Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Art Set: Rule Britannia!

The scene inside McKim, Mead and White's magnificent James Farley Post Office for Tate Americas Foundation Artists Dinner.
The Art Set: Rule Britannia!
Charlie Scheips

Last week certainly was the apex of this season’s contemporary art events here in New York. This time it had a decidedly New York/London spirit. There was the inspiring source of the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture, which was London in the 1970s. There was the fantastic Frieze Art Fair (now in its second year) at Randall’s Island, the satellite creation of the London magazine and art fair that bears the same name. And then, there were the masses of artists, museum professionals and collectors that pack the triennial fundraising dinner thrown for the Tate Americas Foundation, which supports the acquisition of art from the “new world” for one of the UK’s most important and dynamic institutions — The Tate.

Detail of Tracey Emin's Roman Standard.
I just returned from a month in England so perhaps I felt the British vibe more this year. And Tracey Emin, one of Britain’s best known contemporary artist installed a sculpture, entitled Roman Standard on view all summer at Petrosino Square at Spring and Lafayette Street in Soho as an adjunct to her two-gallery show at the Lehmann Maupin galleries on 26th in Chelsea and on Christie Street in the Bowery. 

While I don’t know if he has any interest whatever in contemporary art, we also have Prince Harry in town this week.

I began my early evening on the way to the Tate dinner at the Collective.1 Design Fair at Pier 57 at 15th Street in Chelsea. I loved this show with some of the world’s best dealers of modern and contemporary furniture and decorative arts including many prominent New York dealers such asTodd Merrill, Christina Grajales, Maison Gerard, and J. Lohmann.

I was especially amused at Renaud Vuaillat’s 21st Twenty first Gallery with Hubert le Gall’s “Lapin Calin” (Hugging Bunny) chair. Private art dealer Kelly Padden took me to the design fair and as we were leaving the design fair I managed to snap an amazing photo of downtown New York that seemed to be floating atop a cloud.
Charlie Scheips sitting in Hubert le Gall's "Lapin Calin" at the Collective.1 Design Fair.
Downtown New York from Pier 57.
Kelly and I then traveled a few block over to David Zwirner’s gallery to see the much-anticipated Jeff Koons show of new works.

Although there was still ten minutes before the show’s official opening it seemed liked they were running against time to finish installing the exhibition — cardboard sheets were still protecting the gallery’s floor, and forklifts appeared to be still zipping about at fever pace. I even spotted a preparator meticulously at work putting signage on the wall of the gallery’s entrance.
A preparator still installing signage at the David Zwirner/Jeff Koons show.
Kelly and I decided to forgo waiting to be let in to see Koons and so strolled over to take in Steven Kasher’s opening for English photographer Miles Aldridge’s I Only Want You To Love Me exhibition of Technicolor-bright photographs. We ran into Miles as the opening got underway as well as fashion and celebrity photographer Roxanne Lowit.  
Steve Kasher, Miles Aldridge, and Roxanne Lowit.
Miles Aldridge's I Only Want You To Love Me show at Steven Kasher.
About a half an hour later, we returned to Zwirner only to find that the Koons show had still had not opened! A gallery assistant invited us in for a drink at the far end of the huge Zwirner complex to await word when the galleries would finally open. Word came around 7:15 that one of the galleries had finally opened and once outside we saw that there were already hundreds of people queuing to get in. 

With all the talk about the competing Koons shows at both Zwirner and Gagosian, I wondered what the back-story of all this really was about. Who knows?  I haven’t seen either show properly yet so have to plan another trip. 
The crowds and security outside David Zwirner gallery waiting for the Koons show to open.
Doors open at Koons show.
After a quick tour of one gallery of Koons, I jumped in a taxi to head up to the Tate Americas Foundation dinner.  This year’s dinner and after party was held in the main sorting room of McKim, Mead and White’s magnificent James Farley Post Office which is currently transitioning to incorporate Amtrak’s new Moynihan Station. 
Tate Americas Foundation Artists Dinner Invitation and The After Party Invitation.
This is the third dinner they have thrown (every three years) masterfully pulled off each time by the Foundation’s director Richard Hamilton and Head of Development  Virginia Cowles Schroth — and once again aided and abetted by the brilliant Melissa Feldman’s MF Productions and the PR savvy of the art world’s Fitz & Co.

While that work to transform the post office is taking place, the sorting room has become a party venue — and a fabulously novel and versatile one at that!
The entrance to the Tate Americas Foundation Dinner at the Farley Post Office.
In 1987, the late Sir Edwin and Lady Gretchen Manton created an endowment to acquire art from the Americas for the Tate collection.  A year later Sir Nicholas Serota became the director of the Tate and began the amazing transformation of the institution that continues to expand to this day. There are now four buildings that comprise “the Tate” — two in London, one in Liverpool and one in the Cornish town of St. Ives.

Building on the visionary generosity of the Mantons, in 1999, what was at first called the American Friends of the Tate — and now the Tate Americas Foundation — was founded and has since raised over $100 million dollars in cash and art donations. Art historian John Richardson recently gave his 1973 Andy Warhol portrait to the Tate that is among dozens of works donated during the past year by prominent artists from both North and South America. 

I arrived just as the cocktail party was just getting started. Almost the first person I encountered was Sir Nicholas Serota as celebrities and art world luminaries passed by the red carpet. 
Jeanne Donovan Fisher and Nicholas Serota. Jack Cowart and Dorothy Lichtenstein.
Amy Phelan, Kira Flanzraich, Pamela Joyner, Estrellita Brodsky, and Christen Wilson.
I had nice chats with Alex Katz and his wife and muse Ada, Aspen’s Baldwin Gallery founder Richard Edwards, Hearst’s Michael Clinton (Glenda Bailey and Harper’s Bazaar were one of the evening’s big sponsors), Pace’s Douglas Baxter, the Tate’s Film curator Stuart Comer, and said other hellos and spotted many good friends through the darkness of the first room which had been set up dramatically as a Disco-era style nightclub. 

Dior was a big sponsor of the evening as well and the house dressed several of the evenings most glamorous guests including: Pamela Baxter, Karen Watkins, Josephine Meckseper, Patsy Tarr, Christen Wilson, Alexa Chung, Kira Flanzraich, Kim Cutter as well as the Tate Americas Foundation Director Richard Hamilton.
Stuart Comer. Richard Hamilton and Virginia Cowles Schroth.
Tommy Tune and Jeanne Donovan Fisher. Glenn Ligon.
Once we were called into dinner, I spotted even more art world figures such as artists Marina Abramovic, Roni Horn, Glenn Ligon, Ernesto Neto and Lawrence Weiner as well as dozens of others who were there but I did not see among the packed and dimly lit room.

As usual there was a terrific host of collectors including Douglas Cramer and Hugh Bush, Frances Bowes, Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, as well as prominent dealers such as Angela Westwater and David Meitus, Arne and Milly Glimscher, Marian Goodman, David Kordansky and Jay Joplin. One of my favorite photographers Jason Schmidt was there as well as Martha Stewart shining brightly in all white in the darkened room as did Anne Hathaway (newly blond) and Sarah Jessica Parker who was also an honorary chair for the evening.  
Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman. Angela Westwater and Nicholas Serota.
Michaela de Pury, Simon de Pury, and Marina Abramovic.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Anne Hathaway. Tiqui Atencio and Demirdjian and Lisa Dennison.
Glenda Bailey. Francisco Costa. Martha Stewart.
Pamela Joyner and Sarah Jessica Parker. Milly and Arne Glimcher.
Alex and Ada Katz. Alexandre Arrechea.
I sat next to the delightful Bertha González Nieves who had provided a special bar for her tasty Casa Dragones tequila. Veuve Clicquot, another sponsor, made champagne drinking all the more palatable.

On my right was Alberto Magnan of Magnan Metz gallery, whose artist, Alexandre Arrechea, currently has his large-scale sculptures displayed in the medians of Park Avenue. Sara Fitzmaurice of Fitz & Co was nearby giving us the inside scoop as the evening evolved. 
The Casa Dragones tequila bar.
The packed dinner for the Tate Americas Foundation.
Dinner guests and the arriving couple hundred of after-party guests mingled as the dancing and partying began in the nightclub. There something very civilized about only throwing a fundraising dinner every three years — I look forward to the next one in 2016. 

This year’s dinner and after party raised over $2 million including $520,000 coaxed out from dinner guest’s purses and wallets that night by celebrated auctioneer Simon de Pury. My notes from  the 2010 Tate dinner tells me they raised over $800,000 that year — that’s a big jump — Bravo!
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