Family Style

Paris
11.29.04

Pavel Pepperstein's opening last night at the Centre du Diamant, a glitzy wholesale jewelry showroom in the rue de la Paix (two steps from the Opera and Place Vendôme), was quite charming: little watercolors of dollars and euro symbols exhibited on the wall and in vitrines alongside the ugliest diamonds you ever saw. The art world conduit to such an unlikely venue was the Galerie Iragui (in the Marais) which deals with Russian artists and, apparently, with French jewelers. And you could try on the jewelry—Lisa, my wife, tried a big, citrine dinner ring. The champagne glass in her other hand—and the string quartet playing in a corner—added considerably to the effect. A weird, New Agey video of the artist was playing on a monitor in the over-the-top, fake-marble and gilt entrance. The crowd was a very strange group, comprising lots of Russians and odd-looking musicians. Romain LaRiviere (the former gallerist and commissaire of the exhibition) was definitely going for a between-two-worlds ambience. The artist seems like a minor European art star in the making—handsome, but one of his eyes did not look quite right (is he walleyed?), which only added to his allure. We checked out the dinner-to-be at a bar around the corner called the Mannekin-Pis, but the only patrons seemed to be the artist's nice Russian family—wife, kids, gallerist—having dinner in the basement, so we slipped away.

On Saturday night we went to Thaddeus Ropac for the opening of Donald Baechler's new exhibition, though the visit was cut short because our dog Leo started to have diarrhea and that's not cool chez Thaddeus. So we ran, but not before I realized that it was a major show of monumental bronzes (on view in Salzburg last summer)—quite a capital outlay for M. Ropac, one guesses. The works looked really strong—playground flat, and frontal, with shades of '40s Picasso and '50s Dubuffet, which always plays well in Europe. Dinner at Maxim's later was sort of intimate—three tables upstairs; I sat next to Sturtevant and Caroline Smolders, the contemporary art specialist (and former Ropac director) from Christie's Paris. Sturtevant is really a fierce, steel-trap intellect—she wasn't letting me off any hooks, but I didn't let her off any either as we confabbed about her notorious difficulty with writers and their “stupid” use of the term copy to describe her work. She felt the dialogue about her art has improved depuis appropriation et al.; maybe someone will soon provide insight into her retrospective in Frankfurt. Caroline seems to be pining for the gallery world—corporate art à la Française must be tough. She has a sale this week that mixes contemporary with Deco and Impressionist stuff. That's the Druout way—all categories scrambled, not sorted according to type and certainly not highlighted or branded to make it more visible to the potential buyer. But I like it, mixed-up though it may be, because picking needles out of a haystack is excellent training for the eye. Maxim's is really a disco now (the Parisian Doubles?), so we went downstairs and danced until the wee hours. When we came out, the magenta Christmas lighting on the rue Royale had been turned off.

Brooks Adams

Eastward Ho

London
11.28.04

On the left, Dryden Goodwin, video still from Stay, 2004; on the right, Juergen Teller, Araki Number One, Tokyo, 2004.


If your evening of private views begins on the gleaming avenues of Piccadilly and officially ends with an undignified scrabble for the last lukewarm bottle of Rolling Rock from a plastic bucket, it’s likely you’ve been on an eastward trajectory. And on a night when the three most promising openings were spread across town, with the less formal East End shows tending to stay open later, there was really no other way to go. I headed first for Dryden Goodwin’s second solo at Stephen Friedman Gallery. A long-term fixture here, Goodwin exemplifies a classic predicament: potentially interesting artist under-supported by a dealer naturally more attentive to his heavy hitters (Shonibare, Hirschhorn, Rovner). In his first show with Friedman in four years, Goodwin inexplicably gave up half of the main gallery to nugatory grids of badly mounted stills from Stay, 2004, the barreling video-loop tracing journeys through canals, tunnels, and forests that played in the other half. But the portrait and cityscape prints in the back room were superb—multiple perspectives had been etched onto the same plate, showing up as penumbrae of varying densities. Goodwin obviously likes the idea of himself as a modern artist using (and interrogating) modern media, but he's sometimes better when he gets all old-fashioned on us.

By contrast, Modern Art—a fast-rising young gallery with a penchant for edginess—will probably continue to show Juergen Teller for as long as he wants. This exhibition, the German photographer’s second here, continues in the gallery’s recent interdisciplinary vein; like September’s baffling exhibition of stills from a 1969 Kenneth Anger film, it felt calculatedly hip but tangential to what they normally show. A passing artist summed up the pre-show anticipation regarding Teller’s new photographs thusly: “We wondered how many times he’d get his cock out.” Answer: Quite a few. The nudes were interspersed with off-cuts from his editorial photography (including images of Marilyn Manson, Louise Bourgeois, and Helmut Lang) and self-consciously arty images of weeds. Certainly it all looked saleable enough, though the fashionable young crowd at the opening appeared less like potential buyers than window dressing for this cross-media love-in. Best shot: Nobuyoshi Araki, hair and sunglasses flying, serenaded by a middle-aged karaoke singer. Best bandwagon-leap: the press material’s isolation of a portrait of William Eggleston (Victoria Miro is currently holding a sizeable show of the photographer’s work).

On the left, Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov, Night Figure, 2004; on the right, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov.


Across the road, in the smoke-filled, wet-floored, sweaty den that their spiffy new gallery evidently becomes on opening night, Vilma Gold—previously a scruffy independent, but increasingly professional-looking—featured paintings by Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov. Dealer Chris Hammond, of East End gallery MOT, recounts the artists’ story: Trained in Russia in socialist realist style and subsequently spiking their art with Western influences, they arrived at Vilma Gold (then ensconced in a raw Hoxton walk-up) with a roll of canvases and asked which the dealers wanted. “All of them!” they said. Smart move; full of pictorial cleverness, easy-on-the-eye images of pretty women in pools, latent Soviet exotica, and more-than-passing references to Alex Katz, the work appeared likely to fly off the walls, thus helping to amortize the dealers’ new venue. But if anyone was discussing the artists’ acumen in the packed pub next door, my companions and I missed it by opting for a quiet-looking, old-style dive down the road—where, it turned out, the aforementioned Hammond had curated a forty-two-artist show, scattering the work amidst the dartboards and doodads. There’s no escape from art around here; but, by this point, we felt at liberty to ignore it.

Martin Herbert

Thomas Hirschhorn, Skulptur Sortier Station, 1997. Installation view, Warsaw, 2004.


A few hours into a two-day visit to Warsaw, I took a short taxi ride to a primarily residential neighborhood just across the Wisla River from the city’s historic center but seemingly light-years from its “olde-world” charm. Thanks to an early snowstorm, an otherwise prosaic cityscape had taken on an almost festive winter ambiance. Perhaps because of this pristine dusting of white, Thomas Hirschhorn’s cardboard-and-Plexiglas sculpture was almost impossible to find. Installed on an empty patch of concrete not far from an outdoor fruit-and-vegetable stall, a newspaper stand, and a makeshift cubicle selling household wares, the work seemed at first to be just another sidewalk kiosk. Hirschhorn chose this precise spot with the help of curators from the Foksal Gallery Foundation, which brought Skulptur Sortier Station to the Polish capital. Originally presented at Munster Skulptur Projekte in 1997, the work was acquired by the Centre Pompidou in 2000 and presented under the Stalingrad metro in 2002. As with the two previous installations, Hirschhorn sought out what he calls “a non-lieu”—an urban setting where the work is almost camouflaged, where average city dwellers go to recycle their glass bottles, wait for a bus, or make a call in a phone booth. Most passersby didn’t pay much attention to the curious, crude objects—barely protected by ten Plexiglas windows—as they went about their Saturday shopping. A miniature replica of a kunsthalle, the Robert Walser and Emmanuel Bove “Prize” trophies, and a collection of some fifty wooden blocks with postcard images of famous sculptures, from the Venus of Willendorf to the Winged Victory of Samothrace, all appeared to barely rate a second glance. But in fact, the neighborhood’s indifference was a mark of the work’s success. In this context, Skulptur Sortier Station proved to be a neat examplar of Hirschhorn's “non-lieu” conceit, his signature use of precarious materials, and his conception of sculpture as a two-dimensional display. Unlike many of his more high-profile outings, this work encapsulates the most convincing aspects of Hirschhorn’s practice. At a moment when the press has increasingly picked on him for tending more toward “social work” than conventional art making—witness a slew of recent projects that necessitated the active participation of “local” residents, such as his Musee Precaire Albinet in a disaffected banlieu just outside Paris or 24 heures Foucault at the Palais de Tokyo—this work comes down on the “art” side of the fence. Having experienced the “activist” Hirschorn—or at least the zeal with which his art world boosters want to believe his work is a catalyst for social agency—I will admit to being rather relieved to witness Skulptur Sortier Station working its estranging power precisely by dissolving into the Warsaw everyday.

Thomas Hirschhorn, Skulptur Sortier Station (detail), 1997.


Alison M. Gingeras

Pop Live

Brooklyn
11.23.04

Left: Phiiliip performing. Top right (left to right): John Connelly, Kathy Grayson, Jeffrey Deitch. Bottom right (left to right): Grant Worth, Michael Magnan, Alex Tuttle. (Photos: Conrad Ventur.)


Maybe it was the ice-cream truck dispensing free sundaes out front or the guffawing long-haired dude boinging up and down on the trampoline inside, but the opening of “Phiiliip: Divided By Lightning” at Deitch Projects’ Williamsburg outpost felt like a decidedly off-kilter fun fair. Phiiliip—né Philip Guichard—is the 24-year-old cipher whose home-recorded album Pet Cancer made all the best-of lists in 2001. He’s also a club entrepreneur, DJ, and part-time Dior model with one glittery foot plopped in Scott Hug’s K48 magazine scene. “P:DBL,” organized by John Connelly Presents and produced by Deitch Projects, is a kind of invitational inquest into the persona of an underground New York pop star (that would be Phiiliip) on the verge of releasing a new album titled Divided By Lightning. The walls of the vast space were covered with drawings, paintings, and photos paying homage to the man of the hour, while music videos for his (actual) album’s songs streamed past on a large screen above an empty stage. The videos—notably, Bengala’s sun-dappled retool of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1972 Brother Sun, Sister Moon and a hypnotic anime by Adam Shecter that looked like what a Tetris game might dream about—were full-on FUSE-ready affairs. All of this visual merch was produced, at Phiiliip’s behest, by fellow artists, many of whom were in attendance: Amy Gartrell, Andrew Guenther, AA Bronson (wondering aloud if the crowd wasn’t a little young to fathom his tweaked T.Rex LP cover), videog-terrible Danny Hobart, Vice magazine editor Amy Kellner, and ace photographers Leeta Harding, Hanna Liden, and Conrad Ventur (dispensing much sought-after complimentary copies of his new magazine Useless). Anna Sew Hoy, who contributed a melancholic melted crown to the show, was in town from LA, and looking nostalgic for her good old New York days (way back in 2001). Recent New York immigrant Boy George, whose spot-on impersonation of Phiiliip on the album is truly hilarious, was seen heading for the aforementioned ice-cream truck, while Deitch père himself ambled through the crowd, bemused as ever at all that he’s wrought (he should be—Deitch Projects Brooklyn has consistently hit the heights with shows by Hug and Viva Ruiz, and a weekly Fischerspooner salon). When Phiiliip hit the stage for a live version of “Summer Collection,” the album’s pounding opener, he was dwarfed by the video doppelganger projected above—the one in the off-the-shoulder, eleven-foot cape spraying stars, birds, and fireworks into a perfect summer sky with a ghostly Empire State Building flickering in the near distance. Pop art? Meet pop life.

The trampoline in use. (Photo: Amy Kellner)


Steve Lafreniere

Artists Only

New York
11.19.04

On the left, dealer Gavin Brown; on the right, Studio Museum in Harlem deputy director Thelma Golden.


Touted as the “artists’” evening, Tuesday’s reception at the Museum of Modern Art’s revamped midtown digs also boasted scores of curators, dealers, and collectors, with gallerist Gavin Brown being the first to flip a roving Artforum paparazzo the bird. But while Creative Time curator Peter Eleey reported having overheard architect Yoshio Taniguchi’s atrium blithely condemned as “Japanese Fascist,” most attendees basked contentedly in the expanded schmoozing arena. The installation received mixed notices, with the contemporary wing in particular felt by many to be padded with mediocre work (though how seriously to take the opinions of a crowd primarily bent on locating the hors d’oeuvres is debatable). My own pet peeves: a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it selection of film and video, and a predictable focus on the pretty (Julie Mehretu) and pretty impressive (F-111) at the expense of grunge and guts (no Mike Kelley?).

The sixth-floor bar rapidly established itself as the A-list artists’ enclave, with Robert Rauschenberg and Chuck Close—surrounded by a coterie of senior admirers—leading the way. Nearby a somewhat more youthful contingent including Doug Aitken and Thomas Demand rubbed shoulders with James Rosenquist and Jeff Koons. Also holding court were downtown fixture Andreas Serrano, London scene-maker Michael Craig-Martin, recent Hugo Boss prizewinner Rirkrit Tiravanija, a jovial Louise Lawler, and a glacial Mariko Mori. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders was clearly loving the attention he was garnering in the wake of his recent XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits, while John Currin and Rachel Feinstein posed obligingly (though fortunately remained clothed throughout).

Artists Chuck Close and Robert Rauschenberg.


Elsewhere, Studio Museum in Harlem curator Thelma Golden strolled arm-in-arm with a beaming Chris Ofili, while the extravagantly coiffed Kid America was accompanied by Rivington Arms proprietress Mirabelle Marden. Less happy-go-lucky (though plainly triumphant at having crashed the party) was artist and Homeless Museum (HoMu) founder Filip Noterdaeme, on hand to spread the word about his opening day protest against the new twenty-dollar admission charge.

On Thursday, MoMA’s umpteenth “official party” evening, exhausted art world faces stayed home in droves, though the Village Voice’s Jerry Saltz and Flash Art’s Sarah Douglas returned for a second dose, the former accompanied—naturally—by Roberta Smith of the New York Times, the latter by a world-weary Anthony Haden-Guest. Despite the prominent red carpet and hovering photographers, neither hide nor hair was spotted (by your correspondent at least) of “expected guests” Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Matthew Modine or Tatum O'Neal. Given the bewildering number of opening events, it seemed entirely possible that the limos had come and gone the week before.

Fortunately there were other distractions: Plastic martini glasses with flashing red lights built into the stems! Partners-in-noise Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ryoji Ikeda being ordered to turn down down the volume! Famous-in-England-but-unknown-here popsters The Zutons playing to a bemused mob in front of Ellsworth Kelly’s Sculpture for a Large Wall! Perry Farrell (aka DJ Peretz) whipping up a senior prom vibe with his trusty Beastie Boys records! More flashing red lights—filched from the overflowing fifth-floor lounge—ostentatiously adorning nipples and ears! No gimmick was spared. But—curatorial, architectural, and financial debates aside—the still-unmatched permanent collection rose effortlessly above the fray.

On the left, artist Jeff Koons; on the right, artist Fred Wilson.


Michael Wilson

Paris-a-Go-Go

Paris
11.18.04

Emmanuel Perrotin's Miami gallery-to-be.


What with the swell of the art market and the previously unheard-of high-level private interest in contemporary art in Paris, Emmanuel Perrotin has plenty to celebrate these days. Still, the invitation from the ever-effervescent French dealer to join him and some three hundred VIPs on Tuesday night for a sit-down dinner followed by a concert and dance party—at Le Georges, no less, the overrated yet, one must admit, magically situated restaurant atop the Centre Pompidou—suggested an occasion. And the invitation itself provided the first clue: a pretty Deco building in Miami—formerly a gas station—that, it turns out, Perrotin is converting into a new US flagship.

But the Miami expansion was not the only reason to throw a party. On the home front, Perrotin announced recently that he is moving from rue Louise Weiss—the rather dreary “young art” ghetto in the Thirteenth—to glitzy quarters in the Marais. In January 2005, Perrotin will reopen in a sumptuous hôtel particulier (formerly occupied by Cosmic Gallery) just a few blocks from Parisian heavyweights Yvon Lambert, Thaddeus Ropac, and Marian Goodman. With two major real estate deals under his belt and a stable of auction-house darlings (Cattelan, Murakami), local favorites (Sophie Calle, Bernard Frize) and rising stars (Gelatin, Paola Pivi, and Elmgreen & Dragset), Perrotin seemed also to be marking (albeit unofficially) his fifteen-year ascent from running his first gallery out of a tiny apartment on rue Turbigo to his breakthrough as an international player—a “Gagosian à la française,” as the Journal des Arts hopefully gushed.

Despite the comparison, the party lacked the visual stimulation and behavioral excess characteristic of Perrotin’s would-be American cousin. An all-too-tame crowd of French, Italian, and Belgian collectors rubbed elbows with gallery artists (many flown in for the occasion), a handful of celebrities (including Delphine Arnault of the LVMH dynasty, film producer Claude Berri, and Monsieur et Madame Lavin), and a few curators, journalists, and Ministry of Culture types. With this cast of characters, the whole affair felt like a Robert Altman film (think Pret-à-Porter for the Christie’s crowd). Against a backdrop comprising a 360-degree view of Paris’ rooftops and the glittering Eiffel Tower, snippets of table talk: Perrotin’s apparent ascension provoked competitive fluttering about the French place in the international art world (paralleling chatter about Chirac’s foreign policy). Did London’s Frieze Art Fair intend to squeeze FIAC out of existence? Is it true that the real Gagosian is opening a Paris branch? Will the Guggenheim beat out the Pompidou for a chance to build an annex on Hong Kong’s new museum island? Will Perrotin’s departure from the Thirteenth do damage to the galleries left behind? Why does Koons command such high prices? Why doesn’t Fabrice Hybert? Il est vraiment celebre, even in New York . . .

While the French love to hate ostentation à l’américaine, Perrotin didn’t seem to elicit any visible disapproval with his grand social gesture—just a few jealous whispers. Perhaps no feathers were ruffled because no unspoken social codes were broken. French mondanité dictates that discreet networking, absolute politesse, and good taste must be maintained at all times. One hoped for a little less restraint from the likes of Perrotin—who is, after all, a champion of such self-promotional gurus as Murakami and Cattelan. Does growing up here have to be so—adult?

On the left, a view of Perrotin's Miami space; on the right, Le Monde art critic Harry Bellet (left) with Emmanuel Perrotin in Miami.


Alison M. Gingeras