Friday, March 7, 2014

The Art Set: Show Business

Charlie reflected in a Michelangelo Pistoletto piece at The Armory Show.
The Art Set: Show Business
by Charlie Scheips

I have to confess that sometimes I wonder if “art” has become antiquated when compared with mass entertainment’s ability to communicate with wide audiences. Thanks to Apple TV, for the first time in years, I saw almost every film nominated for the Academy Awards before watching the ceremony on Sunday night.

I found out about Steve McQueen several years ago when London art dealer Alison Jacques took me to an opening at Tanya Bonakdar’s gallery in Chelsea. He was considered an “artist” then and not a “movie director.” Of course, in old Hollywood, they would have made him change his name but the other “movie star” Steve McQueen born in 1930 is probably not even known to the current audiences for Hollywood movies. Shades of Ozymandias (please look it up if you don’t get my reference).
Steve McQueen, Portrait as an escapologist (2006)
The other Steve McQueen.
Nevertheless, art is just as much “show business” as the movies. And millions get spent on hype producing and distributing it — which more coarsely means selling it! But this year's latest crop of movies seemed like TV movies to me.

The “art world” sometimes seems today to me, sadly, like reality TV too. I faced this week of contemporary art with a bit of dread. Why should I go out in the frigid cold — and for what? But, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.” (Google Swing Time if you don’t get it).

Anyone in New York this weekend can get the best sense of what is going on in contemporary art in various ways. If you are a novice, don’t go to the Whitney Biennial first — it’s a hard slog. I would start first, this weekend, at The Armory Show at the piers on the West Side. Then go to the Whitney that is on view until the end of May.
Participatory art at the Whitney Biennial.
I went to see the Whitney Biennial on Tuesday afternoon for the press preview. I love the Whitney Museum — and the whole museum family. But I am not the only one that regrets that they are leaving their Marcel Breuer home for downtown next year. They also chose to invite three curators not associated with the Museum to curate their last Biennial before the move. I don’t know Anthony Elms (associate curator of the ICA in Philadelphia) or Michelle Grabner (an artist, writer, curator educator based in Chicago) but I am a long-time pal of Stuart Comer who has just come back to America as MOMA’s chief curator of media and performance after a long time working in that same world for the Tate in London.
Mamie Tinkler, Michelle Grabner, Adam Weinberg, Elizabeth Sherman, Anthony Elms,and Martha Joseph at VIP Reception for Whitney 2014 Biennial Reception.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t HATE this Biennial. But I am sad that the Whitney as an institution didn’t do there own “last uptown” biennial that put their own personal stamp on it. Leaving such a thing to “outside” consultants seems so “office space” to me. But let's continue ... they all did a provocative job that I haven’t fathomed yet.

Every one in the art media was traipsing around the floors of the Whitney. I ran into Tony Korner, longtime publisher of Artforum, International Art Newspaper’s Anthony Haden Guest, photography expert Elisabeth Biondi who was a longtime editor at the New Yorker until a few years ago. Each curator of the show has their own floor and its quite a mix of 103 artists from every age and medium. It seems that there is a lot of handwringing in the 21st century about what being an “American” artist is if you read the verbiage about the show.

Anyway, I didn’t fall in love with anything there but I will go back probably every few weeks and try to understand more. I just wonder if we are in a period of decline art wise. Shouldn’t some art at least aspire to some notion of beauty?
The printed page still lives at the Whitney.
I had an hour to kill so I went down the street to Match 65 and ate a delicious cheeseburger before heading over to the Art Dealers Association of America’s Art Show that is on view at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street through Sunday. This is not a show of the avant-garde but it’s so amazing. Let's call it au courant for lack of a better term.
Park Avenue Armory.
Many of the galleries at The Art Show decided (and thankfully) chose to focus on one artist or a thematic idea. When you first walk into the fair, Sperone Westwater has an amazing booth of the eccentric master of the miniature Charles LeDray. Blum & Poe features Koji Enokura while Pace Galleries shows the holograms of James Turrell. Rhona Hoffman presented a miniature museum of Sol Lewitt while Carl Solway hosted Ann Hamilton creating a whole new body of work entitled Oneveryone by inviting any visitor to pose behind an opaque scrim for a photograph.
Charles LeDray at Sperone/Westwater at The Art Show.
Koji Enokura at Blum & Poe.
Rhona Hoffman with her Sol Lewitt installation.
Sol Lewitt at Rhona Hoffman.
Ann Hamilton supervising the photo of Susan Brundridge at Carl Solway at The Art Show.
Ann Hamiltion with Paulina Kolczynska.
I was taken by Spencer Finchs imaginative Cloud Study series of works on paper with scotch tape at James Cohan. But I have to say the most striking installation is at Cheim & Reid where they have “juxtaposed” the work of Louise Bourgeois and Gaston Lachaise and published a wonderful catalogue to boot. Pace/McGill has an all Irving Penn show and Sean Kelly a one-man show of Kehinde Wiley’s gold leafed icon-like paintings. P.P.O.W. had an important survey of legendary performance artist Martha Wilson’s creative life. If you can’t tell already — I love art fair booths with one artist or a theme.
Spencer Finch’s Clouds at James Cohan at The Art Show.
Gaston Lachaise and Louise Bourgeois: A Juxtaposition at Cheim & Read.
The catalogue.
Martha Wilson in her installation at P.P.O.W at The Art Show.
Eli Broad and Joanne Heyler at The Art Show.
The next morning it was over to the West Side for The Armory Show. This is the 100th anniversary of the fabled show that this art fair’s name borrows upon. This project started in the early 1990s when the art world was flat broke. Originally money-challenged art dealers filled small rooms of the then-derelict Gramercy Park Hotel. A few years later they moved to the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington and 26th where the original “ground breaking” show opened in 1913. As the art world recovered, they moved to the piers over on the West Side. It’s a great success story and is today only rivaled by the Frieze Art Fair that will open again on Randall’s Island this coming May.
Leandro Erlich’s The Cloud—Rabbit at Sean Kelly at The Armory Show.
Richard Mosse’s It Was A Pleasure Then at Jack Shainman at The Armory Show.
Fantastic image by Saul Leiter at Howard Greenberg at The Armory Show.
Timothy Horn’s Tree of Heaven (lichen) at P.P.O.W. at The Armory Show.
Alison Jacques and Stuart Comer in Fernanda Gomes installation at The Armory Show.
Work by Fernanda Gomes at Alison Jacques at The Armory Show.
Vic Muniz’s Portrait of the Artist Surrounded by Masks after James Ensor (Pictures of Magazines 2) at Sikkema Jenkins at The Armory Show.
The best umbrella stand ever! Picasso at Vivian Horan at The Armory Show.
Mario Merz at The Armory Show.
Gaston Lachaise’s Man (Gregory Slader, Athlete) 1928 at The Armory Show. Better than the Olympics!
Caroline Taylor and Tim Malyk at the VIP room of The Armory Show.
I arrived around 1 p.m. at the Armory show and didn’t leave until nearly 8 p.m. I parked my overcoat at Pier 92 that is filled with “modern” galleries with the idea that I wouldn’t have to wait as long to retrieve it as the ultra fashionable pier 94 filled with contemporary galleries from around the world. I walked into the VIP lounge and ran into Paddle 8’s Tim Malyk and Caroline Taylor who has just organized the first American exhibition of sixty years of work by artist Wolfgang Klähn currently on view at the German Consulate through March 31.
60 Years of Wolfgang Klähn at the German Consulate General New York.
The Armory Show was speckled with all kinds of opportunities to sip on sponsor Pommery champagne’s delicious bubbly. Almost everywhere one looked there was a bottle of champagne from the various bars to the individual gallery booths. That’s another kind of “show business.”
Pommery champagne for ALL!
I had so much fun looking around the Armory show by myself. I usually go with a friend but I was much better off just looking about on my own. I overheard languages from the world over and really felt revitalized by the hard-working galleries that do so much to launch and /or propel artists’ careers. They had a special feature of art from China and it seemed topical (given the current drama in the Ukraine) that artist Jin Feng’s Socialist Leader: from Marx to Mao was on view at the New Art Group gallery. I also loved Yutaka Sone’s marble sculpture Little Manhattan at David Zwirner.

While I was looking at London’s Alison Jacques installation of Brazilian artist Fernanda Gomes I ran into Stuart Comer making the rounds while his Biennial opens to the public uptown.
Jin Feng’s Socialist Leaders: from Marx to Mao at New Art Group, The Armory Show.
Yutaka Sone’s Little Manhattan at David Zwirner at The Armory Show.
Tom Stogdon’s Manhattan at The Armory Show.
I don’t want to give you a laundry list of names — suffice it to say everyone in the art world was there. On one of my trips outside for a cigarette I ran into Ranier Judd and Madeleine Hoffmann from the Donald Judd Foundation who were waiting to get their coats with Sofia Coppola. I ran into Maynard Monroe in Palm Beach dealer Sarah Gavlak’s boothnot that I was counting but Sarah was one of the few galleries I knew that were showing artists that were also in the Whitney Biennial. In Gavlak’s case: Lisa Anne Auerbach.
Maynard Monrow at Sarah Gavlak at The Armory Show.
Maynard Monrow.
Palm Beach’s Sarah Gavlak.
Lisa Anne Auerbach’s Dark Crystal at The Armory Show.
Finally, after hours of looking and schmoozing I made it over to Pier 92 for the “Modern” portion of The Armory Show. I wish I had started there actually. So many great works of art to see and I suppose I was a bit weary after spending so much time on the other side. Achem Moeller’s booth was amazing — like a museum. The painting by Lyonel Feininger entitled Promenade (Paris) from 1908 was truly a revelation for me. Another painting, a nude by Otto Dix must be one of the most unappealing masterpieces — and I mean masterpiece! — I have ever seen. At Armand Bartos, I coveted the cast Andy Warhol soup can and so much more as I confessed to Stephanie French.
Lyonel Feininger Promenade (Paris)1908 at Moeller Fine Art at The Armory Show.
Otto Dix at Moeller—and ugly masterpiece.
Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can from 1966 at Armand Bartos at The Armory Show.
Richard Bernstein’s original illustration for the cover of Interview magazine of Marisa Berenson at Hollis Taggart at The Armory Show.
Richard Bernstein and Andy Warhol.
Duane Michals, Andy Warhol, 1972, at DC Moore.
Paul Cadmus, The Poet, 1932, at DC Moore.
But, you should just plan to spend your weekend seeing the uptown Art Show and the Westside Armory Show. Then, go afterwards to the Biennial at the Whitney and see how you feel. You might see me there to trying to figure it all (or some of it) out. Let's hope the Whitney’s magnificent Breuer building will become a fabulous destination for contemporary art when the Metropolitan Museum takes it over next year.
Women artists, gay artists, blond artists — isn’t everyone owed their due? The worst moniker is “award winning” — would you say that about Picasso?
This detail from a Tony Tasset piece served to remind me of my camera that I dropped and broke during the Show.
Amidst all this buzzing activity in New York this week, we all learned the sad news that Stanley Grinstein had died this past Sunday in Los Angeles at 86. Today is his funeral. Stanley was the co-owner, with his college friend Sydney Felsen, of the legendary printmaking studio Gemini G.E.L. founded in 1966. Over the last five decades modern master artists from Man Ray to Robert Rauschenberg to Jasper Johns and David Hockney and scores of other “blue chip” art names along with up and coming artists who are now themselves art world names? They all flocked to Gemini’s Frank Gehry’s designed studio on Melrose to make some of the most coveted limited edition prints of our era and take advantage of the casual, laid back sunny life of LA.
Clockwise from top left: Ed Ruscha, Jack Quinn, Stanley Grinstein, and Doug Christmas at Ruscha opening at Ace Gallery, Venice 1977; James Rosenquist, Stanley and Elyse Grinstein, and Antonio Homem, Mayor Gallery in Paris, 1978; Stanley Grinstein, Jack Quinn, and Jim Ganzer, 1981; Joan Quinn, Elyse and Stanley Grinstein, Chuck Arnoldi, 1982. Photos: Joan Agajanian Quinn.
Stanley, with his wife of over sixty year Elyse, made everyone a part of their extended family. When I first moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s I was the lucky beneficiary of the legendary dinners and parties they had at their art-crammed house in Brentwood. We also got to play around the world at various art fairs or major art exhibitions involving Gemini artists. Whenever there was a political candidate worth voting for or a social crisis that needed money the Grinstein’s were there to do their part editioning prints or portfolios to be sold for important causes.

When I heard the sad news about Stanley’s death I called his daughter Ayn and wife Elyse to offer my condolences. Joan Quinn sent me some fabulous archival pictures of all the fun times with the Grinsteins in the “good old day.” As I told Elyse and Ayn the other night by phone — this is my toast from the other coast.”

Cheers Stanley!