BECAUSE THE PRINCELY FIGURES in the art world are easy to identify, no one ever asks, “Who wears the crown?” Yet that was the tag line for the Jewish Museum’s February 27 Purim Ball at the Park Avenue Armory. The answer was just as clear: None needed, when the power (and the fun) is shared.
Guests were asked to wear masks, tiaras, or crowns, but most of the nearly nine hundred who paid for tickets simply let down their hair to don festive dress and jewels. “I think we’re the only ones who followed the instructions,” said artist Izhar Patkin, whose royal headgear was vintage Vivienne Westwood. Presiding over the first benefit gala of her reign as JM director, Claudia Gould chose to appear, bareheaded, in “forty-year-old Oscar de la Renta,” and somehow looked younger for the choice.
Gould leads an administrative and curatorial team determined to reclaim the radical edge that the museum maintained a half-century ago while playing to its conservative base. So Korean-born Tim Lee—one of the evening’s “honorary Jews”—is getting a show in the fall. Yet even with James Rosenquist as an honoree, art-world figures at the ball were a tiny minority in a crowd that museum deputy director Jens Hoffmann characterized as “supporters, but not necessarily art people.” As someone else put it, “This crowd is very AIG,” a nod to the event’s primary sponsor and its other honoree, AIG chief Robert Benmosche. “There are plenty of people here from HBO,” observed Laurie Simmons. As anyone who has turned on a television or read a magazine over the last year knows, Simmons and Carroll Dunham are the artist parents of Girls creator, director, and star Lena Dunham, the ball’s headlining Purimspieler.
Left: Artists Mimi Thompson and James Rosenquist. Right: Christie's Amy Capellazzo with Joanne Rosen.
The tattooed comedienne drew laughs from the top of her performance. “The thing about Jews is they don’t care who your father is,” she said, “unless he’s on the board of a New York hospital.” She interrupted what for her was a relatively restrained retelling of the Purim story, flipping the bird to the nasty Haman by calling the character “Hey, man,” and ad-libbing a cautionary plea: “If I say something offensive, please don’t fucking tweet it?”
Dunham could have been speaking directly to Christie’s Amy Cappellazzo, whose trial Google glasses attracted several male geeks awed by the sight. “They’re the future,” Cappellazzo said of the glasses, which enable a wearer to tweet, email, shoot videos and photographs, check the weather, and make phone calls all at once.
The multitaskers among us certainly had a leg up on all the openings, cocktail parties, and dinners gathering steam ahead of Armory Arts Week. Thursday offered several opportunities for social and cultural fulfillment in Chelsea alone (and more downtown, with John Gerrard’s real-time digital worlds at Simon Preston). Viewers lined up at Paul Kasmin’s West Twenty-Seventh Street space to step into Will Ryman’s full-scale replication of Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin, its gold-chromed exterior sheathing interior walls covered with golden bullets, shackles, chains, nails, telephone parts, pills, cotton, and other products of American consumer and military power. “The corn is real,” he said. So were the awed expressions on the faces around him.
Left: Dealers Vera Alemani and Carol Greene. Right: Artist Will Ryman.
At the Tenth Avenue Kasmin gallery, Corice Arman worked rooms festooned with her late husband’s paint-splashed assemblages of brushes and bicycle wheels, not seen in New York since 1992. More historical works awaited at Greene Naftali, where gallery director Vera Alemani had gathered a splendid array of kinetic art dating from 1953 to 1975 by Gianni Colombo, a contemporary of Lucio Fontana. This was his first solo show in America. First-nighters ignored a checklist dictum not to touch the work, wiggling knobs on pulsating paintings and climbing tilted black staircases that guaranteed a loss of equilibrium.
For his first exhibition with Jack Shainman, Barkley Hendricks went all out with photographs and both portrait and gold-framed landscape paintings made over the past forty years. The landscapes had a touch of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire, though Hendricks said they were actually painted on site in Jamaica. “Most people never see that mountain from this perspective,” he said.
Mark Dion’s show at Tanya Bonakdar presented a retrospective of sculpture and works on paper that included both botanical drawings and cartoony sketches that served basically as instructions for realizing the vitrines that house his various collections of objects. “I’m a very talented shopper,” he said, adding that “my work tends to revolve around things I like.” They included the skeletons of sea creatures and many trinkets embedded in tar. “Mark’s drawings really contain all the ideas behind his work,” Bonakdar said during a dinner at Moran’s that drew gallery artists Sarah Sze and Peggy Preheim, MoMA curator Doryun Chong, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts director Harry Philbrick, and Miami collector Lin Lougheed.
Friday night spread the wealth around town, with openings for shows by Wolfgang Laib at Sperone Westwater, Walter Robinson (painting, not critiquing) at Dorian Grey, Joe Zucker at Mary Boone’s Fifth Avenue space, and Virginia Overton at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. At the last, the hands-on Overton made her gallery debut with two sculptural installations: a claw-footed bathtub filled with water heated by an old electric coffeemaker, and an impressive wall of fragrant cedar planks harvested from her family’s Tennessee farm.
Then all was quiet till Sunday night, when the Art Dealers Association of America celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a cocktail party in the opulent Empire Room of the Waldorf-Astoria. After being forced to pay $4.50 to check their coats (no tipping), members were treated to a fairly lavish spread of hors d’oeuvres. New president Dorsey Waxter then introduced a film recalling the ADAA’s history. It revealed the laugh-out-loud, now-forgotten rule that once forbid dealers to enter the city’s major museums by the main entrance.
Left: Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong and dealer Arne Glimcher. Right: ADAA executive director Linda Blumberg with ADAA president, dealer Dorsey Waxter.
It also showed sobering footage of the damage that befell Chelsea galleries last fall during Hurricane Sandy, after which the ADAA stepped up to the plate with relief grants to help struggling galleries and institutions like Wallspace, Bortolami, Derek Eller, and the Printed Matter bookstore rebuild. There was also much talk of the members’ purchase on integrity, though one former president of the organization, Roland Augustine, reported that he initially met with strong resistance to his proposal that the board adopt a code of ethics. Strangely, many dealers present were unaware that it was in place.
On Monday, with the ADAA’s annual art fair looming on the horizon, the Bronx Museum of the Arts held its spring gala at Three Sixty Degrees in TriBeCa. Touted as “The Bronx in Venice”—the museum commissioned honoree Sarah Sze to represent the US at this year’s Venice Biennale—the evening also celebrated a $500,000 gift from Shelley and Donald Rubin underwriting the institution’s free admission program.
That philanthropic gesture could provide killer Armory Week with a little perspective. As Lena Dunham commented at the Purim Ball, “There’s a Haman and a Mordecai inside all of us.”
Left: Artist Fred Wilson, Bronx Museum director Holly Block, and artist Pat Steir. Right: High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani with New Museum deputy director Masimilliano Gioni.
Left: Artist Itzhar Patkin with Jewish Museum deputy director Ellen Salpeter. Right: Artist Martha Rosler with Jewish Museum deputy director and curator Jens Hoffmann.
Left: Lena Dunham at the Jewish Museum's Purim Ball. Right: MoMA curator Laura Hoptman with artist John Giorno.
Left: Dealer Paul Kasmin. Right: Dealer Victoria Miro and Siddartha Mukherjee.
Left: Alex Gartenfeld, curator at MoCA North Miami. Right: Curator Adriano Pedrosa and designer Dakota Jackson.
Left: Arlene Schechet, Lucy Sandler, Irving Sandler, and RoseLee Goldberg. Right: Dealer Augusto Arbizo.
Left: Artist Carroll Dunham and Bill Goldston. Right: Artists Dorothy Spears and Alexis Rockman.
Left: Artist Hernan Bas. Right: Dealer Frances Beatty with collector Lin Lougheed.
Left: Artists Matvey Levenstein and Lisa Yuskavage. Right: Collectors Stephanie French and Dillon Cohen.