I SOMETIMES WONDER how the guest list for an art event would look if the host did the inviting instead of a publicist. Striking examples of each approach emerged last week during an abundantly social six days in the Frieze New York universe that saw many of the same people crossing paths every day, sometimes more than once. Their overlapping trajectories created the impression of a global high school that had suddenly shrunk to the size of a boot-strapping, high-heeled island obsessed with aesthetics and freighted by money, saved from madness by the appearance of integrity now and then.
This feast for all appetites began on Monday, May 6, with the serene preview of “Extravagant Features,” the aptly named group show that curator Clarissa Dalrymple organized for C24 Gallery in Chelsea. Next day brought many reasons to be cheerful all around town. Upper East Siders could partake of Cecily Brown’s connubial semifiguration at Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, and/or the Jewish Museum’s long-awaited Jack Goldstein retrospective on upper Fifth. In Chelsea, Cristin Tierney had a swath of Brazilian art, and Shoot the Lobster brought to light works from the combined collections of White Columns director Matthew Higgs and artist Anne Collier.
Meanwhile, on the Lower East Side, the Kitchen held its annual spring gala at Capitale, where Brian Eno was the honoree. This event, cochaired by David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, and (in absentia) Lou Reed, helped enormously to allay the half million dollars in damage that the institution suffered last fall during Hurricane Sandy. In his introductory remarks, Kitchen director Tim Griffin expressed “joy in being part of a perpetually unfinished project,” and toasted the artists and patrons who are keeping experimentation alive in a culture that more often rewards the polished and the pat.
The evening’s performances began with Michael Stipe bringing to the stage the gifted young composer and violinist Owen Pallett, who plucked, tapped, and bowed his instrument, played the piano, and also sang. “Beautiful,” said Philip Glass, seated with Stipe, Anderson, Byrne, and Cory Henry, the young and gifted jazz organist who was the next performer, and another revelation. Anderson introduced Eno with a reminiscence, written on her iPhone minutes before, of their shared experience of SoHo in the 1970s—“when downtown looked medieval,” she said, and the Kitchen was the only game in town for such artists. “I want to thank Brian,” she concluded, “for this amazing skill: how to turn problems into opportunities.”
Eno stood up to bow from a table where there was an empty seat between curator Diego Cortez and artist Philip Taaffe. “We’re holding it for David Bowie,” Cortez quipped, “in case he changes his mind and shows up.” He didn’t, but the Persuasions, the great ’60s doo-wop group, did, after Eno confessed that until he first arrived in New York, he’d never been in a place where people weren’t cynical. He certainly wasn’t. Once the Persuasions went into action, he jumped onstage with the group for a rousing, sing-along finish. “Oh, Brian’s happy now!” Anderson said. So was everyone else.
With four days still to go, Wednesday brought the most anticipated opening of the season, “Gazing Ball,” Jeff Koons’s debut with David Zwirner on West Nineteenth Street. This was theater. At start time, the doors remained closed, while a man edged a forklift through the mob on the sidewalk. An hour later, the gallery let in the swarm, to find installers still uncrating a few of Koons’s white plaster sculptures. This was work that almost no one outside of the artist’s studio had seen before. Basically, it was Neoclassical garden statuary with a deep blue reflective ball—the kind more familiar to suburban lawns—delicately poised on a shoulder or limb of each snowy figure. “It’s interesting how the orb reflects back the world,” said Whitney Museum chief curator Donna De Salvo. “It’s the smallest part of the sculptures but it makes the biggest impact.”
Reflectiveness, if not reflection, seemed the order of the day. A few blocks north, at the darkened Paul Kasmin Gallery, James Nares was showing abstract canvases brushed with white road paint visible only in headlights. Fortunately, there were enough iPhone beacons around to make the paintings pop. A bit farther uptown, Vito Schnabel welcomed an enormous crowd to “DSM-V,” the sprawling group show that writer-curator David Rimanelli named for psychiatry’s bible of mental disorders and installed within the city’s still-functioning central post office, soon to serve Amtrak as Moynihan Station. Rimanelli was in transition too. “I’m like the DSM,” he said, hiding in the last room, the show’s grandest salon. “I’m excited but I have no emotions.”
Left: Dealer Barbara Gladstone with Deborah Harry. Right: Writer and curator David Rimanelli.
On the other side of the Stanford White–designed building, the Tate Americas Foundation benefit dinner for 650 was in progress at Skylight, a former truck bay that is now a party venue. Was it possible that no one stayed home? There was Julie Mehretu at a table with Gabriel Orozco, Marian Goodman, and Jay Jopling. There was Lawrence Weiner and Jim Lambie (the afterparty’s DJ) with dealer Toby Webster and collectors Dennis and Debra Scholl. Look right and you saw Rashid Johnson and Paul McCarthy, left to catch Jim Hodges, Marilyn Minter, Charline von Heyl, and Rirkrit Tiravanija; right again to face Sarah Morris, Marina Abramović, and Andreas Gursky; left to Glenn Ligon, Damián Ortega, and Allora & Calzadilla. If anyone wanted to chart the contemporary art world today, this event alone could have supplied a number of the pins.
The head-swiveling dinner, sponsored by Dior, was also chockablock with dealers and museum chiefs, not just the Tate’s, along with a Dior-clad segment of the New York social register. During a protracted live auction, conducted by the indefatigable Simon de Pury, the most hotly contested lots were for a shopping spree with Sarah Jessica Parker and a cruise on Dakis Joannou’s Koons-camouflaged yacht, the Guilty.
This was a week that knew no shame, that’s for sure. On Thursday, as Frieze made landfall, one could leap into the stratosphere with feet still on the ground. Koons started the evening’s engines once again, this time for a painting and sculpture show at Gagosian on West Twenty-Fourth Street. It drew collectors like Agnes Gund, Tiqui Atencio, and Steve Cohen to a sensational display of the latest erotica from the artist’s Celebration series, a trio of stainless steel balloon animals whose immense proportions made “Gazing Ball” seem positively modest.
Left: Artist James Nares. Right: Collector Amy Phelan and artist Rikrit Tiravanija.
After that, the Morgan Library felt like a sea of tranquility. In its hushed environs was “Subliming Vessel,” the first museum retrospective devoted to the drawings of Matthew Barney. Guests at its opening perused the exhibition in a state of quiet wonder induced by a nonchronological, antithematic installation by the artist that forced an independent, completely fresh, assessment of every work. Vitrines contained source materials, some of them quite nasty, displayed with ancient tomes from the Morgan’s collection. “You can repackage anything,” said collector Alan Hergott. “That’s the story of art.”
Drinks were served from a bar set up before the library’s illuminated manuscripts. On hand were the exhibition’s lenders, Gladstone Gallery artists, curator Klaus Kertess, and Barney friends and collaborators. They included Aimee Mullins and Maggie Gyllenhaal, featured players in Barney’s new seven-part epic, now named River of Fundament, set to debut next February in Munich with an exhibition at the Haus der Kunst.
The openings, and the accolades, only escalated on Friday, with openings for Paul McCarthy (Hauser & Wirth), Gedi Sibony (Greene Naftali), Ugo Rondinone (Gladstone), Yoshitomo Nara (Pace), Troy Brauntuch and John Stezaker (Friedrich Petzel), and, last but so not least, Ellsworth Kelly, who was celebrating his ninetieth birthday in three Matthew Marks galleries of new paintings and a fond, tribute dinner given by the dealer.
Left: Artists Donald Moffett and Robert Gober. Right: Art historian Douglas Crimp.
Here is where the guest list made honey of the evening. Diners were artists, historians, and representatives of major museums, all with personal relationships to the artist and a consuming engagement with his art. “It’s so good tonight!” said Kelly, after the birthday song was sung. “It feels like family somehow.” Tate director Nicholas Serota then drove home the point with a moving declaration of his admiration for the artist and his attachment to Kelly’s work, calling it “perfect and indescribable.” Speaking of two Kelly prints he acquired for a song in the ’50s, he said he looked at them every morning and “They illuminate my day.”
Entering the home stretch on Saturday, Andrew Kreps opened a Christian Holstad show in his new space, Petzel’s old one on West Twenty-Second, across the street from Marianne Vitale’s show at Zach Feuer and downstairs from Arne Svenson’s and Laurel Nakadate’s, at Julie Saul and Leslie Tonkonow, respectively. Worthwhile though they are, the best was yet to come.
That was the fourth annual Friends of Artists Space dinner honoring curator and historian Douglas Crimp. It was Crimp’s 1977 “Pictures” show for Artists Space, and the October essay that followed, that gave the Pictures Generation its identity. A few of its members—Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Louise Lawler—were present, along with a number of their artist beneficiaries and associated dealers. But it wasn’t just the writer in Crimp that Gregg Bordowitz lauded in an eloquent, emotionally charged speech that welled up every eye in the room. It was the AIDS activist and visionary he articulated in words that were profoundly affecting. That’s right. I said profoundly.
“I love Douglas Crimp,” Bordowitz began. “I am who I am today because of Douglas Crimp.” After limning the various jobs the young Crimp held, from editorial assistant to cookbook writer to curator, Bordowitz got to the heart of the matter. “Doug is a person who values objects, particularly art objects,” he said, recalling Crimp’s onetime desire to “lick a Brice Marden painting.” Crimp, he said, taught him that making art could be a political engagement. “Being queer,” he said, his voice rising, “is not a form of resistance. People will kill you for it.”
“Breathing is a form of resistance.” Turning to his mentor, he loaded his guns. “Those of us who marched with you and got arrested with you and read your articles and fought back against the epidemic learned how to be activists at the same time we mourned,” he said, his voice breaking. “Douglas, you gave us our dignity. You gave us our shame too. You allowed us to own it. Douglas, you gave us our dignity.”
As he spoke, the more superficial trappings of the week dropped away to reveal the soul of an art community that had created ACT UPa movement, Andrea Rosen observed, almost unthinkable in the complacent art world we have today, where artist-citizens are a nearly extinct species. People give generously to benefits and step up when disaster strikes, but only a handful lay down their bodies for a larger cause. Bordowitz returned us to a New York where the most radical and influential artists in every creative field were disappearing before our eyes. He shattered our illusions. He brought us back to earth.
Left: Dealer Matthew Marks with writer Peter Schjeldahl. Right: Art historian Irving Sandler with art consultant Allan Schwartzman and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmar.
Left: Artist Christian Holstad with dealer Daniel Schmidt. Right: Artist Charline von Heyl.
Left: Metropolitan Museum curator Nicholas Cullinan. Right: Artist Laurel Nakadate.
Left: Dealers Liz Mulholland and Andrew Kreps. Right: Dealer Shaun Caley Regen and curator Augustin Perez Rubio.
Left: Jewish Museum curator Jens Hoffmann. Right: Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg with artist Mary Ellen Carroll.
Left: Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover and Emily King. Right: Dealer Eva Presenhuber with artists Ugo Rondinone and Oscar Murillo.
Left: Choreographer Michael Clark and artist Jennifer Allora. Right: Collector Maja Hoffmann and artist Doug Aitken.
Left: Morgan Library director William Griswold. Right: Artist Thomas Hirshhorn and art historian Hal Foster.
Left: Writer Calvin Tomkins and artist Laurie Simmons. Right: Architect Charles Renfro and collector Andy Stillpass.
Left: Dealer Monica Manzutto. Right: Artist Terry Winters with curator Hendel Teicher and MFA Houston curator Gary Tinterow.
Left: Collector Glen Fuhrman. Right: Artist Anne Collier and photographer Marco Anelli.
Left: Editor Gaëton Thomas and dealer Alex Hertling. Right: Dealer Vito Schnabel.
Left: Dealer Alex Logsdail and Artists Space curator Richard Birkett. Right: Curator Linda Norden and artist Cordy Ryman.
Left: Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal. Right: Writers Jerry Saltz and Andrea Scott.
Left: Filmmakers Sara Driver and Jim Jarmusch, writer Max Blagg, and designer Janice Huminska. Right: Artist Gedi Sibony.
Left: Metropolitan Museum chairman Daniel Brodsky with Met curator Sheena Wagstaff. Right: Artist Glenn Ligon.
Left: Curator Mark Rosenthal with dealer Aurel Scheibler and Guggenheim Foundation director Richard Armstrong. Right: Artist Jim Lambie.
Left: Artist Jim Hodges. Right: Curator Francesco Bonami with MoMA curator Laura Hoptman and Guggenheim Foundation director Richard Armstrong.
Left: Designer Riccardo Tisci and artist Olympia Scarry. Right: Musician Cory Henry.
Left: Artist Odili Donald Odita. Right: Artist James Casebere and Haus der Kunst director Okwui Enwezor.
Left: Curator Klauss Kertess with Detroit Institute of Arts curator Becky Hart. Right: Rose Art Museum director Christopher Bedford.
Left: Artists Klara Liden and Hanna Liden. Right: Artist Andreas Gursky.
Left: Restauranteurs Fergus and Margot Henderson. Right: Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick.
Left: Dealer Thaddeus Ropac. Right: Collector Robert Lehrman, art historian Nora Halpern, Hirshhorn Museum codirector Kerry Brougher, and LA MoCA co-chair David Johnson.
Left: Artist Arne Svenson. Right: Art historian Richard Shiff.
Left: Collector Peter Straus with dealer Carol Greene and collector Jill Straus. Right: Artist Marilyn Minter.
Left: Artists Eli Subrack and Thomas Dozol. Right: Collectors David Stockman and Jennifer Stockman with SF MoMA curator Gary Garrels.
Left: Menil Collection curator Toby Kamps with Dallas Museum curator Jeffrey Grove. Right: Collectors Neil and Kira Flanzraich and Dennis Scholl.