula, Martha Rosler, Christian Marclay, and Ryan Trecartin, but has nothing approaching a MoMA-type library.)

On came Boy George and Culture Club, reunited for an upcoming tour supporting a new album. Sporting facial hair and clad in a three-piece black suit and high hat, the singer ran through three rousing hits from the 1980s and, in a nod to Tarantino, finished up with a cover of Preacher Man. The performance got a few people on their feet and Anjelica Huston to chair dance, but most of this crowd (excluding a wildly enthusiastic China Chow) didn’t want to relive the old days.

Left: Artist Diana Thater. Right: Actor Christoph Waltz with artist Tacita Dean.


That pall hung over the afterparty at the palatial, and glacial, Roman-Spanish-modernist Holmby Hills home of Michael and Eva Chow. It had a hard time getting off the ground. Oh, Marilyn Manson inspired some bathroom action, but Kruger, Tarantino and Boy George declined to go, and DiCaprio and Foxx isolated in a corner. “Jamie, please save this party!” Eva Chow begged Foxx, who complied by taking a mic in the DJ booth and rapping over the determinedly ’80s music till people got the message and hit the dance floor.

Thankfully, next-level social brio took flight on Monday, when Piero Golia invited artist-LA to his “biggest evening at the Chalet,” actually the speakeasy’s closing-night party. (The refined two-room club, designed by architect Edwin Chan to fit in a storage space behind L.A.C.E. in Hollywood, will reappear next fall—with its private liquor cabinets—at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.) “Piero will be our artist-in-residence,” Strick remarked.

Over the last year, Golia has used the intimate space to exercise his relational art muscle. On Monday, with one of Huyghe’s deep-sea creature tanks installed in a room, and a piano contributed by Christopher Williams in the other, Golia kept pulling metaphorical rabbits out of his cap for a crowd that included Govan, as well as Simone Forti, dealer Mieke Marple, UCLA’s Russell Ferguson, and a clutch of very cool artists.

Left: China Chow and artist Wyatt Kahn. Right: Designer Jeremy Scott.


All conversation stopped when a dozen uniformed members of the UCLA marching band blasted their way through each room, followed shortly by the service of a roasted pig and the debut performance of a female, vocal septet called the LA River Choir. (All of their songs are about rivers.) “There’s always some kind of surprise here,” said curator Ann Goldstein. (Previous evenings have featured a chocolate fountain and the ritual whipping of a collector.)

“I like the moments between events,” Kruger had said in Bianco’s film. Personally, I like the events between moments. This was one of them.

Linda Yablonsky