Left: Julie Potratz dances to Billy Idol's “Dancing with Myself.” Right: Aaron Bondaroff. (Except where noted, all photos: Miriam Katz)
WHILE MANY OF THIS YEAR’S holiday parties have been shadowed by a dour mood in step with the economic nosedive, leave it to Deitch Projects to demonstrate that it’s possible to whip up a jovial atmosphere without breaking what’s left of the bank. The downtown stalwart’s “Weird Holiday” kicked off at Santos’ Party House in Chinatown Tuesday night in a spirit of do-it-yourself good cheer, presenting a roster of campy amateur acts curated by Kansas City collective Whoop Dee Doo Productions and hosted by scenester Aaron Bondaroff (who insists on being known as either “A-Ron,” which I can just about countenance, or “the Downtown Don,” which I can’t).
Bondaroff launched proceedings with a video hyping usual suspects (or “fuckin’ hustlers, man,” as he prefers to call them) Aaron Young, Nate Lowman, Dan Colen, et. al. Perhaps force-feeding partygoers with these folks, plus assorted self-regarding dealers and collectors, wasn’t the best idea for an introduction; even our MC seemed embarrassed by the queasy note of moneyed self-congratulation, and whoever it was that bellowed “This sucks!!!” was clearly even less convinced. The first act, a pint-size hip-hop duo, was ushered hurriedly onstage, and the evening began in earnest. They didn’t look much older than twenty-one in total, and sure enough: “We had to perform,” announced the cute-as-a-button rapper. “It was the only way we were allowed into the club.”
Some not-so-helpful postperformance budgetary suggestions from Bondaroff (to Deitch: “Fire half your staff and buy some art!”) prompted a quick round of shoe-tossing before Whoop Dee Doo’s Jaimie Warren and Matt Roche made their appearance. Resplendent in chip-wrapper-encrusted catsuit (Warren) and burn-victim Santa outfit (Roche), they introduced Laurendarling & the Ladies of Fakework, a bevy of antler-wearing, baton-twirling go-go girls who danced around to no great purpose but successfully won the crowd back from their beers. After a not entirely dissimilar routine from some dancing furniture, the stage was transformed into a game-show set for a round of “Holiday Hoopla.”
“And this is Raven and Amber Ferguson, from Crown Heights, Brooklyn!” Perking up at the mention of my own hood, I watched as the two slightly bemused (and who wouldn’t be?) kids were put through their paces by a big-haired hostess in a chaotic battle against the ever-stylish Metalmags, aka Erica Magrey and Collin Cunningham. (Hostess: “So, you guys are from out of town? I heard you were from outer space, actually.” Magrey: “That’s right. We met on an orbiting station.”) Ultimately triumphant, the Fergusons smiled graciously to their extraterrestrial competitors and left the stage in a shower of glitter, cheered on by the likes of Ryan McGinley, Terence Koh, and Mike Smith.
From here on out, it’s single images that stick in the memory. There was, for example, that pair of interpretive dancers—one corpulent, one not so—and that devil-horned Santa astride a giant pantomime donkey. Then there was that folky singer insisting that we “listen for just two minutes” because we “might learn something” and that Lady Liberty–hosted “Mount Rushmore Staring Contest.” And what about that senior couple looking mildly traumatized as admirers flocked around Amanda Lepore, or Deitch himself installed discreetly at the back of the room, playing his customary indulgent-parent role? One late act, a dance to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” performed by the star of Laurel Nakadate’s upcoming feature film Stay the Same Never Change (and her dummy double), was something of a highlight, but the announcement that followed—“Now welcome the New York Ukulele Ensemble!”—had me scrambling for the door. Happy holidays.
Left: Artist Jaimie Warren (left). Right: Designer Peggy Noland.
MEMORIES OF RIVINGTON ARMS form a palimpsest: the old, bright white gallery space on Rivington Street; cadged to-go margaritas in Styrofoam cups from the Hat down the street; the ever-present opening sidewalk sprawl. There were the close quarters; the move north, to Joey Ramone Place, just off the Bowery; dinners at Kelly & Ping; the casual, louche booths at sundry art fairs; the parade of ghostly artists now gone from the gallery; and the familiar presence of those who stayed. A phalanx of Rivington Arms veterans, past and present, guarded the door Thursday night at the gallery’s last-ever opening, for “Geraniums,” the debut solo show by the young New York–based artist Uri Aran: Darren Bader, Lansing-Dreiden, Mathew Cerletty, John Finneran, and, of course, the two dealers themselves, Melissa Bent and Mirabelle Marden, champagne very much in hand.
Rivington Arms, a gallery known since it opened in 2001 for a steady, Argus-eyed prescience, will now take the lead once more and close in January. Not that we were meant to mourn: “Make it sound fun!” said Marden, laughing off my suggestion that the torrential rain and freezing cold outside had somehow conspired to push the gallery off, Viking-style, on a watery, storm-tossed pyre. “We’re too young to die.”
This was a fact no one had told Aran, whose diffuse work—a neon dolphin hung on the wall; scattered, smudged billiard balls on a table; and a wooden desk, drawers out, tilted on its side and giving birth to a scrolling, electric-powered mock aquarium—included actual, if minuscule, jets of flame surrounding a canister of fish food on a rear pedestal. The presence of free-flowing gas, and of certain artists smoking nearby in the spirit of revelers celebrating their last night in a condemned building, threatened to dovetail in a theatrical, premature, and unintentionally fiery finale: not the send-off anyone had in mind.
Bader—sometime Rivington Arms curator, artist, and ubiquitous friend—copped to being only “one-third” nostalgic. The other two-thirds? “Horny” and, looking out on the deluge outside, “wet.” Cerletty, when pressed, went for “end of an era.” (Somebody had to say it, I guess.) Other artists (Elizabeth Neel, Matt Keegan, Hope Atherton, Jeremy Eilers, Georgia Sagri, Ronnie Bass, and Davis Rhodes) and dealers (Gavin Brown, Casey Kaplan, RENTAL’s Joel Mesler, Museum 52’s Matthew Dipple) stopped by to pay their respects. Over the years, “you get used to the repetition,” said Marden, gazing around. “It hasn’t really sunk in.”
It was indeed hard to be particularly sentimental walking the long blocks between the gallery and its after-party, at the Pink Pony, as heretofore unknown Houston Street headwinds and river formations blasted away anything but the desire to be dry and indoors. In the back of the restaurant, friends clustered in booths. Aran beamed in the corner. “They’ve been so kind,” the artist said, gesturing over to the head table, where Mirabelle and Melissa were holding court. What were his plans now that his newfound gallery was vanishing? “Make a lot of work,” he said, and, in the immediate short term, “Try not to get too drunk.”
Family (Brice and Helen and Melia Marden, Eliza Bent) circled around. The liquor ran out, mercifully, just before things got maudlin. The familiarity of the scene was its own kind of reassurance: This was the exact same gathering of friends that, over the past seven years, had become something solid and reliable. There would be a next time. Cerletty, making for the door, paused to bid his now-former reps farewell: “There’s another party where we all hug each other and stuff, right?”
DURING THE Q&A at the end of Tom Wolfe’s fortieth-anniversary discussion of his gonzoid Merry Pranksters travelogue The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Wolfe was asked about his opinion of Gus Van Sant’s forthcoming film adaptation. Wolfe replied, “Films that try to capture trips—hallucinations—always fail miserably.” As counterexamples raced through my mind—David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, hell, the Monkees’ Head—I found myself thinking, “Polite, laudatory conversations for the NPR set at Symphony Space aren’t exactly a freezer bag of ’shrooms, either.”
I had high-ish hopes for last Wednesday evening, further piqued when my editor told me that the publicist had asked us to arrive forty minutes before showtime so he could “set us up.” Would we be dosed? Would our faces be painted in Day-Glo colors? Would there be, as at the end of Blake Edwards’s The Party, elephants, bubbles, and Claudine Longet? At the very least, would there be a chaotic, immersive multimedia environment, like the ones the Pranksters created for their proto-rave acid tests using microphones, Echoplexes, overhead projectors, oil-emulsion slides, etc.?
Sadly, no. Symphony Space’s red and blue deco-and-girders interior was mildly gaudy but hadn’t been tricked out in any special way for the occasion. Rick Moody, Wolfe’s interlocutor for the evening, may as well have been interviewing E. L. Doctorow. This seemed emblematic of the blandly liberal, culturally cautious Upper West Side. The only “setup” I received was a seat at the back of the house. I took it and settled in for the duration.
After introductions by the venue’s creative director, Wolfe and Moody emerged onstage—Wolfe in one of his several hundred white suits, Moody in a black scully. Just before Tony Award–winning actor René Auberjonois was to read an excerpt, Wolfe said, “Nothing I’ve written will sound as good as this.” Auberjonois did sound good as he performed a passage about the Pranksters’ test drive of their garishly painted, media-augmented school bus, dubbed “Furthur,” though he lacked the unhinged, maniacal glee the book’s subject and voice require.
Moody told Wolfe that Acid Test was a “paradigm shift” for him as a young reader, exhibiting “excellence” in both its “exuberant language and punctuation” and its reported narrative. In a light southern accent peppered with dry-mouth clicks, Wolfe described the genesis of the project—his exposure to the letters that king Prankster and novelist Ken Kesey had written to old friend Larry McMurtry while the former was on the lam in Mexico. The evening peaked early (for me) with this revelation: Wolfe constructed his uncannily convincing, fly-on-the-blotter-sheet account of the Pranksters’ 1964 cross-country bus trip retroactively, after extensive interviews and a thorough examination of the group’s film and audio archives. Later in the discussion, Wolfe noted that Hunter S. Thompson once said, “I actually live this, Tom Wolfe writes about it.” Wolfe conceded this as true, and it is a testament to his scarily empathetic imagination as a young reporter.
Calling his book a “picture of a primary religion at its starting point,” Wolfe compared Kesey on meeting him in a California jail to Jesus and Zoroaster, and the Pranksters, who were in attendance at this first meeting, to the Apostles. Kesey spoke to them in parables, Wolfe said, and the acid-fueled Pranksters spread the gospel of psychic freedom across the country, sparking the hippie counterculture. He hastened to add, however, that Kesey was not an Indian-style guru, teaching silent meditation and trance-induced enlightenment: “He was loud. His text wasn’t the Bhagavad Gita; it was Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange.” Wolfe hadn’t read One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest when he began his reporting but was tremendously impressed when he did. He recalled Kesey telling him, “Writers are recorders of earthquakes that happen far away. On acid, you’re the lightning rod—it’s all flowing through you.”
Asked by Moody why the Pranksters allowed a suit-wearing straight who eschewed LSD to hang out with them, Wolfe replied, “I’m not overbearing,” adding that Kesey hated “weekend hipsters” so much that he would weed them out by suggesting naked motorcycle rides down California’s twisting, two-lane Route 1. He recalled how Kesey once tried to persuade him to partake in the psychedelic sacrament by saying, “Why don’t you put down that pen and paper and just be here?” Wolfe said he considered it for about seventeen seconds but declined. Due to the chasm of taste and predilection separating Wolfe from the Pranksters, reporting the book was “not fun—I was so far ‘off the bus’ it wasn’t funny.”
It should be noted that while Wolfe has written some indisputably brilliant books, he is given, these days, to saying some staggeringly stupid things. Noting how the psychedelic era turned out to be “novel-proof,” he went on a silly soliloquy about how no novelist could imagine Paris Hilton’s life story. Didn’t Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel virtually invent Paris Hilton? Wolfe’s animus for blogs and “citizen journalism” is well known and arguable, but do I really have to swallow his fatuous pronouncement that the subprime mortgage disaster was caused by the unpleasantness of on-screen reading? That predatory lenders made bad loans because they couldn’t bear to read the applications on a computer? Please. This is the wrong stuff. Nevertheless, the questioners were rapturous, one going so far as to ask Wolfe who made his suits. The man who shares his bespoke style with John Travolta and Ricardo Montalbán dutifully gave his tailor’s name and address, as well as that of his shirtmaker. I left during the applause, in search of Kool-Aid.
“THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES lie at the intersection of your world and ours; be ready to discover a canvas for your imagination.” The new Fontainebleau Hotel, recently “reinvented” according to Morris Lapidus’s original design, didn’t skimp on words in its brochure to welcome Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami visitors. I (along with Ivana Trump) was among the visitors to stay in its hallowed walls last week.
A couple of weeks prior the hotel had opened with a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, a video of which was relayed on a screen in a hallway. (“Delicious,” salivated one young guest as he watched.) The place itself practically constituted its own ABMB crossover event (a fact punctuated by the presence of the SeaFair Art Boat, moored just outside the hotel); the rooms are chock-full of specially commissioned works (James Turrell paneling in the lobby, Ai Weiwei chandeliers). In my room, #1422, I even had a print of Baldessari’s I will not make any more boring art. Of course, boredom was the least of my worries.
There was no time for boredom (read: relaxation) by the time I arrived last Tuesday afternoon. Design Miami, organized by Ambra Medda, was opening in the city’s (surprise!) Design District. Twenty-three galleries, displaying wares ranging from Perriand vintage classic to contemporary (à la Zaha Hadid), had set up shop. Design wallah Philippe Jousse, who presented several magnificent historical pieces by Maria Pergay, confided to me that some of the most important design collectors would, unfortunately, not be present. Nicolas Chwat of Perimeter, which presented new editions of works by Janette Laverrière, thought that this year he would likely be selling to collectors rather than interior decorators, because the latter were in even shorter supply.
Going against the grain, designer Arik Levy, who happened to be on my flight from Paris, was extremely positive. His Big Rock, exhibited at Kenny Schachter’s ROVE, were in no danger of neglect. Nor were the Campana Brothers, who had just been named designers of the year by the fair. As I was leaving the district, I bumped into T magazine editor Stefano Tonchi, style editor Alix Brown, and Olivier Lalanne, the editor of French Vogue Hommes. Together we set off to join fashion designer Consuelo Castiglioni for the opening of the latest Marni boutique, this one designed by Future Systems.
“Hello. Hello darling. So nice to meet you.” Thank you and goodbye. We finished our glasses of Champagne elsewhere.
Next stop was the opening of Anri Sala’s show at MoCA North Miami. So that’s where everyone was! The museum was overflowing with viewers desperately trying to catch the complex exhibition’s various segments––videos played in sequence, one after the other, while ghostly mechanical sticks beat drums positioned around the room. From Ingrid Sischy to David Lynch, Bruce Weber to Calvin Klein, the most elite guard of image-makers had shown up for a concert orchestrated by Sala. (I missed the performance but caught the attendees—such is life around the fair.) They then set off for the dinner sponsored by Cartier, where Chantal Crousel’s Niklas Svennung giddily pointed out Lynch’s “floating diamond” projection illuminating the ceiling.
The next day, totally jetlagged, I tried to locate the Fontainebleau’s dining room to have breakfast and instead stumbled into a meeting for the PCICS (Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society). I don’t recommend it; the coffee was awful. Dismayed but not discouraged, I decided to test the breakfast at the massive Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Wynwood. The first segment, “Photography and Sculpture: A Correlated Exhibition,” crafted subtle interplays between Joan Miró, Richard Serra, and Michael Heizer, and vintage prints by Umbo, Herbert Bayer, and Albert Renger-Patzsch. The result was magnificent.
In the meantime, Rosa de la Cruz, another great Miami collector, opened the doors to her Key Biscayne house, likely for the last time, she confided, since she’s planning to open her own museum in Miami next May. Right on the oceanfront, in a high-security neighborhood with chic houses—indeed, so chic you have to stop your taxi at the entrance and get in a golf cart—she presented an impressively wide selection of works: Wade Guyton, Kelley Walker, and many Germans (Kippenberger, Pernice, Immendorff, Oehlen, Meese, Forg, Rauch, Polke, Bock—the whole kit and kaboodle) were on display. It could have been my imagination, but it seemed there were more people speaking German than Spanish.
That evening, the Bass Museum of Art opened an excellent show of work by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes and a group exhibition, “Russian Dreams,” curated by Olga Sviblova, director of the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow. The new shoes I bought at Webster’s, Milan Vukmirovic’s “in” store (where Dasha Zhukova was also making some purchases), were really hurting my feet, so I decided it was time to head off to dinner at the Pacific Time Restaurant. There, the Rubell family and Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz hosted the launch of Puma’s “Reality Bag no. 2,” made for the Rubell Collection’s controversial new show “30 Americans,” an exhibition of contemporary art by African-Americans that was the talk of ABMB.
I sat next to John Armleder, who designed a special bag for Puma with contributions by each of the exhibition’s artists, and who insisted that “the bag is a work of art that itself contains works of art.” The evening was altogether pleasant. The Rubells talked at length, thanking the participants and former Museum of Modern Art, Luxembourg director Marie-Claude Beaud, who had introduced them to Zeitz. Naomi Campbell was there with her new Russian husband, and a rumor circulated that the elusive Grace Jones was on her way, but we never saw her.
The next morning everyone (including Jil Sander) gathered once again at Jennifer Rubell’s annual Art Basel Breakfast. The spread was an installation all its own: There were thousands of bananas piled on the floor, and hundreds of cereal boxes on an immense table next to rows of coffee pots. While the haphazard meal was inspiring, conversation circled back to the exhibition and some made note of the show’s prescient timing with regard to the presidential election. Glenn Ligon’s large neon work, bearing the word AMERICA in black text, appeared charged with meaning. Works by older artists such as David Hammons and Robert Colescott were juxtaposed with those of younger generations, such as Kalup Linzy and Nina Chanel Abney. But Hank Willis Thomas’s panoramic photo installation—comprising advertising and media images of African-Americans made since 1968, with all logos and text removed—was the biggest hit. If its conceit is fraught, it’s certainly a show to chew on.
Before leaving on Friday, I dropped by the collection of Craig Robins (one of the principal figures in Design Miami), a portion of which was on view in his offices. He mentioned that he adores the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, especially the text piece, written on the wall above the reception desk, that read STOP WORKING. If only life were that easy. Afterward I visited Naomi Fischer and Jim Drain’s studios, and then set off to yet another design event at the Raleigh. In the hotel’s verdant parking lot Marc Newson, cofounder (along with Adam Lindemann) of Ikepod, had installed a geodesic dome to celebrate his new double-dial watch for the company called, in homage to Andrei Tarkovsky, the Solaris. In the courtyard out back, Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italia welcomed guests to her reception for an installation by Stuart Semple in conjunction with Italian skiwear brand Moncler, whose latest men’s line was designed by the impeccably elegant Thom Browne. (Browne, wearing one of his trademark ankle-showing suits, was also in attendance.) By the time I left I was suffering crossover hangover.
“We invite you to be your own news, narrate your own story, and translate your imagination into memory,” a demonic voice from the Fontainebleau website kept repeating. Three hours to checkout time at the hotel. Unbelievable. As I was leaving, I finally saw Grace Jones, who was also checking out! And there wasn’t a velvet rope in sight.
GRACE JONES was the event that night. But nobody, it seemed, not the crowds who came from the Deitch party, not Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, not even Yvonne Force Villareal, her vintage Halston caftan notwithstanding, was being admitted to the Delano basement for the performance. “You reach an age when you just can’t deal anymore with capacity,” Villareal exhaled to a friend after being given that classic doorperson line. People had steadily been dropping away, and, when she and Rohatyn did, many more figured the cause lost. “Now if those two can’t get in somewhere . . .” Nadia Gerazouni from the Breeder gallery snickered later. Still, a dense throng, annoyed and anxious, milled about the spotlighted Audi parked in front (the door policy incidentally increasing advertising impressions for the party’s sponsor), wanting to patch their punctured egos.
There is, however, an easier way into the Delano basement, but one not for people whose self-worth depends on getting velvet ropes unclipped: the service elevator. By the time this route was relayed to artists Mika Tajima, Howie Chen, and Mai-Thu Perret, and by the time we had made it through the cluttered bowels of the building and into the party, Grace Jones had dissipated into a pixelated dream, her latex leggings and velvet bustier seen only on cell phones and later on Patrick McMullan’s website. To some, though, her presence was incredibly corporeal; artist José León Cerrillo, who had enjoyed some intimate onstage dancing with her, gushed about her unexpected “fleshiness.” We missed the show but stuck around to dance and to eat skewered chicken and bacon-wrapped scallops, uncertain whether Jones might perform again at 2 AM, as word had it. Music equipment was being set up, after all, but the Lucite piano and glittery drum kit seemed a little ironic for her.
It turns out they belonged to A.R.E. Weapons. There had been a lot of music that night—there had been Yelle’s concert on the beach (a moment straight out of Vice City, their high-energy electro-pop projecting out from a bright stage under the glass and steel skyscrapers fronting the rolling ocean), and there had been the Gossip at the Raleigh—so when Paul Sevigny started screeching into the microphone, it seemed a fine time to acquaint ourselves with the front door.
The next morning I went to NADA, which looked great, and Pulse, which did not (“It’s shocking how far the step down from NADA is,” one visitor correctly noted), before going to the main fair to see Jerry Saltz’s talk, sensationally titled “This Is the End: The Rising Tide of Money Goes out of the Artworld and All Boats Are Sinking.” Crisis junkies and giddy art-world mythologizers are getting a strong, regular fix these days from the economic collapse, and predicting what will happen to art has become constant white noise. The house was packed.
It was a lyric, freely streaming sort of talk, the logic of which surfaces only in spots. The metaphors were flying. The Borscht Belt humor was in full force (“Use some soap, shall we?” the avuncular Saltz said after having the artists raise their hands). Art dealers, he claimed, are the most interesting people in the art world, more so than artists: “Dealers make a world, and they want their world to be your world. They’re very vampiric.” He prophesied something “even better” than dropping prices: “Marketability will no longer equal likability. Money will no longer be a measure of success, because you’re all going to be relatively fucked up. You’re going to all be relatively the same.” He later mentioned that Jackson Pollock made drips for only four years, after which he “changed his work and willfully went back to hell. You must now be able to do that . . . and where you’re going is not hell, it’s heaven.”
Left: Yelle. Right: GCCC Moscow founder Dasha Zhukova with Derek Blasberg.
In this hell that might be heaven, with dealers acting as vampires or angels, Marilyn Manson is enjoying his first US solo exhibition. He’s a painter. The intended audience of that night’s opening, which inaugurated a gallery called 101 Exhibit, was unclear. Curator Jérôme Sans was there, as was artist Angelo Plessas, but apart from them the crowd was difficult to place. A crew of Mansonites, thin white girls with black hair and dresses, hung around their leader and in front of watercolors that portrayed them in a style resembling Marlene Dumas meets Aya Takano meets, well, Marilyn Manson. In a side gallery, champagne was served alongside Mansinthe, the Marilyn Manson absinthe. The guest of honor posed for some photographs, talked with some visitors, including Sans, and then disappeared.
“He’s in the back-back-back-back,” one person in charge whispered to another. This was the first I had heard of the back-back-back-back, but it sounded hard to get to, so I stuck around the front. Manson’s primary dealer, Brigitte Schenk, in from Cologne, strutted around in a red lace sheath. She pointed David Galloway—an “art historian,” I was told, “who has written on Marilyn’s work, for Art News”—toward the back, and he ecstatically skipped off to join his subject. Every so often, Manson came to the corner, to be immediately enclosed by people photographing with cell phones and professional cameras, his pale pancake skin reflecting the flashes. Ivana Trump showed up in a black sequined dress, and they posed together for a bit.
Left: Lorenzo Martone with Marc Jacobs. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Critic Jerry Saltz.
From there it was Visionaire at the Raleigh, where guests were greeted by shirtless men (many cast the previous night at Twist, the Miami Beach gay bar) on a black shiny stage holding copies of the magazine’s new pop-up issue, some so as to pop up just below their waists. Akari Endo-Gaut, a stylist flown in from New York to manage what little dressing they needed, had given their bottom halves black Converse shoes and black American Apparel pants, the latter of which required the real grunt work. “They would keep going for, like, size 32, and I would have to say, no, 30, 30!”
Not many people made it to the Manson afterparty at Louis, a dark bar in the Gansevoort South, but some did. Jérôme Sans did. Alanna Heiss did too. (In fact, Heiss called Marilyn’s paintings the best work in Miami and had apparently spent the night before driving around in his limo with Klaus Biesenbach and some others, the Mansinthe freely flowing.) Manson conspicuously hid in the corner with his girlfriend. Heiss curled up with Brigitte Schenk. The midget in the Napoleon costume hammed it up. Miami appeared to have bloomed into Weimar Germany, or a staff party for Hot Topic.
I ended up having some Mansinthe by the decorative stainless-steel wall with punched-out Marquis de Sade quotes including OH, SATAN! ONE AND UNIQUE GOD OF MY SOUL, INSPIRE THOU IN ME SOMETHING YET MORE, after which I have flashes of returning to the Raleigh and a very late dinner at Jerry’s, but the images strangely appear as blurs or in double.
Left: Dealer Emmanuel Perrotin and artist Takashi Murakami. Right: The Gossip's Beth Ditto. (Except where noted, all photos: Ryan McNamara)
RECESSION MIAMI BASEL looks a lot like boom-time Miami Basel. Since its inception in 2002, ABMB has become an annual ritual of rigorous sublimation and denial, where the cultural spheres of art, fashion, film, and design collide in moments both vulgar and brilliant. Collins Avenue, the strip of sparkling Art Deco hotels buffering the Convention Center from the beach, is the site of much of this alchemy, and the three-block stretch between the twenty-four-hour Walgreens and the Shore Club constitutes a veritable social obstacle course.
But Collins isn’t always the center of the scene. My first stop on Tuesday night was the Ice Palace for NADA’s opening-night gala benefit celebrating the New Museum. The usual bevy of guests trickled in—hardly a flood, but then who wants to pay $150 to come early these days? There was much fair talk—if not necessarily talk of this particular fair. Nicholas Frank, cofounder of such alternative stalwarts as the Milwaukee International Art Fair, is organizing another in a fishing hut atop a frozen lake in Winnipeg. “No hot works allowed.” Meanwhile, Rodrigo Mallea Lira, co-owner of New York’s Fruit and Flower Deli, claimed that his gallery’s oracle, the otherworldly being the gallery consults on all decisions, had called for a cessation on all art-fair participation. “At the end of the road is where the journey begins,” Lira gnomically declared. Walking through the booths, I saw that Lisa Cooley had suave new light works by Andy Coolquitt, while Klaus von Nichtssagend featured smart Styrofoam sculptures by Thomas Øvlisen. Looking around surreptitiously, gallery director Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy kindly demonstrated the sculptures’ portability by picking one up. “Ingrid, no!” joked fellow proprietor Rob Hult. “Put that down before a collector sees you.”
Everyone who wasn’t at NADA seemed to be at Anri Sala’s opening at MoCA North Miami, or the Naomi Campbell “retrospective” in the design district, or Emmanuel Perrotin’s opening for Gelitin’s new show, “The Pig.” Arriving very late at Perrotin, I bumped into a blissed-out Takashi Murakami, wearing a massive plush ball of a suit and dancing wildly in the gallery’s foyer. “You look familiar. Are you one of Perrotin’s artists?” asked a curious woman. Murakami nodded vociferously but didn’t stop prancing. “He’s finally living his ultimate dream—he’s become a giant cartoon character,” a friend observed. I couldn’t shake from my mind the acute perverseness of the gesture; its amalgamation of “furry” sexual subcultures and his performance of the artist as court jester hit all the right notes.
In the end, though, it was “The Station,” a scrappy but effusive show (curated by Shamim Momin and artist Nate Lowman) down the road from Perrotin, that won the night. “This is Shamim unbridled—no board, no acquisitions committee,” noted one sharp dealer. “It’s better than the biennial.” On the ground floor, Momin and Lowman juxtaposed a massive network of Sterling Ruby pylons with savvy Haim Steinbach displays and Martha Friedman’s labyrinth of knotted monumental rubber bands. “I’ve finally stopped making phallic work!” Friedman enthused. Three flights up a dingy stairwell was the clincher: a slightly scaled-down version of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun,” originally presented in Marfa, Texas. In the sterile retail/residential building housing the exhibition, Freeman and Lowe’s cramped and caliginous meth lab “reproduction” produced another, more sordid, state of mind.
By 11:50 AM Wednesday morning, the typical passel of collectors and advisers had formed a phalanx at the main fair’s VIP entrance, gossiping amiably and circling booths on their maps. Inside, dealers sat patiently at their stands, preparing for the onslaught. When the doors opened, the steady stream of card waving and bag checking commenced.
At the fair, it all comes down to place. Contra Dave Hickey’s recent claims in Vanity Fair, an art fair is not so much about diminishing its participants outright as it is about putting them in their place. It may not be the right place, it certainly might not be the place one wants, but everyone—collectors, dealers, artists, press—has a position, and those that find order comforting might take comfort in that. There are benefits to seeing the fair as an object lesson in recondite administration, in the art world’s strange and fluid grammars of categorization. The number one benefit is that it keeps one from taking the process personally. Psychologize it too much and you’ll go nuts.
Every occasion begged for analysis: Is this a sign of collapse? “Usually when I fly down here I think, ‘If this plane crashes it’ll take the whole art world with it,’” said MoMA president emerita Agnes Gund. “This time, there were perhaps five of us.” The front page of the Miami Gazette divined catastrophe in the plethora of open parking spaces around the convention center. Observing the Cassandra-esque trend, Art & Auction’s Sarah Douglas sarcastically noted that there was no caviar at this year’s UBS dinner. But if one meal seemed underwhelming, another was extravagant, and if one event seemed thin, another was “past capacity.”
But a few concrete things were missing—Gavin Brown, Sadie Coles, and Marianne Boesky had all opted out of ABMB for one reason or another. Boesky, who was roaming the aisles at both NADA and Basel, said that she hadn’t even applied this year. “I’ve been told I’ll never get back in, but who can tell?” she added. Rivington Arms had also jumped ship, though only because owners Mirabelle Marden and Melissa Bent had decided to close the gallery. Fairs abhor a vacuum, however, and the smart Young Turks at Wallspace quickly filled the gallery’s spot in Art Positions.
Left: Wallspace Gallery's Janine Foeller with artist Martha Friedman. Right: Art Basel directors Annette Schönholzer and Marc Spiegler.
After all the status jockeying was complete, there were still the objects to contend with. An Alexander Calder jewelry booth at PaceWildenstein raised a few eyebrows. At David Zwirner, Alice Neel portraits and an Elizabeth Peyton made for a sweet, makeshift triptych, while at Hotel Gallery, a set of collaborative paintings between Michael Bauer and designer Peter Saville ruled the roost.
“Sex and death will carry us through any crisis,” quipped Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, eyeing her booth’s sepulchral Vanessa Beecroft nude sculpture and a Stephen Sprouse painting of a man on a cross. I noted that the HAPPY sign blinking on and off seemed incongruous. “If sales are down, tomorrow we’ll put up an Aurel Schmidt drawing that says IT’S OVER.”
So what is the purpose of an art fair in the current market? “Walking in to install on the first day, I felt like a roadie for an old, irrelevant rock star,” I heard a dealer complain. But the fair is also a congregation, a place to powwow. Dealer Brent Sikkema, who from all appearances has fared pretty well in recent years, had a more buoyant attitude. “If we’re not going to be making money, at least we can do it in an interesting way,” he laughed.
At Harris Lieberman’s handsome booth, wallpapered with a mesh coating by Evan Holloway, I talked to co-owner Jesse Washburne-Harris about the market. “Let’s put it this way,” she said, in between bites of her La Sandwicherie sandwich. “Normally, I don’t have a chance to sit and eat lunch. Granted, it’s 5 PM, but still.”
Left: Dealers Michael Lieberman and Jessie Washburne-Harris. Right: Faye Dunaway.
Galleries seemed to be managing to make back costs, and perhaps a bit more, but few people I spoke to were buying. Faye Dunaway, who is working on financing her first feature film, was on a strict budget. This was her second Miami fair, and when I initially spotted her she seemed at home amid the Yves Kleins and Picassos at Galerie Gmurzynska’s cozy beige stall. Later, at Gagosian, she sidled up to me.
“Jackie,” she said tersely, pointing to a compact blue canvas.
“Who did this?”
“Warhol,” I responded.
“Is it a photograph?”
I told her I thought it was a silk screen.
“Hmm . . . Nice shot.”
Nearly every celebrity has a dealer to guide them through the fair: On Wednesday, a giggly Naomi Campbell was tethered to Tony Shafrazi; on Thursday, Jay-Z and Beyoncé took a tour with the formidable Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. (At the sight of Beyoncé, one friend began to sing, “If you liked it then you shoulda put a red dot on it.”)
Left: Collector Adam Lindemann with 303 Gallery's Lisa Spellman. Right: Dealers Michael Jenkins and Brent Sikkema.
Later Wednesday evening at the Raleigh, it was déjà vu as Deitch Projects again flaunted its hipster muscle; this year, the gallery finagled a bigger act for the hotel’s soigné backyard than fair organizers did for the annual Art Loves Music concert on the beach (French electro favorite Yelle), securing the Gossip, boisterous Portland, Oregon–based fag-rock extraordinaires, to put on a show for the gallery’s eclectic clique of artists, curators, and in-town billionaires. Edyth Broad popped in her earplugs as Eli rocked out at a table in the back. A meticulously decorated Rachel Zoe danced front and center with hotelier André Balazs, peering up in awe at voluptuous Gossip front woman Beth Ditto, who was sporting a patchwork dress made by members of the opening drag act, the Kingpins. It wasn’t long before a crowd, Deitch included, clambered onstage.
But no matter how much fun you’re having, there’s always that nagging feeling that somewhere, out there in the palmy, breezy night, someone is having more fun. Even Ditto, our woman of the hour, wasn’t immune. “So,” she cajoled the crowd, “can any of you rich people get me into the Grace Jones party?”
“WHATEVER TIME THEY TELL YOU to be somewhere, add an hour,” warned an expat friend on my arrival last Friday in Mexico City. That was a conservative estimate. No matter when I reached any of the pre–Art Basel Miami Beach cocktails, lunches, and dinners and gallery, museum, and private-collection previews that Kurimanzutto Gallery had organized to toast its new home in San Miguel Chapultepec, it was always the right time.
For this perpetual latecomer, that was a bonus, though I still missed the Mexican-style Thanksgiving dinner that Jumex fruit-juice scion and art collector Eugenio López cohosted at his Polanco penthouse on Thursday. “We even had turkey!” exclaimed Museo de Arte Moderno board president Lupe (Guadalupe) Articas de Rayos-Cardenas, when she climbed into the silver Chevy Suburban that the Jumex Foundation had supplied for my visit. We were driving south from López’s art-filled apartment to another dinner for the Kurimanzutto contingent at the glass-walled home of Taco Inn owners Monica and Cesar Cervantes––enthusiastic collectors of contemporary art, from the look of it.
Works by Kurimanzutto artists Gabriel Orozco, Abraham Cruzvillegas, and Damián Ortega were prominent, of course, but the first familiar face I saw among those from Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Paris, and London at the buffet table in the garden belonged to New Museum curator Richard Flood. Los Angeles dealer Shaun Caley Regen popped out of the dark, as did curator Francesco Bonami, UCLA art school dean Russell Ferguson, and Ferguson’s wife, Karin Hegel, the director of the Japanese-American National Museum.
In fact, an impressive number of dealers, artists, art advisers, collectors, and museum staff—local and foreign—had gathered in this vast metropolis to acknowledge what José Kuri and Monica Manzutto have accomplished in the nine years their sometimes-itinerant gallery has been in business. Passing by the taco table, I bumped into Rirkrit Tiravanija, another Kurimanzutto artist, and another cohost, MUCA (University Museum of Arts and Science) curator Patrick Charpenel, who had organized Kurimanzutto artist Fernando Ortega’s first solo museum show, which opened that day. Charpenel was the only actual host I saw there––López and fellow collectors Isabel and Agustin Coppel were the other names at the top of the invitation, which called for dinner at the unheard-of hour of 7:45 PM. We got there at 10—exactly right for acclimating to the scene.
In short order, I met Museo Amparo director Roberto Gavaldón and Tate Modern curator Jessica Morgan, the organizer of “An Unruly History of the Readymade,” which culled from the eighteen hundred contemporary works in the Jumex Collection, the largest private art holding in Latin America. Standing nearby were the raven-haired Hilario Galguera, whose gallery Damien Hirst has given a shot in the arm since becoming a part-time resident in Mexico, and American Embassy arts attaché Bertha Cea, who is making do with a recession-size budget for bringing American artists to Mexico.
Yet the global economic crisis has actually not affected the Mexican art world so much. While the country has always been depressed, its collectors and artists seem in better shape than ever before. Both López and communications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú are building new art museums in town, and there was no shortage of local fat cats at this or any other party I attended over the weekend. Still, Kuri told me that having a gallery in an art-world outer ring like Mexico City means doing business mostly abroad. “We work with a lot of museums,” he said. “One of us is always traveling for the artists we represent.”
Left: Collector Eugenio Lopez Alonso. Right: The New Museum's Eungie Joo and dealer Shaun Caley Regen.
This time, the art world had come to them. Partly because it was on the way to Miami, but mainly due to Kuri and Manzutto’s good will. Such benevolence was obvious the next morning, when their exhibition, ironically titled “Market Economy,” attracted a few hundred guests to brunch in the sun-dappled garden of the new gallery, a former lumberyard converted by architect Alberto Kalach. From the rafters of the large, open exhibition space, Cruzvillegas had strung a daisy chain of small coconuts (representing the heads of 450 innocents slain in drug wars), snaking it around thirty industrial aluminum shelving units on which artists including Miguel Calderón, Monika Sosnowska, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Carlos Amorales had installed objects reflective of their work or sensibilities. (Each unit, with shelves by three artists, was priced at sixty thousand dollars.)
The gallery organized the weekend like professional party planners––stunning in the land of mañana, mañana––arranging hotels, transportation, and sightseeing, but gave the afternoon over to individual pleasures. Mine came early that day, when I joined curator Benjamin Weil, Berlin gallerist Esther Schipper, Los Angeles architect Kulapat Yantrasast, and Jumex’s Victor Zamudio-Taylor for what we all agreed was one of the most transformative experiences of our lives: a visit to Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s house, a sanctuary of the most refined domestic modernism imaginable. Then, with art adviser Curt Marcus, expat American artist James Brown, and his wife, Alexandra (whose Carpe Diem artist-book press is based in Oaxaca), I made the gallery rounds, crawling through a door cut into the metal gates of Petra Gallery, getting a preview of a show by collagist Raul Ortega Ayala at the magnificent El Eco, designed by Barragán associate and painter Mathias Goeritz, and finally, at Galguera’s two-story town house, discovering Benjamin Torres, a terrific young artist who cuts and pastes up magazines (including an entire run of Interview from 1992) into colorful new pop objects.
But the main event was yet to come: the nearly $150,000 dinner and three-DJ dance party Kurimanzutto hosted for three hundred at the sixteenth-century downtown home of the Museum of Mexico City. Guests sat themselves at tables placed in an interior hall four stories high, and were served a four-course meal catered by Contramar, the best seafood restaurant in Mexico City and an art-world clubhouse. At dinner, I met Rodrigo Peñafiel, of the water-bottling family. Paloma Porraz Fraser, director of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso Museum, called him her Robin Hood. A dynamo of a promoter who rounds up corporate sponsorship for cash-starved Mexican museums, Peñafiel also just opened an instantly fashionable nightclub, Leonor, and has a plan to turn every big commercial-business owner in Mexico into a part-time cultural philanthropist.
I left before 2 AM, but others kept going until daylight at Leonor’s or López’s digs. Surprisingly, some still appeared bright-eyed the next morning for Morgan’s open house at the Jumex Collection, located about an hour’s drive from town on the grounds of the juice factory. In Duchampian spirit, Morgan had installed one hundred works by Duchamp, Warhol, Elmgreen & Dragset, Jack Pierson, Francis Alÿs, Jimmie Durham, Urs Fischer, Daniel Guzmán, John Cage, Cildo Meireles, and Marepe within the yellow boundary lines of the actual factory, equating juice crates with art-shipping crates and galleries with production. It was great to find hand-tooled art within a factory setting, but it will be better for artists and artgoers when López makes the collection more accessible to the public.
Collectors Ramiro and Gabriela Garza gave the farewell dinner at their Beverly Hills–like manse, proudly displaying work by Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool—all acquired at the top of the market, no fooling. Art advisers loped between tables as if looking for prey, while nimble-footed collectors like ceramics king José Noé Suro kept his conversations with artists like Orozco going full force. “This will be the last year for Art Basel in Miami,” I heard someone say. An American primary-market collector who canceled her trip didn’t disagree. “I'm glad the frenzy is over,” she said. “I’m only buying art I like from galleries now, so I have time to go home and think about it.” In the austere new year ahead, that sort of thing could move destination galleries like Kurimanzutto right to the center of the earth.
WHEN LONDON does public-transportation chaos, boy does she pull out all the stops. My Tuesday-evening tour of a handful of London’s top galleries was an obstacle course of stumbling blocks and banana skins. But such is life in the city.
Surmounting transport challenges at last, my first stop was Saint James’s, where Hurvin Anderson’s new exhibition at Thomas Dane was enjoying a mellow and respectable attendance. The wainscoted entrance to the gallery is accessible via a narrow staircase that is passable only by one very thin human being at a time. Once inside, I was pleased to discover that I didn’t need to use elbows or a swinging handbag to view the work. While gallery director François Chantala was effusive, Anderson wore the amiable patina of opening-night shell shock. There were rumors of an appearance by the elusive Peter Doig, but by the time my chariot beckoned, he was still nowhere to be seen.
Next on the map was Fitzrovia, where I dropped by a group show at Modern Art organized by French curator Alexis Vaillant, before taking in Miquel Barceló’s strangely beautiful paintings of cephalopods at Pilar Corrias. Again, the turnout was on the quiet side. There was so much to be seen on one night that art enthusiasts were spread like a thin film of butter across the length and breadth of central London. It seemed no gallery was getting a body more than its fair share of the people pie.
Left: Elena Eustafiera, Wallpaper editor Tony Chambers, 032c editor Jörg Koch, and artist Thomas Demand. Right: Artists Louise Wilson and Deklan Kilfeather.
Over at Sadie Coles, Glasgow’s Modern Institute was opening Richard Hughes’s “One Man’s Struggle to Take It Easy,” while London’s eastern quadrant offered an exhibition of John Kørner’s haunting abstract paintings of Danish soldiers at Victoria Miro. Due west, Lisson proffered exhibitions by Giulio Paolini and Fernando Ortega. Reports confirmed a certain unexplained lassitude. Was it Frieze Fatigue’s stubborn grip on the capital or British winter hibernation?
My final destination was Sprüth Magers for arguably the evening’s timeliest and most eagerly anticipated opening: Thomas Demand’s “Presidency,” featuring documentation of a replica of the White House Oval Office he made at the invitation of the New York Times. Fabricated from cardboard, paper, and a carpet made of confetti, Demand produced five photographs of the US president’s “mock office” before, as is his habit, destroying the model. The opening was one of the busiest of the evening, and Demand was duly entertained afterward with dinner around the corner at the discreetly tucked-away 17 Berkeley Street. (It’s so good, apparently, that they didn’t have to name it at all.) The guest list was laden with Tate heavyweights, including curators Mark Godfrey, Stuart Comer, and Jessica Morgan.
Left: Artist Durvin Anderson and Thomas Dane Gallery's François Chantala. Right: Sprüth Magers director Andreas Gegner, Sotheby Institute's Anthony Downey, and filmmaker Ben Lewis.
Artists Mark Wallinger and Jane Wilson were there, as was filmmaker Ben Lewis, who happily (and shamelessly) plugged his own endeavors. According to Lewis, his upcoming film Brave New Art World, which “examines the burst in the speculative art-world bubble,” is being thwarted at every turn. “I was banned from the Frieze Fair and Sotheby’s Hirst auction! Can you believe it?” Maybe someone should tell him that vociferous harbingers of doom are about as welcome these days as Sarah Palin in hunting regalia.
After a brief champagne reception, we sat down for dinner, where I found myself at the center of a trinity of amusing dinner companions. Sitting opposite Tate Modern’s Comer, I was flanked by über-cheerful collector Bayard Ficht on the right and Anthony Downey of Sotheby’s Institute on the left. Conversations ranged from the finer points of “Sophisticated Lowbrow” and the Irish Dr. Downey’s personal model for success. Well, it was the table at the back, after all, and we weren’t claiming to find a cure for cancer. When mouths weren’t full of the succulent roast lamb with creamy piped potatoes or the rich and gooey chocolate dessert, guests sang the praises of both Demand and the Sprüth Magers gang. Blessedly, there were no formal speeches or other nap-inducing nonsense—just an elegantly thrown dinner party for a gang of friends and well-wishers that did what it said on the tin.