L. to r.: Georgia O’Keeffe's City Night, 1926, Oil on canvas (Gift of the Regis Corporation, Mr. and Mrs. W. John Driscoll, the Beim Foundation, the Larsen Fund, and by public subscription); David Hockney's DeLongpre Avenue, Hollywood, 1976, crayon.

The Art Set
Charlie Scheips

A Tale of Two Cities

The newest splash this season took place last Friday night at Perry Rubenstein’s new gallery on 23rd Street in Chelsea right off 10th Avenue. Perry has been on the scene for the past two decades starting first as a collector after earning a chunk of change modeling for the likes of the late fashion designer (and insatiable art collector) Gianni Versace. Male models made that kind of money then? Nevertheless, as a famous artist reminded me years ago — all collectors are potential dealers.

Perry opened his first gallery on Prince Street in 1990 when Soho was the contemporary art nexus of the city. He opened just as the booming late 1980’s art market explosion was rapidly about to bust. He closed the gallery three years later but never disappeared from the scene. Instead, as many other dealers did during those fragile years of the art economy, he chose to work privately — and it seems, lucratively — re-selling blue chip post-war art.

Rubenstein’s new gallery is actually two galleries designed by architect James Harb. The main gallery saw the debut of South African born artist Robin Rhode’s installation of photography, video and wall drawings; while around the corner on 24th Street Elaine Sturtevant’s 1990 homage to Andy Warhol’s flower paintings are on view.

Rubenstein is married to art world publicist Sara Fitzmaurice, whose Fitz & Co agency counts both the Art/Basel and Art/Basel/Miami art fairs as clients. Perry’s partner in the gallery is Sylvia Chivaratanond, a former curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and a contributing curator for the Arsenale installation at the last Venice Biennale in 2003. See the big spread on the gallery by Judd Tully in this month's Art & Auction.

Invitation for Robin Rhode's exhibition
Invitation for Elaine Sturtevant's exhibition
Matt Saunders paintings inspired by film director Rainer Fassbinder's Martha at Grimm/Rosenfeld in Munich
Perry Rubenstein, Larry Gagosian, and Steve Martin
CAN Resources-designed Lure Fishbar
The opening was a mob scene both inside and on the street. I went over with Adrian Rosenfeld, formerly of Matthew Marks, who opened Grimm/Rosenfeld gallery in Münich last year. Adrian, and Andreas Grimm are currently showing Matt Saunders paintings inspired by film director Rainer Fassbinder's color-saturated banquet scene from Martha. After brief chats with Abigail Asher and the Judd Foundation’s Madeleine Hoffmann, we headed around the corner to take in the Sturtevant’s Warhol tribute, stopping by Barbara Gladstone’s opening for Miroslaw Balka. Warhol Foundation President Joel Wachs introduced me to Magnus von Plessen who will have a show at Gladstone's next spring. Also stopped by Oliver Kamm’s 5BE gallery for Cannon Hudson painting show before the rain started to pour and we jumped in a taxi headed downtown.

To celebrate the opening of his gallery, Perry invited a couple hundred friends, artists, curators, collectors, and colleagues to mark the occasion. The dinner was at the spanking new Lure Fishbar underneath the Prada’s Rem Koolhaus-designed store at the corner of Prince and Mercer. Although we thought we’d be the first one’s there, actor and collector Steve Martin and Larry Gagosian were already entertaining a table of friends in the dining room while the rest of us bellied-up to the bar.

After a heavy cocktail hour, we were treated to a delicious three courses that I am told is representative of chef Josh Capon’s cuisine. The location’s previous incarnation was Canteen, whose retro-mod décor did little to disguise the claustrophobia of that basement space. The new restaurant is a remarkable transformation. It is designed in the spirit of an ocean-going yacht with a handsome palette of navy blue, white and teak — and the faux skylights throughout do much to alleviate the sense of entrapment I felt in the room’s previous guise. It was designed by CAN Resource’s Derek Sanders and Serge Becker — and backed by the John McDonald and Josh Pickard — the same team that brought us Lever House last year.

Sabinah Odumosu and Robin Rhode

Featured artist Robin Rhode and his wife Sabinah Odumosu were joined by other artists from the Rubenstein stable including Amir Zaki, Andrew Guenther, Piero Golia, Maike Abetz & Oliver Drescher, Jesper Just, Lina Bertucci, as well as Australian–born artist Tracey Moffatt. There were scores of collectors including and Chicago’s Lewis & Susan Manilow, Connie Caplan, Glenn Fuhrman, David and Danielle Ganek, Daniel and Margaret Loeb, Michael and Ninah Lynne, Joe and Arlene McHugh, Frank and Nina Moore, and Allison and Neil Rubler.

The curatorial set was represented by Dan Cameron, Thelma Golden, Douglas Fogle, Lisa Dennison Laura Hoptman, Yvonne Force Villareal, Mark Coetzee, Christian Rattemeyer, Lydia Yee, Sophie Perrier, Yukie Kamiya, Christine Kim, Clara Kim, Olukemi Ilesanmi, and Tumelo Mosaka. Art merchants of all stripes were a strong contingent as well including David Zwirner, Mary Boone, Kazuhito Yoshii, Darlene Lutz, Thea Westreich, Tony Shafrazi, Christophe Van de Weghe, Cristina Grajales, Adam Sheffer, Alberto Mugrabi, Andrew Fabricant and Laura Paulson.

But the word wouldn’t get out the same way without the press,
so Perry had a speckling of that crowd around the room including Brook Mason, Josh Baer, Adrian Dannatt, Daniel Kunitz, Judd Tully, James Reginato, Mary Barone, Edward Leffingwell, Anne Stringfield, Phoebe Hoban, Tim Griffin, A.M. Homes, Andrea Scott, Amanda Sharp and Charles LaBelle. The party was a smash — and fun too.

Above, l. to r.: Andrew Guenther, Perry Rubenstein, and Jesper Just; Andrew Fabricant and Kazuhito Yoshii; Sara Fitzmaurice with daughter Raffaella. Below, l. to r.: Yvonne Force; Tony Shafrazi and Sylvia Chivaratanond; Mary Boone and Michael Lynne.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, a celebration of a different sort is happening. Soon after Rubenstein closed his gallery in 1993, Blum & Poe gallery opened in a Santa Monica gallery complex on Broadway Boulevard.
I first met Tim Blum in 1990 while I was still living in Los Angeles and organizing the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Fair that took place at the downtown LA Convention Center. Tim had heard that the London-based company I worked for, Andry Montgomery, was starting to entertain notions of a contemporary art fair in Tokyo and wanted to make our acquaintance before he moved to Japan.

A few month’s later, I flew over to Tokyo for two weeks to re-evaluate the logic of a Tokyo fair. The dealers there were not convinced they needed such an animal and I didn't want a disaster in Tokyo to affect the strong gains we had made with the LA fair.

As it happened, I ended up on the plane with an odd assortment of friends heading there for one reason or another. James Grauerholz, who worked closely with writer William Burroughs, was on the plane accompanied by Timothy and Barbara Leary on their way to open a temporary William Burroughs Nightclub. Also on the plane was Dale Chihuly on his way to install a group of his glass sculptures in a Buddhist temple. It was a quite a crew to travel around Tokyo with. Tim had mastered speaking Japanese and I soon enlisted him as my ad hoc translator in my meetings with the Tokyo art establishment.

The Tokyo art and club scene was expanding exponentially and Tim had arrived just at the right moment when the art scene and the Japanese economy were in overdrive. My headquarters for that visit was the glamorous Okura Hotel — designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, father of MOMA architect Yoshio Taniguchi.

In the end, we decided to cancel the Tokyo art fair but Tim and I remained friends. For the next four years, he shuttled back and forth between Tokyo and Los Angeles and managed to meet and subsequently, champion a group of young Japanese artists, which included Murakami and Nara — two of the most collected contemporary artists today.

In 1994, Tim Blum opened a gallery with Jeff Poe in Santa Monica and it quickly became one of the most talked about galleries on the West Coast, and later, the world. Last year, they moved the gallery to more centrally located La Cienega Boulevard — heralding a new shift in the geography of the Los Angeles art scene. Actually that’s where the LA art scene began 40 years ago when Irving Blum (no relation) was showing Andy Warhol’s soup cans a few blocks up the street. The gallery, an existing industrial building, was re-imagined by Esher Gunwardena, best known for the restoration of John Lautner’s famous Chemosphere house in the Hollywood Hills now owned by Angelika Taschen.

Above: Jeff Poe and Tim Blum on the rooftop of the Blum & Poe gallery on La Cienega.
Right: Blum & Poe gallery spaces.
Sam Durant, Boys Throw Objects at British Forces, Belfast, 1976, 2004
Sam Durant's Rock Installation

The gallery had four artists in the most recent Whitney Biennial: Sam Durant (the gallery’s artist currently on view for their 10th anniversary exhibition), Sharon Lockhart, Slater Bradley, and Dave Muller. Dave is one of my favorite artists — his installation at the Whitney, “That Hollywood Adage: be nice to the people on the way up because they are the same people on the way down,” was one of the best pieces in the show.

The middle section of Dave Muller's “That Hollywood Adage: be nice to the people on the way up because they are the same people on the way down.”
He’s also mined more out of his LP collection than one would think possible as a “platform for autobiographical introspection.” Muller is the next exhibition at Blum & Poe opening on October 23rd.
Blum & Poe gallery on La Cienega
Perry Rubenstein's new gallery on 23rd and 10th
Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art founder Joe Shapiro with Charlie Scheips at Art Expo in 1984
Two galleries in two very different cities: One with a history and another just beginning. The thing that binds them is their commitment to showing the art of today with all the risks and benefits that go with the territory. Great art dealers do more than simply transact sales. They help incubate, and then send into the world, the art of their time. When the late founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Joseph Shapiro was asked by his mother if you could make a living in the art world he replied, “no mother, from this I make a life.”

The Art Set, ©Charlie Scheips, 2004

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September 24, 2004, Volume I, Number 2


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com