Left: Curator David Ross with PaceWildenstein's Arne Glimcher and Douglas Baxter. Right: Robert Rauschenberg with Merce Cunningham. (All photos: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
“Mr. Rauschenberg hasn’t arrived yet,” the press officer informed me brightly as I signed in for the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines,” “but, ah, Mr. Bennett has.” Sure enough, hot on my heels was none other than Tony Bennett, legendary Queens-born crooner and, not incidentally, committed figurative painter. As Bennett and his companion checked their coats, I made my way up the main stairs and towards the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, where the exhibition of sixty-seven works made between 1954 and 1964 is on view. Fifteen minutes after the slated opening time, the gallery was already packed and buzzing.
Organized by Paul Schimmel, Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (to which the show will travel in May), and organized and installed at the Met by Nan Rosenthal, Senior Consultant in the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art, the show both packed an immediate punch and made an unarguable case for a protracted return visit. The installation (cleanly designed by Dan Kershaw) was favorably compared to the Guggenheim’s cluttered 1997 retrospective and 2000’s ill-conceived installation of Synapsis Shuffle, 1999, at the Whitney; not since the latter’s roundup of his 1962-64 Silkscreen Paintings in 1990 has the artist been the focus of such a successfully focused show.
Tearing myself away from the first room, a substantial show in itself containing Untitled, 1954, arguably the first of the genre-bending painted constructions on which the survey focuses, and the iconic Bed, 1955, among others, I spotted the artist just ahead, surrounded by admirers and clearly enjoying the occasion. A quick look around sufficed for me to also complete my mental checklist of major New York museum directors: Glenn Lowry? Present. Thomas Krens? Yep. Philippe de Montebello? Naturally. Adam Weinberg? Over there taking photos. Also doing the rounds was an extraordinary cadre of illustrious figures including James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Mel Bochner, Leo Steinberg, andwheelchair-bound, as was the eighty-year-old artistold friend and collaborator Merce Cunningham.
But while the crowd’s demographic tended towards the senior and sedate, a scattering of much younger viewers also made their presence felt. The boys in particular were an endearing spectacle in their slightly-too-big suits and just-this-side-of-unkempt hair. I noticed one immersed in an extended and not entirely friendly eye-level face-off with the tire-encircled Angora goat in Monogram, 1955-59. Elsewhere, perhaps thinking ahead to the imminent holiday, one little girl discussed with her father whether the stuffed bird in freestanding Combine, Untitled, 1954, is a turkey. (For the record, it’s a Dominique hen.)
Left: The Met's Nan Rosenthal with Robert Rauschenberg. Right: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with Robert Rauschenberg.
Eventually, we filtered back downstairs to the grandiose Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court, where the juxtaposition of a flautist with the neo-classical sculptures on permanent view hinted at the possibility (albeit remote) of Bacchanalian revelry later in the evening. Among those loitering at the bar and sampling the hors d’oeuvres were curator Donna De Salvo, art historian Thomas Crow, critics Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz, and scene chroniclers Walter Robinson of Artnet and Robin Cembalest of Art News. At around eight o’clock, a burst of applause signaled Rauschenberg’s reappearance. Hearing a woman to my side express the desire for a camera, I snapped a quick shot of the artist, then one of her. “They’ll be all over the internet tomorrow!” she shrieked. “Truer than you think,” I replied. “Well, I have my own photo of the artist already,” she bragged, “from 1979,” and flounced off.
Collaring me to catch up and share an unconfirmed rumor that Sting was somewhere in the building, Cembalest then pointed out a high-ranking member of the real police, New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly. We immediately agreed on the need to find out two things from the man: what in particular had prompted his attendance, and whether he had any insight into the likelihood of the then-threatened (and, at time of writing, well-underway) metropolitan public transport workers’ strike actually taking place. With one eye constantly glued to his BlackBerry (“You really oughta get one of these.”), Kelly denied any exclusive knowledge of the dispute, but did reveal one intriguing nugget: America’s modern master and America’s top cop share a lawyer.
Left: Parsons dean Paul Goldberger with graphic designer Bruce Mau. Right: Parsons faculty member Carlos Teixeira with MoMA curator Paola Antonelli. (All photos: Marty Heitner)
Listening to a graphic designer lecture would seem to be like recording the mating song of a peacock: informative, but compromised by a lack of visuals. Yet Bruce Mau, the activist graphic designer most celebrated for his work on S, M, L, XL, the 1376-page Rem Koolhaas monograph that’s been required reading for architects for the past decade, wants us to appreciate what we don't see. He was in town last Thursday for a conversation with Parsons The New School for Design Dean and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldbergerpart of a series featuring the likes of Michael Graves, Donna Karan, and Chuck Close. Mau told Goldberger, “The holy grail of design is invisibility. If you can produce banality, you've really got something.” A truly successful design carries out its function so well that it becomes everyday and we cease to notice its form. We think about the phone call, not the phone; or in Mau's somewhat more romantic terms, “we feel love, not a conscious awareness of the device that is making that feeling possible.”
The audience was a mix of faux-hawked and backpacked Parsons students and, toward the front, a somewhat higher-maintenance constituency that might have known Mau from his glossier workenvironments and branding for Samsung, Gagosian, Maharam, and Knoll. The designer both lamented and celebrated our ability to inhabit our built environment and use our gadgets without seeing or thinking about them: “For most of us,” he observed, “design is invisible until it fails. We produce extraordinary situations every day, but we make them invisible. When a plane crashes, we become aware of the force involved in putting it in the air.” Or as Georges Perec wrote in 1973, “Aeroplanes achieve existence only when they are hijacked.” But unlike many technophilic designers, Mau's interest is less in the plane as a sublime object or jet-set stage set than as an embodiment of an all-too-invisible network of complex technological, ecological, and anthropological forcesmany of which, unless redesigned, will take us to hell in a handbasket. This is part of the message of “Massive Change: The Future of Global Design,” a traveling exhibition, book, and ongoing project organized last year by Mau in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery. As Goldberger summarized, “The lessons of ‘Massive Change’ are that everything is designed, and design may save the world.” Mau invoked an earlier advocate of systems thinking and '60s-style whole-Earth sustainability: “We met Stewart Brand in the course of the project. He said that when people think things are getting worse, they behave badly. They will take what they want when they can get it. On the contrary, when they think things are getting better, they invest, they share, and they support an open world.”
Left: Associate Dean Tim Marshall, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, and Parsons's director of exhibitions Christopher Mount. Right: Bruce Mau is all hands.
A populist mix of the technocratic, the utilitarian, and the aesthetic, this kind of vision can be hard to integrate with the lively political and commercial jumble that is public policy and private practice. Mau noted the influence of “nimby” suburbanites in resisting sensible high-density transit-adjacent housing in Toronto. Discussing his collaboration with Koolhaas on the signage, wayfinding, and other aspects of the acclaimed Seattle Public Library, Mau lamented that much of their interdisciplinary research and exchange didn't fit into conventional corporate contracts and billing, and therefore wasn't entirely funded: “The library's management firm says, 'You don't have a line-item for open collaboration, you have a line-item for graphics.'” The crowd was at its quietest when Goldberger asked if perhaps the compensation had just gone to Koolhaas instead. It hadn't, Mau replied.
One woman asked Mau what his ideal New York project would be. The expansive response: “We used to think about design in a way that was object-based, like, ‘Let's make a better taxi.’ I would ask how do you design an ecology of movement.” After the lecture, the usual scrum of schmoozing students, follow-up questioners, and black-clad faculty jammed around the designer. Someone offered him a shiny chrome scooter. He stepped aboard, and for a moment his formidable silver-ponytailed form moved smoothly through the jostling crowd, through the lobby and into the future.
Clad in jean jacket and leather boots, Jack Pierson matched the press-release descriptions of an antihero “guy” circa films like Midnight Cowboy or Scorpio Rising. Almost to prove the point, he didn’t even lose his cool when a puffy-jacketed woman stumbled over Psycho Killer, his floor piece of piled electric signage. My first stop out during a hectic schedule of Thursday-night openings, Pierson's “Early Works and Beyond,” an exhibition at Daniel Reich Gallery arranged with the cooperation of Cheim and Read, offered an idiosyncratic look at the Boston School bad boy’s oeuvre. Behind a plywood wall shielding the show from the street (from the sidewalk, one could read “Breakfast: Hope” and “Dinner: Fear” on diner plaques with movable letters), Pierson arranged “a box of non-specific ephemera and research material” in little stacks with some pasted one atop the other on the reverse side of a particleboard partition. Diana Ross LPs were placed next to Cremaster posters, snapshots of Pierson's work, and a worn copy of Yoko Ono's Grapefruita modest grouping of presumably labored relations. Pierson hovered nearby, picking up a postcard here and a book there, explaining the autobiographical significance of each.
My itinerary was packed and the weather inclement, so I departed quickly and dashed through the wintry mix to the reception for the Ralph Rugoff-curated group exhibition “Monuments for the USA” at White Columns. While there, I was struck by the ubiquitous urge to create massive structures in public squares (even if they got no further than preparatory sketches). Perfect territory for Paul Noble, but Thomas Demand's oversized soap bar seemed, well, like so much paper. Thomas Hirschhorn successfully navigated the Oldenburgian path, repurposing one of his Xeroxed Thousand Plateaus into what looked like a brownstone.
Hailing a cab, I aimed downtown—but up on the Kinsey scale—arriving at Deitch Projects for Le Tigre drummer JD Samson's inaugural exhibition. I emerged from the sleet and rain into the steamy and nearly impenetrable mass of Samson devotees pressed together in exhilarated group nostalgia as cult electro foursome Lesbians on Ecstasy lead an Ani DiFranco singalong from inside a plywood, rainbow-painted “RV.” (“. . .and I'm recording our history now on the bedroom wall and eventually the landlord will come and paint over it all.”) This ecstatic moment had been preceded by all manner of bacchanalian revelry, not least moshing and crowd surfing (artist Emily Roysdon was the first borne aloft, Samson not long behind). It got so sweaty, artist (and show collaborator) Aisha Burns pointed out, that the Louis Vuitton print wallpaper was beginning to peel off the gallery walls. “JD's Lesbian Utopia” (the title of the show and accompanying butch pinup calendar) channeled everything from Ladyfest to middle-school bedrooms (“If a kid wants to paint her bedroom with a big pink triangle, I think that’s interesting” Deitch explained to one visitor) to the hard-drinking, factory-working lesbians of Eileen Myles's Chelsea Girls (“The men were all men, and we were all lesbians, and everyone loved to get smashed”).
Indeed Myles, looking rakish as ever, appeared later in the evening to impart her blessings to the next generation. Improbably, Hollywood It Couple Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson arrived on the scene, checking out the art, hanging with Samson's calendar photographer Cass Bird, and talking up the gallerist himself before parting with a businesslike handshake. Apparently Hartnett, an aspiring collector, has a yen for Bird's Sapphic snaps. At the afterparty at M15 on Walker Street (apparently a scene favorite—the last time I was there was for local collective LTTR's “explosion” after an opening at Art in General), JD and her collaborators were getting down on the dance floor along with video artist K8 Hardy, who conceived the Samson extravaganza, and performance artist Nao Bustamante. Party host Lauryn Siegel (aka DJ Lambchop) surveyed the sea of bobbing heads and asked: “What are you going to write? That there were a million lesbians?”
Left: Francesco Clemente, MADRE director Eduardo Cicelyn, and architect Álvaro Siza. Right: Designer Sergio Zambon and gallerist Lorcan O'Neill.
On Saturday night I was chauffeured by gallery owner Mimmo Scognamiglio to the opening of the second floor of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina (MADRE), the second contemporary art museum to open in Naples this year. Scognamiglio had just hosted his own opening, for Roman artist Adrian Tranquilli’s exhibition “Age of Chance,” the night before, and he was still in high spirits. After braving the chaotic traffic, we were ecstatic to find a parking space nearby despite the crowds of Christmas shoppers. When I visited the museum a month ago, the street was torn up and littered with rubble, making it nearly impossible to pass. Now the Palazzo Donnaregina, converted by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, has had its original seventeenth-century facade and limestone entrance restored. The design preserves elegant historic features while introducing sleek new spaces that bow gracefully to the display of the artwork. The museum’s neighborhood—in the historical center near the cathedral—is often considered unsafe, and according to City Councillor for culture Rachele Furfaro, the site was chosen to provide an incentive for general revitalization.
Some local gallerists had recently sent a letter of protest to Antonio Bassolino, the president of the region, outlining a conflict with the museum regarding the loan of artworks. Previously mayor of Naples, Bassolino started an initiative to promote contemporary art in the city with a series of public commissions for the Piazza del Plebiscito and exhibitions in the National Archaeological Museum; perhaps the dealers hoped he would intervene on their behalf. Considering this event’s importance to the burgeoning Neapolitan contemporary art scene, surprisingly few artists were around to celebrate. But perhaps they simply hadn’t been invited. The low-key crowd was mostly a mix of local collectors, gallerists, and politicians, though a few, like myself, had traveled south from the capital: Lorcan O’Neill, who owns a gallery in Rome, spotted artist Laurie Anderson (currently visiting the American Academy in Rome); young collectors Stefano and Raffaella Sciarretta, whose Residence Barberini hotel is filled with contemporary art and hosts an artist residency program, were also on hand.
Left: Anthony Sansotta, who for many years has worked with Sol LeWitt, with T293 Gallery's Paola Guadagnino and Marco Altavilla. Right: Artist Riccardo Albanese.
On the first floor of the museum, which opened in June, each of the twelve rooms is dedicated to a site-specific artwork; Jannis Kounellis, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Mimmo Paladino, and Francesco Clemente—who covered the walls in frescoes—are all featured. The second-floor salons exhibit works made in the past forty years. The astute juxtapositions include one room housing works by Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Giulio Paolini, and Cy Twombly. Another brings together Carl Andre, Alighiero Boetti, Dan Flavin, Luciano Fabro, John Baldessari, and Donald Judd. A ground-floor gallery emphasizes the museum’s connection to the city with an exhibition of drawings and models for Anish Kapoor’s new entrance to the Sant’Angelo subway station, one of many where art has been incorporated into the design. Out on the street a vivacious Jannis Kounellis commented, “We must appreciate this beautiful museum. It took a great effort to gather together artworks of this quality here in Naples.” He added acerbically, “When I visit New York now it is apparent that the quality of the work there has become very low. This is not a criticism, just a complaint. For those of us who loved the great art produced there in the past, such as the Minimalism of the '60s and '70s, it is a pity.” Artist Riccardo Albanese noted that most great collections of contemporary art in Italy are private and inaccessible.
An eight-course dinner was served on grand round tables in the soaring, splendidly frescoed oval hall of Palazzo Doria d’Angri. It felt, as one of my dinner companions noted, “like a formal wedding reception.” Aside from the politicians, local gallerists came out in droves: Scognamiglio, Laura Trisorio, Francesco Annarumma, Guido Cabib, Giangi Fonti, Umberto di Marino, and T293’s Paola Guadagnino and Marco Altavilla all appeared, despite their earlier issues with the museum. I tracked down native Neapolitan Francesco Clemente in the smoking room, and he charmingly recounted the beginnings of the city’s efforts to foster a welcoming environment for contemporary art. “When they asked me to come and do a show, I told them that my favorite place was the Archaeological Museum, so they found these great empty spaces that weren’t being used. Bassolino could have a much higher position in the government, but he prefers to be in the trenches getting things done.”
Left: Visitors admire Gilbert and George's Shitty World, 1996. Right: Artist Vera Lutter, MADRE chief curator Mario Codognato, artist Douglas Gordon, and curator Mirta Codognato.
Later Clemente and I caught up with the museum director, Eduardo Cicelyn, and Siza, who explained that for him museum design is simply about access, circulation, and the exhibition halls. Fabio Dumontet of the local architecture firm DAZ, which assisted Siza, related that the design called for digging up earth in the courtyard to build an auditorium, which has a new raised courtyard planted on top of it. In a promising sign of the museum’s acceptance by the local community, neighborhood residents have already zeroed in on local-boy-made-good Clemente’s frescoes. Owing to the tradition of hand-painted walls in Neapolitan restaurants, his vaulted room has been given an endearing nickname: “The Pizzeria.”
It's hard to find a good séance these days, so I schlepped to Jack the Pelican Presents in Williamsburg Thursday night where “world renowned psychic medium” Jackie Barrett conducted a voodoo ceremony to conjure the spirit of German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. Why him? Well, Don Carroll, who runs the space, kinda likes the guy, though he also considered Henry Fuseli, who’s “very cool too.” The gallery's current group show is a multimedia mélange in which mutants, introverts, and tweens echo the nineteenth century nature-mystic's gloomy vision. Friedrich didn’t seem particularly sociable on this side of the veilso I wondered if he'd feel like chatting now that he's crossed over.
When I arrived, Miss Jackie (as she is known to her home church in New Orleans, where she commutes from her Williamsburg base) had laid out the full voodoo spread to “bring down the spirits” to the white-walled gallery. Her husband, “Papa Bones,” was drumming away, with white (bone?) stripes painted on his face. Incense was burning. A smattering of artist-types hovered about, not knowing what to expect. Carroll was like a delighted birthday boy. On the floor, beneath a wall drawing of veiny tubers, Miss Jackie had chalked veves (glyphs) for the various loas (voodoo saint-types). She'd scattered offerings of pink petals and red peppers, a pineapple speared by a knife, and a stuffed red “voodoo” doll within a circle of white candles, hoodoo powder, and blue glitter.
“Voodoo is a religion,” Miss Jackie said. “It's spirituality. Hoodoo is mojo.” This ritual would bring protection and prosperity to the galleryor so it was hoped. “Spirits are energy we give form to.” Jackie herself was radiant with “chi,” sparkly body lotion, and the intense, open gaze one would expect from a soul-maven. In stretchy leggings and tunic, a short black bob, exotic beads, flip-flops, and a fresh “vamp” pedicure, her spiritual activewear look was Louise Brooks-meets-Peter Pan. Shaking a maraca, she held out her hand and gestured me into the circle. Did she want to clear my bad vibes? She gazed into my eyes, shook the maraca around my aura, took my fuzzy hat off, and flung it across the room. What was she looking for? Was this a voodoo staring match? I gave her a quizzical look and she smiled and hugged me. She then repeated this icebreaker with all the guests.
Finally ready for the séance, we sat at a long table draped in black, headed by a Morticia Adams-style seat for Miss Jackie and adorned with a heavy gold crucifix centerpiece for Friedrich. We applied holy water to our hands and heads, then an oil mixture from a bourbon bottle, and joined hands while a blast of “Ave Maria” from the nearby CD player staved off evil. “I need you all to stay with this,” Jackie intoned as she politely coaxed “dear, beloved Caspar” to appear. She had spoken with him earlier in the week, she said, and he had RSVP'd yes. Another spiritan unnamed German soldiersaid he wanted to stop by, too.
“He’s here!” the medium announced. “Are you willing?” she asked a young woman in a red scarf, who assented, looked eerily toward Jackie, and then slowly turned her head away with a zombie-blank stare. Our medium moved next to her, to contact the spirit, who seemed to be ambivalent about showing up. Alas, no words. “It felt nice, though,” the girl said later. Jackie implored Friedrich to try again: “We mean no harm.” She asked another woman to touch the artist's cross. This one, Debbie, aptly dressed in a black velvet coat, with long gray tresses, no makeup, and a gentle demeanor, seemed to get the most occult action: “Very sad,” she reported glumly. “It never ends . . .” Jackie leaned across the table and asked, “Caspar, where is your heart?” “What heart?” Debbie really did seem tuned into something bleak as a Friedrich cragscape. “I'm thinking about artnot religion. About drawing . . .” She got up and did some automatic scribbling.
The unnamed soldier “entered through the back” of a pasty-skinned hipster who had mentioned that he used to do magic tricks and saw spiritualists as the “enemy.” “He's stuck,” said the hipster. “He doesn't know why he died.” Then he saw “a monster, like Miss Havisham.” “Visions are good,” Jackie nodded, supportively. “Whatever comes, it comes from the spirits.” But clear reception proved elusive. The three visitees said they definitely felt a presence. “It was hard to put words to. You're the same there as you are here,” said Debbie. “So you should try to solve your problems now.”
Left: CIFO's Ella Cisneros. Right: Artist Doug Aitken with curators Thelma Golden and Nicholas Baume. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)
The upside of my early night Thursday was an early start Friday. The weather was perfectI guess it always is in Miamibut the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, my first stop, was awfully good too. Celebrating new digs on North Miami Avenue, the foundation opened a pair of shows: “Indeterminate States,” curated by Michael Rush and devoted to video, and “Beyond Delirious,” organized by Christopher Phillips and featuring photographs of architecture. This was sophisticated programming (everyone from Thomas Struth to Kutlug Ataman), and the work was intelligently installed. We departed in an upbeat mood.
Lunch was next, my destination the North Bay Drive manse of Aaron Fleischman and Lin Lougheed, who hosted three such gatherings for fair week. Where was our Miami beast, let alone its belly? Here we discovered only Miami virtue. Sophistication reigned in a light-drenched, terrazzo-floored confection tricked out with the help of Albert Hadley, the doyenne of “bachelor” pad decorating. Casa Fleischman manages to be everything that Miami should be but rarely is. It was so Miami in fact that everything seemed set off by scare-quotes. Start with the mosaic-lined oval entry hall crowned with a giant Venetian chandelier (original to the house), deep chocolate walls, a double staircase sweeping up to more terrazzo, more balconies, and an art collection that makes one fret about the effects of the sea air. I’ll mention only the Gustons (several, and from two periods) and a sublime early Arp that worked so well with a Judd and a vintage Braniff lounge settee that art very nearly lost the age-old battle with decorating, pulling through only on account of exceptional strength.
Guests who dined poolside included museum directors: the Whitney’s Adam Weinberg, and the Guggenheim’s Lisa Dennison (exchanging playful quips about their dual presence at lunch), Jeremy Strick from MoCA, Anne d’Harnoncourt of Philadelphia and her new curator Carlos Basualdo, folks from the Fogg, and a bunch of nonmuseum people too, including New York dealer Barbara Gladstone and the collecting Sandlers from LA. Fleischman is so irrepressibly enthusiastic (about everything) that it is all he can do to make himself stick around to hear the answers to the thirteen questions he just asked you, especially when he is needed to shoo one guest out of the best sight lines on a painting to make sure it was fully appreciated by the next. Lougheed is all laconic ballast. I heard him say “chill” more than once. Everyone did, eventually. Even Aaron.
Left: Naomi Fisher and Rivington Arms artist Hanna Liden at Visionaire's Taste party. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: The Guggenheim's Lisa Dennison at the announcement party for the 2006 Hugo Boss prize. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
NADA next. I caught up with a colleague who had been through the second fair once, and he obliged me with a just-the-high-points tour. At Elizabeth Dee, I laughed hard at a video by Stanya Kahn and Harriet “Harry” Dodge called Whacker (as in weed whacker), in which a zaftig chick in heels and shades takes down a vacant lot of weeds on an LA hillside, periodically pausing to remove a strand of hair from her mouth. The line between a really Dada Saturday Night Live skit and great art can be a fine one. I’ll leave the judgment to posterity.
David Kordansky, a Chinatown (LA) favorite, was so dazed by his sold-out success that he kept repeating the fact of his good fortune, as if he needed to convince himself. At one point he paused, reaching for the word “problematic” to qualify his success but his delicacy must have rung a little false even to him because he went right back to the they-bought-eveything mantra. A little later, I stumbled on my personal fair highlight: A great photograph (not digitally manipulated) by Una Szeemann, daughter of famed curator Harold, featuring bearded sage Lawrence Weiner doing a pair of naked playmates from behind, while inflatable lovelies strewn everywhere bore witness to the Conceptualist’s rampaging. I laughed all the way to the Kaikai Kiki booth.
Left: Artist Takashi Murakami. Right: Detail of a production still from Una Szeemann's Montewood/Hollyverità, 2003. (Courtesy HaswellEdiger Gallery)
Takashi Murakami was personally supervising his factory manned by laborers in aprons at work on a suite of canvases surrounding a display case of sushi. Introduced by his Kaikai Kiki executive director, Gen Watanabe, I thanked the artist for a contribution to a publication with which I am affiliated. He said, “No, no, not me.” My colleague thought to try his luck with a more recent tidbit from the artist. Same response. When he nervously produced the issue as evidence, the artist took the magazine from him, read his own words, and said, “Ah yes, this is true.”
What to do on the final day? Well, the “Art loves perfectly-vile boutique hotels” panel, hosted by Hans Ulrich Obrist (with special guest Alain Robbe-Grillet) sounds inviting. Co-sponsored by Lockheed (hey what’s wrong with corporate sponsorship?) and Lucian Pellat-Finet, at least the hors d’oeuvres are bound be top notch. On second thought: Didn’t someone offer a boat ride?
En route to the marina, I decided to swing by the Rubell collection, as I heard their great Cady Noland installation was on view this time. Admiring the collecting clan’s entrepreneurial prowess as I passed through not one but several gift shops plus a café, and took in an ad for the Susan Gale Group (“The collector’s choice for luxury real estate”) on the back of the exhibition floor plan, I can also report to being artistically edified at a show of new art from Poland, to gobbling up the Guyton/Walker paint-can primer, to Noland’s beer-can main event, to stopping dead in my tracks before her 1989, um, masterpiece? Sixteen years later, the work does not disappoint.
By the way, the boat ride wasn’t bad eitherthat is if you like Mediterranean fantasy mansions twinkling in the twilight, warm breezes, and good company. I could get to like this town.
Each November (has it been four seasons already?) the international art clan roots about in its closets for garments not black and makes the journey south. The art world doesn’t do Miami all that well; it’s bad for the pallor. In public we love to love itbring on the neon and the thongs!but in private we whine. Notice the vendors in their booths: All but besieged, stoically smiling, they stick up like beanpoles among the Versace-clad undergrowth. “All these new people,” they sniff. Did I mention that no one is turning down the money?
Disembarking at Miami International on Thursday evening, a little late in the proceedings, I headed for my hotel, meaning to dump my bags and head for the main fairground to squeeze an hour of looking before the closing bell. As I hit the minibar to grab a water for the road, my eyes alighted on the perfect scene-setter: A “concierge suggestion” from general manager Jorge Gonzalez counseled, “Sip signature cocktails at water’s edge while lounging on comfy daybeds. Beach butlers on hand to check in shoes. A delectable menu of Chinese Dim Sum prepared by our hotel’s award-winning chefs will be served Friday 6-11 pm.” Conflict with The Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss awards party, I noted, before rejoining my cab driver: Miami Beach Convention Center, please.
Left: Jeffrey Deitch and Ange of fashion collective As Four. Right: Dash Snow and Julie Atlas Muz perform at the “Live Through This” party.
Quite by accident, I started at the blue-chip back end and worked my way forward. What’s not to like? There were first-rate Twomblys at more than one stop; a Warhol de Chirico around the corner from a real one at Gagosian; the same overpriced fill-in-the-blank so-and-so had up last fair. It’s amusing to test your connoisseurshipGood? So-so? A real dog?even if your pockets aren’t deep enough to get in on the real fun. It was all looking so right and respectable, in fact, I had to kick myself: “Belly of the beast,” I tried to remember, “that’s the mantra.” As if on cue, I rounded the corner on a merry clutch of seventysomethings cavorting about a new video by the artist Sam Taylor-Wood on display at White Cube’s booth. A formidable Texas dameenormous diamond butterfly alighted on her hairdo and a flute of champagne held at an angle just a degree shy of a major spillgleefully intoned, “It’s gonna drop! It’s gonna drop.” She meant a lengthening cigarette ash, the telltale hint the stone-still old master-ish vignette was a real-time view of a real-world pub, but I worried the beverage would go first.
Time was already short: A quick spin and hellos to favorite galleries was all I would manage. At Gladstone, they pulled me into the back room for a peek at Richard Prince’s recent updating of de Kooning’s women. Working off bookplates at a manageable scale, Prince has replaced the maternal archetypes of the Dutchman’s savagings with the physiques of hunky dudes. I know what it means when moody guys slash away at toothy monster ladies, but Prince’s spin on the fate of the pinup in the age of Bruce Weber opens a trap door on the evolution of boy/girl relations since the ‘50s. I hear he got a hold of a de Kooning original. Let’s just hope it’s not a choice one!
Left: Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad at the “Live Through This” party. Right: Zaha Hadid's installation in the Moore Building for design.05.
By then the gong had rung, so I followed the crowds to the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery. When the Paris-based dealer opened his Miami franchise in 2004, he was after something “really arrogant.” True to his mission, this year he opened three shows on two sprawling floors: Piotr Uklanski’s new Brazilian sunsets; the debut solo show by young Miami-based artist Martin Oppel; and a stunning series of new grisaille works by painter Bernard Frize. A buffet dinner was being served on the stiletto-aerated lawn outside, but the vernissage of design.05 at the Moore Building (and more fantasy shopping) beckoned, so we hoofed it the few blocks to NE 40th street, where we found ourselves gridlocked at the entrance in a velvet-rope crush. The only satisfaction came in telling another pushy New Yorker with a VIP card that everyone else had one too. Inside it was everything everyone likes: Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé and more Prouvéand at least as many people as in the jam out front. For Art Loves Design lovers, Judd’s prototype desk for Flavin’s room in the block at Marfa was cool at Cristina Grajales Inc. and the Chamberlain couch was news at Demisch Danant. Down the street at “05 Degrees of Separation,” organized by design guru Murray Moss, the housewares are getting so kooky it makes the installations back at the art fair look positively cash-and-carry.
Next was Jeffrey Deitch. Cordial in khaki, he greeted me and my date for the evening with a friendly handshake and an “Oh,” which I guess meant he wasn’t expecting us. As if sensitive to our busy schedules, he offered the scoop in precis form: On the left is the best American street artist (Swoon), on the right the best of Brazil (Os Gemeos), and upstairs it’s the Live Through This artists. As we walked away, my date whispered, “What are the Live Through This artists?” I explained that Live Through This was Jeffrey’s latest festive concoction, a book that, as near as I could tell, chronicles something like spring break for the freebasing set, but that it also involved art. Fearing that the crowds on the stairwell had made me unfairly brisk, I added, “ask David Rimanelli.” David “understands” these artists, and he’s also a potentially useful mediator as his vocabulary includes tons of words with more syllables than dude.
Left: Artist Piotr Uklanski. Right: Right: Emmanuel Perrotin director Peggy Leboeuf with gallery artist Martin Oppel.
Left: Cynthia Rowley with Bruce Weber at his book launch. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Sotheby's Tobias Meyer with his partner, art consultant Mark Fletcher, and photographer Todd Eberle.
The wonder of Art Basel Miami Beach this year was not that in a mere four days 36,000 people could exchange untold millions of dollars and still remain friendly. Or that tiny, ant-infested, beachfront hotel rooms with thin walls, bare floors, and misanthropic help cost nearly $500 a night. Or that cab drivers have no idea how to get, well, anywhere. It was that we could go to any number of competing parties and performances extending from no less than five different art fairs and still suspect that we were missing something. And we would be right.
Each evening between Tuesday and Saturday brought a new social crisis, forcing me to leave one event early only to arrive late at another, barely registering anything I happened to catch in between. All of this, of course, followed a day that would begin with a visit to one of Miami’s many impressive private collections or public nonprofits before hitting the road to go from one art fair to another, only to head back to my hotel to work and gear up for the full evening ahead.
By Thursday, I had yet to figure out a less stumblebum way to plan. As the day dawned, I downed my Cuban colado and decided to just go with the flow, joining several hundred invitees at the Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood, where a special exhibition of Polish art (mostly painting) was on view. (Goodbye Leipzig School!)
From there, Clarissa Dalrymple and I were lucky to catch a ride to collector Dennis Scholl’s warehouse, World Class Boxing. (Attending these art fairs is a bit like combat reporting, where you keep hopping on whatever helicopter is heading out to the next battlefield.) There, we discovered a stupendous new Paul Chan video installation with Lotte Reiniger/William Kentridge-style silhouettes of recognizable objects projected over a rectangle of shifting light on the floor. Chan calls it a “hallucination” of religion and politics, one of a seven-part series (more! more!) also currently on view at the ICA in Boston.
Next was the NADA fair at the Ice Palace Film Studios, also in northwest Miami. We arrived just before the free brunch ended, thank goodnesstouring eighty-four galleries on an empty stomach would have been a daunting taskafter which I spent four adrenalin-producing hours walking and talking new art. I almost didn’t make it past the Elizabeth Dee Gallery booth, the first one I visited. Here I found myself pining for a Miranda Lichtenstein Polaroid still life (only $1,800), which she made by photographing bowls of fruit and vases of flowers, setting the photos against delicately painted backdrops saturated in romantic light, and rephotographing the whole thing.
Left: Art Production Fund's Yvonne Force with husband and artist Leo Villareal. Right: Artist Max Farago with Rivington Arms's Melissa Bent at The Delano's Art Bar. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
I don’t know why I’m such a sucker for such stuffit must be the Impressionist devil in me. Too embarrassed to admit it, I turned to the Gareth James mirrored bubblewrap stacks topped with blue-paper violins. “He considers them drawings,” Dee told me, though she didn't know why. Josephine Meckseper’s kinky, smart, politico-consumer critique shop windows ($25,000 each) were absorbing too. But the work that really grabbed me and wouldn't let go was a new painting by Pieter Schoolwerth of a couple playing cards and showing their hands in unexpected ways. I almost couldn't go home without it, but of course it was already sold ($15,000).
I had pretty much the same experience everywhere I went at NADA, and only wished for deeper pockets. At Daniel Reich’s well-curated booth, for example, some of the standout photo-works turned out to have been created by writer Gary Indiana. I liked the Christian Holstad erased-newspaper drawings too, but perhaps not as much as the erased-newspaper drawings by Matt Bryans on offer at London’s Kate McGarry. The floor-to-ceiling environment at Rivington Arms was terrific too. I hardly made it to a third of NADA’s galleries before it was time to run back to South Beach for a quick change into my evening duds, but I was still too late for cocktails on the palm-lined, poolside terrace at the Raleigh, where Jay Jopling was hosting at dinner at one table and Vanity Fair correspondent Bob Colacello was heading up another. I waved to Bob as I passed, hoping to get back there later to visit with the various Brandolinis seated there with Jaime Frankfurt, Nadine Johnson, Virginia Coleman, and I don’t remember who else.
Still, when at last I made it back to the cabanas, where art advisors Mark Fletcher and Yvonne Force were hosting a Moroccan buffet, I began to feel as if I had finally landed in the right placeonly to learn that I had missed Eli and Edye Broad, who left after drinks to attend the hottest dinner in town. This was Norman Braman’s fete for Eli Broad, David Rockefeller, Patty Cisneros, Howard Rachofsky, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist at the downtown Dupont Building, a seventeen-story skyscraper that bankers’ art advisor Manuel Gonzalez later described as “the most spectacular restoration of an Art Deco building anywhere.”
Still, I was happy where I was, listening to Todd Eberle and David Tieger describe the G-5 jet on which Larry Gagosian spirited them to the German foundry where the stainless steel elephant that Tieger had purchased from Jeff Koons’s “Celebration” series was belatedly reaching its final stage. “I mean, it had been so many years, I didn't dare even think about it,” Tieger said, “So this was a fantastic experience.” As was uncrating it on his front lawn in New Jersey, where the staff, which includes a few Muslims, apparently draped the elephant’s head in a chador, turning the whole scene into a kind of crèche.
Left: David Tieger. Right: Rivington Arms's Mirabelle Marden, artist Dan Colen, and Peres Projects's Javier Peres at The Delano's Art Bar. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
I turned to face Martin Eder, Nate Lowman, Barnaby Furnas, Dan Colen, Lorna Simpson, and a table of Brits including Sarah Lucas, grouped there with Dalrymple, Sadie Coles, and Gavin Brown, none of whom seemed very interested in anyone who wasn’t British. Didn’t matter. Over dinner, I got to hear Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn try to stir up Lorna Simpson and Thelma Golden over the Annie Leibovitz “Wizard of Oz” shoot in Vogue. “I’d really like to have heard the conversation that convinced Jasper Johns to be the Cowardly Lion,” she said. What about Kara Walker as Glinda? “I don’t think I would have done it,” Simpson said, leaving the door open a crack.
Force had a white fur wrap thrown over her glittery Dolce & Gabbana dress, and may have been the only person clothed appropriately for the suddenly chilly weather. I spent part of the post-dinner conversation huddled around a heat lamp with Amanda Sharp, listening to her compare Art Basel Miami Beach to her own co-creation, the Frieze Art Fair. Not surprisingly, she liked Frieze better. “I think the character of these things depends entirely on their context,” she said. Did she mean Miami was too tawdry for art? “You answered your own question,” came the reply.
Then it was back to the same old same old: go upstairs to the Penthouse party that hotelier André Balazs and Nadine Johnson were giving for Bruce Weber and Sofia Coppola? Or retire so I could get to the breakfast at Dennis Scholl’s art-crammed Dilido Island home before the Debra Singer-led tour of it ended and the Art Basel Conversations “Philanthropy” panel began? There, a thoroughly media-trained Rockefeller, Broad, Cisneros, and Rachofsky had to respond to moderator Richard Flood’s observation that “You can live well and still afford to give.”
The standing-room-only crowd hung on every ho-hum word, the only surprise arriving with the realization that the first person to walk out was none other than Alain Robbe-Grillet. (Who even knew the salt-and-pepper-bearded nouvelle vague author was still with us?) Apparently he had come to town to speak at the Rauschenberg tribute the night before. Perhaps he knew in advance that the patrons-to-be would queue up to have the star “venture philanthropist” panelists autograph their programs and wanted to beat the front of the lineunless he too had to race back downtown for the opening of Ella Cisneros’s new art space, CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation).
Reaching the door with barely five minutes to spare, I found google-eyed art-goers walking, zombie-like, through darkened video rooms curated by Michael Rush, who had included a rare Francesca Woodman work where she takes off her clothes, white-washes her body and “paints” herself on the floor. “Disgusting,” said one cosmetized passerby. And I thought I had come upon something really priceless.
Off I went to see the Jose Iraola and Alxandre Arrechea works at Alonso Art (terrific) and, in one final stab at beach-free tourism, headed over to the Pulse Art Fair a few blocks away. No sooner was I inside than a Sotheby’s real estate agent grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go until I helped her choose which Arnold Odermatt photograph to buy. “The one without the car crash,” I said. “You really think so?” she asked, looking concerned. “I know so,” I said, my own anxiety growing. I had to get out of there before I actually bought the Orit Raff graffitied-schooldesk photo that had zinged me at Julie Saul. Besides, I had to choose a dress for dinner, get to the restaurant, and find a way back before the Hugo Boss Prize party ended.
Talk about a luxury problem! Especially with the suppurating wound of New Orleans practically in Miami’s backyard. Art-fair fever can make you forget. Can we talk priorities? Yes. Just not right now.
Left: Artist Lorna Simpson. Right: Reena Spaulings Fine Arts's Emily Sundblad and artist John Kleckner at The Delano's Art Bar. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
Despite canyonlike corridors that can be discombobulating, not every gallery fits into the Miami Beach Convention Centeror wants to. Hence the continuing vitality of the alternative fairs, mutant events with zippy names and varying degrees of professionalism that spring up around the Miami area for the week. There were at least five this year, from NADA (eighty-four participants) down to Frisbee (a modest six, along with eight noncommercial installations). On Thursday afternoon I went to opening day of newbie Aqua Art Miami, which took place in the simple cabana-style rooms surrounding the pool of the pleasingly under-renovated Aqua Hotel on South Beach. It was a cool breeze.
Other Gallery from Winnipeg, a “web-based nomadic gallery, now based out of a suitcase that I had no intention of starting,” according to its founder Paul Butler, was making sales at a brisk rate in the $100 to $1,000 range across the courtyard from Bodybuilder & Sportsman, a hip and highly regarded Chicago space that signed on to Aqua after being turned down by NADA. Director Tony Wight was not as cheerful as his Canadian counterpart across the way. “Fairs always have the same answer. ‘We had an overwhelming number of entries this year . . .’ There's no way of figuring out what they want,” he said, brandishing the yellow slip from his first sale in hand.
Left: Adi and Gabi of fashion collective As Four at NADA's Art Bar party at The Delano. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Elissa Levy and Bellwether Gallery's Becky Smith.
In his crow's nest above the pool, Seattle's Greg Kucera was no longer lamenting his rejection from the main fair. He had sold a brand-new Deborah Butterfield sculpture within minutes of the opening bell, then a Bill Traylor ink-on-board for a hefty $28,000. “I feel like the grandparent to some of these galleries,” he boasted. The market is lively, but word on the beach greatly affects sales at the alternative fairs, and if the action moves elsewhere there's nothing to do but hope for a change before Sunday: It has little to do with the art. Feeling a sudden need to escape the Collins Avenue art-party row, I headed to Wet Willie's on South Beach (“a bar, a party, an institution,” according to the souvenir cup), where bikers, students, and barflies took the place of dealers.
I wanted to arrive at NADA for its 10AM opening on Friday, and though my waiter Herman's 150-proof frozen cocktails were still whispering to me, I posted up to the gates of the Ice Palace Film Studios at a quarter past. Six booths were dark for the first half hour, a forgivable grace period perhaps, though a few pushed it irresponsibly past that. An old friend from New York came last, showing up almost two hours late. “I went to four parties last night, and the last one wasn't even really a party. Someone gave me a Vicodin at some point. It seemed like a good idea at the time,” she recounted. I looked at her with a fair amount of concern and asked how business was going. “Oh god, it's great! Are you kidding?”
If only we could all be so breezy. “This fair and this week is more expensive than it's ever been, but we don’t advertise and this is the best advertising there is. We will break even and we’ll be happy with that,” said Sara VanDerBeek of Guild & Greyshkul, a to-watch New York space that deserves congratulations for exhibiting one of the largest, grandest works in the whole fair, Valerie Hegarty's heroic rendition of a boring Bierstadt painting, seemingly pecked corner-to-corner by angry sculpted crows still scattered around the booth with their scraps of the American west. It wasn't quite museum-quality, but it was museum-scaled, a smart angle for a two year-old gallery to pursue. “We need to sell more T-shirts,” lamented a nervous participant a few aisles away at non-profit Participant Inc. She was selling affordable artist-made clothing that was popular but evidently needed to become more so to recoup the cost of the fair. I wouldn't mention that the public thirst for thrifty merchandise might slake itself with fabulous free tote bags at White Columns. In addition to the accessories, a bazaar of cute short- and unlimited-run prints filled that space, red dots snaking across the wall.
Wednesday evening on Miami Beach kicked off with the revived New York Dolls playing their unmistakable brand of proto-punk on the beach behind twenty shipping containers that had been converted into exhibition spaces by galleries showing young artists. The veteran band still looked the part: David Johansen in a studded kilt, his belly bared; Sylvain Sylvain in red jeans and cap; and newbie Steve Conte in an outsized pirate hat. Finishing up their tidy set with the crowd-pleasing “Personality Crisis,” Johansen struck a few classic poses, skinny arms in the air, and shouted, “If you don’t know who we are, we’re the New York Dolls”
Left: The launch party for David LaChapelle's Artists and Prostitutes. Right: Photographer David LaChapelle hams it up with Amanda Lepore. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)
I beat the mass exodus from the beach and dashed to the new, hyper-chic Setai Hotel, where Taschen was hosting a launch party for David LaChapelle’s book Artists and Prostitutes. Caught in the inevitable crush at the door, I ran up against a burly bouncer growling at a pushy, black-leather-Yankees-cap-and-gold-chain-wearing youth to “stay back.” “I’m David’s personal assistant,” the would-be entrant piped, “and if I’m going to leave I will be escorted off. I need to get in right now to deal with the slide show.” I slipped through along with Isaac Julien, his boyfriend Mark Nash, his onscreen star Vanessa Myrie, and his assistant Kelly. Inside, we immediately spotted LaChapelle’s muse, robosexual tranny Amanda Lepore, who was perchednude of courseinside an illuminated plexiglass structure in the middle of the pool and leafing through a copy of LaChapelle’s vapid tome. (Even Lepore couldn’t be bothered to look through the volume, replete with her own imageshe tossed her hair, crossed and uncrossed her legs that “cost as much as a house,” and cast absent Botox stares at the guests.) Grinning, Julien appraised the spectacle: “Perfect.”
New York photographer/drag queen/nightlife personality Greg “G-Spot” Siebel was at the poolside turntables, spinning pop hitsfrom “Genius of Love” to “Slim Shady”to the delight of revelers dancing atop the bouncy outdoor cushions. Clearly the king of his own party, LaChapelle stripped down to his undershorts and leapt into the pool, splaying himself Severin-style before Lepore’s transparent cage and eliciting coy admonishments from his delighted gaggle of twinky admirers (“Daaaaavid!”) before luring the lemmings in after him. Beaming and attentive, LaChapelle’s female PR attachés swooped in, emitting cute noises usually reserved for especially endearing infants and promising extra sets of towels, while the wait staff lowered platters of hors d’oeuvres to within the reach of wet fingers.
Left: Jeffrey Deitch at his party at the Raleigh. Right: Karen Elson fronts for the Citizens Band. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
Determined to stay dry, I ran to the Raleigh Hotel in time to catch the tail end of the Deitch party, where Karen Elson-fronted Weimar-inspired cabaret act Citizens Band had just finished their set. Band founder/harlequin-doll-chic pioneer Jorjee Douglass and rocker Amy Miles were still in full makeup and costume (but aren’t they always?), and the band’s extended social scene (the collective itself numbers twenty-six) lingered around the pool. Deitch, in a deep purple suit, chatted with actress/designer Tara Subkoff and her boyfriend, artist Nate Lowman, while 2004 Whitney Biennial participant Terence Koh greeted just-announced ’06 pick Dash Snow in a trans-Biennial embrace.
The following morning, the crowds were out and about again by 9:30AM for collectors’ open houses. Three buses idled outside the Rubell Family Collection warehouse while chartered vans blasting air conditioning with the windows open unloaded their silk-wrapped, Swarovski-crystal-adorned, and varicose-veined passengers onto the sidewalks of the shabby Wynwood Arts district. It was art-world speed dating, the perfect spot for dealer-on-collector, collector-on-collector, collector-on-dealer, and dealer-on-dealer action: I spied Barbara Gladstone with the Rubells, the Rubells with Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, the Eisenbergs with Pascal Spengemann, and Spengemann’s business partner Kelly Taxter with Andrea Rosen, all within ten minutes. The Rubell’s mini-museum (with Damián Ortega’s obelisk-on-wheels placed near the entrance seemingly an overdetermined nod to the new MoMA’s Broken Obelisk prime placement) fully caters to the public with a gallery guide introducing the exhibitions (including this year’s survey of contemporary Polish artists), wall texts, and even calculated voyeuristic flourishes: a meticulously ordered, glassed-in art library here, a shiny chrome-and-painted-steel exercise room there. A few blocks away at the new MoCA exhibition space (donated by real-estate developers Tony and Joey Goldman) local artist collective Friends With You has created “Cloud City,” a temporary installation of cross-digested “superflatness” in the roundgiant beach balls, colorfully painted walls, and oversized, cuddly alien gingerbread men. I overheard two New Yorkers near the funhouse entrance: “Be careful . . . behind that curtain lies what the art world has come to.” The response, after a quick peek: “This?”
Left: True North star Vanessa Myrie with artist Isaac Julien. Right: MoCA's Bonnie Clearwater with artist Albert Oehlen and Esther Freund. (Photo: MoCA)
Tuesday morning I encountered a Miami-bound artist on the New York subway, then joined a line of bicoastal collectors on the jetway leading to my plane. On the plane itself, I spotted more soon-to-be shoppers, PaceWildenstein's Marc and Andrea Glimcher, indie auteur (and new collector) Sofia Coppola, and David Johansen of the New York Dolls. Are tumbleweeds rolling through Chelsea?
Before you can see any art in Miamithis year Art Basel Miami Beach security seems to have enforced its no-collectors-posing-as-installers ruleyou have to attend a few parties. Braving streets flooded by the day’s torrential rain (some dealers at the Pulse Art Fair were coping with inches of water in their rooms), I headed to the Delano Hotel for the main fair's official welcome party. It was a near-perfect copy of last year’s shindig: leggy ladies, wearing orange instead of 2004's white, offering greetings; dealers, from Tracy Williams to Johann König, happy to have a drink; a few collectors wondering aloud why they couldn't get into the convention center early this time; and ABMB director Sam Keller at the front door, pressing the flesh and offering bon mots. “I'm glad it rained today instead of tomorrow,” he opined. “The collectors can get wet. The art can’t.”
Left: Doris Amman of Thomas Amman Fine Arts with ABMB's Samuel Keller. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Gallerist Tracy Williams.
This year, fair organizers helped visitors reach the more remote destinations, and within half an hour I was on a shuttle bus headed north to MoCA for a party honoring Isaac Julien and Albert Oehlen. Jet-lagged Europeans napped; Americans swapped gossip. At the museum, the crowd was larger and more diverse, with a few fashion notables (Interview editor and event cohost Ingrid Sischy, Donna Karan, and photographer Bruce Weber) bobbing in the sea of young, tanned faces. True North, Isaac Julien's new three-channel film installation, is receiving its US premiere, and the icy expanses that it depicts gained traction from the contrast with the junglelike conditions in the museum's courtyard.
“Death can come from a hundred directions at once,” the film's narrator intones, and by the time I crept away, I was beginning to appreciate her wariness, so threateningly dense was the crowd. Squeezing onto another bus, I headed next to Miami Art Central, whose party was billed as “this year’s Rosa de la Cruz event,” referencing the supercollector's now-defunct annual gala. The route was backed up half a mile in either direction but most attendees proved to be locals out for a good time. With little food and an interminable wait to see the William Kentridge survey inside, many of us longed for the manse on Key Biscayne. I ducked into a taxi and headed back to Miami Beach: $47. I haven’t paid so much for transportation (without leaving the ground) since . . . well, last month in London.
Left: Designer Sonja Nuttall, Interview magazine publisher Sandra Brant and editor Ingrid Sischy, designer Donna Karan, and MoCA Director Bonnie Clearwater. (Photo: MoCA) Right: Gallerist Paul Kasmin.
The déjà vu of Wednesday afternoon's ABMB preview was lost on very few, especially fellow New Yorkers who see each other more often away from the Big Apple than back there. There was time to catch up, however, as the afternoon was oddly calm. Eigen + Art was, however, one booth that hummed all day: I was asked variants of “Do you work here?” four times in less than a minute when I stopped by around 2PM. But apart from those on the prowl for owner Gerd Harry Lybke's Leipzig painters (business is so good he opened a branch there in April; thank you, Don and Mera Rubell, for your support) and the just-announced 2006 Whitney Biennial artists (the list fortuitously went public on preview day), there was little beat-the-clock frenzy. I had plenty of time in front of a 1920 Giorgio Morandi (ca. $2 million, it was one of several of the artist's quiet canvases available at Milan's Galleria Tega).
I also lingered around a personal favorite, Thomas Zipp's array of small canvases and drawings hung atop a reproduction of Pollock's The Wooden Horse: Number 10A, 1948 (at Guido Baudach). Impressive were iridescent mushrooms by Sylvie Fleury at Thaddeus Ropac; Alice, a 1961 canvas by John Wesley at Waddington; Kim Fisher's new large-scale paintings at China Art Objects; Martin Boyce's space-dividing sculpture at Anton Kern and The Modern Institute's shared booth; John Stazeker's new “Film Portrait” collages at The Approach; and Sigmar Polke's 1967 Match-stick Piece at Michael Werner. Most booths seemed to have little organizing principle, but Andrew Kreps's cleanly installed selection of neo-Conceptualist works made a coherent case for the strengths of his program. Kudos too to Hauser & Wirth and Sadie Coles, who were willing to let artists (Mary Heilmann and Sarah Lucas, respectively) put an individual stamp on their boothsan all-too-rare occurrence at this fair, even with twice as many “Art Nova” galleries presenting younger artists as last year.
Left: Lauren Taschen greets artist Anthony Goicolea. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Center: Gallerist Gerd Harry Lybke. Right: The artist Orlan.
Peter Freeman's potential sale (to an unnamed museum) of a remarkable 1966 Marcel Broodthaers canvas was one of only a few institutional purchases I heard tell of, though curators turned out in full force: The Whitney's Adam Weinberg was in early, and was still on his feet at 6PM when Philippe Vergne, the Walker staffer cocurating next year’s Whitney Biennial, joined him; Jérôme Sans and Udo Kittelmann made early-afternoon rounds and then disappeared; and the New Museum's Lisa Phillips and Richard Flood (“I'm going to C16I don’t even know what's there. I just know I'm supposed to go there!”), the ICA Philadelphia’s Claudia Gould, and the MCA Chicago's Dominic Molon all took an evening tour. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis director Paul Ha was also on the circuit, the only one with a gaggle of patrons visibly in tow. It was heartening to encounter many of these folks near some of the better works on view: Thomas Hirschhorn's globe-laden shelves at Chantal Crousel (snapped up by the Philadelphia Museum of Art by midafternoon) and Sterling Ruby's magnificent inverted stalactite at Christian Nagel's and Bärbel Grässlin's shared booth (neither claims the artist in the fair catalogue).
By this point everyone had somewhere to go. Many drifted over to the younger, mostly European galleries exhibiting in shipping containers on the beach; others crossed the causeway to attend NADA's preview; still others headed off to Casa Casuarina (aka Versace's house) for the second annual dinner hosted by Barbara Gladstone, Shaun Caley Regen, and David Zwirner. I chose sand, surf, and more artmy own dinner would have to wait.
Left: 2006 Whitney Biennial cocurator Philippe Vergne with Whitney director Adam Weinberg. Right: Gallerist Chantal Crousel poses in front of some of Thomas Hirschhorn's globes.
On the beach, the crowd skewed very young and local, though I did cross paths with a few collectors and Roxana Marcoci, a photography curator at MoMA. Several dealers said they were relieved to simply be open and working; fair staff forced them to close up shop for four hours during the afternoon, then the power went out in several containers for twenty minutes right as the vernissage began at 6PM. Peering over people's heads, I spotted a large drawing of a coy-looking waif glancing over her shoulder by Iris van Dongen (at Athens gallery The Breeder) that impressed, and three pleasing ink-and-watercolor drawings by John Kleckner at Peres Projects, the largest of which is a haunting free-floating severed head executed with old master-ish precision.
It's an energy-sapping week, and I'm working late. Perhaps Jason Rhoades, reportedly restaging Rob Pruitt's infamous white-line buffet through a trap door at the rear of his “Black Pussy” container on the beach, has the best strategy for surviving until Sunday.