Uptown/Downtown

New York
12.17.07

Left: Blonde Redhead performs at the Guggenheim. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Ryan McGinley. (Photo: David Velasco)


Last Thursday’s Young Collectors Council Artist’s Ball at the Guggenheim brought uptown a low-life tableau appropriate to its guest of honor, the photographer Ryan McGinley. Plausibly candid yet staged, intoxicated, and headlined by the artist of the evening’s favorite band, Blonde Redhead, McGinley’s Guggenheim takeover sported nearly as many flashbulbs and cameramen as people willing to pose for them.

The museum’s press reps had promised heavyweight lens fodder, and some even made it: indie-music darling Feist, Piper Perabo, Leelee Sobieski, and, nailing the New York zeitgeist, Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively. (Some of the more outlandish camera bait—Michael Stipe! Mary-Kate Olsen! Joshua Jackson!—did not.) In lieu of the consortium of art stars (glimpses of Jeff Koons, Jack Pierson, Adam McEwen, and Slater Bradley; brief introductions to Rita Ackermann and Whitney Biennial curator Shamim Momin), I made do with the company of a few McGinley models, on hand to gawk at their own outré cameos.

“Might get a nosebleed up here,” joked Host Committee member Aaron Bondaroff, sweating it out above Fourteenth Street. A few feet away hung Kai Regan’s photograph Everyone Loves Aaron, on auction to support the museum. As for McGinley’s posse, artists Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, Donald Cumming and Wade Oates from McGinley’s other favorite band, the Virgins, and half of the remaining Bowery set were present—and often pictured as well. I asked Cumming whether he felt honored. “That’s Wade,” he said instead, pointing at a projection of a McGinley photograph of a dick protruding through unbuttoned jeans. “But seriously, I’m very proud of my friend,” he added, meaning McGinley.

Left: Artist Slater Bradley with the New York Times's Jennifer Pastore. Right: Leelee Sobieski. (Photos: David Velasco)


The momentary ascendance of the LES was a point of pride for McGinley—“Downtown comes uptown!” he affably noted, on message, once cornered. The Guggenheim wasn’t unprepared for the invasion. Protective carpeting covered the floor. Security kept a stoic eye trained on those stray Richard Princes hung low enough to be mistaken for party favors. Not only Regan but Bradley, Agathe Snow, Carter Mull, Spencer Sweeney, Marc Swanson, Ryan McGinness, Carol Bove, and Aïda Ruilova had all donated their work for silent auction—a cavalcade of young artists stepping up to remind their elders that the youth movement in New York only begins, and doesn’t end, with McGinley.

As if in fond parody of McGinley’s own photographs, most basked in the scene’s hedonism and engaged in some innocently bad behavior—even if it never devolved into true debauchery. Blonde Redhead took the stage after an introduction from McGinley, doomed by circumstance to merely play sound track to the revelry. Their solution? Hazy, smeared, and unprepossessing shoegaze, but loud: a classic downtown riposte to uptown bad manners.

As for the “young collectors,” one could only wonder who was in it for longer than the duration of the evening. Flirting with the affluent young—in this case, socialites and their hedge-fund boyfriends—with an eye toward cultivating future trustees is an age-old museum tradition. But it’s hard not to feel put off by such transparent speculation. Still, the scene was irresistible, especially with McGinley, one of the more significant artists New York has turned out in the past decade, as the draw. Certainly, McGinley’s friends seemed unruffled by the peacocking. In a team effort, the circulating vodka-shot trays were tapped out, then the champagne. By the evening’s end, Bondaroff—again in the role of his downtown alter ego, A-Ron—had commandeered a microphone to salute the man of the hour. Sensing the clock ticking, he added: “We only have five minutes left to make it happen.”

Zach Baron

Left: Aaron Bondaroff with the Guggenheim's Bronwyn Keenan. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Nate Lowman. (Photo: David Velasco)


Left: Gossip Girl's Blake Lively, Ryan McGinley, and actress Piper Perabo. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Jack Pierson. (Photo: David Velasco)


Left: Genevieve Jones. Right: Stella Schnabel and Arden Wohl. (Photos: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan)