Virgil Marti at Elizabeth Dee

The Art Set
Charlie Scheips

Bohemia: Now and Then

Last Thursday night, I started my evening meeting New York-based photographer Christophe von Hohenberg at Bottino’s — the Art Set’s favorite boite since it settled in Chelsea in the middle 1990s. It's owned by Danny Emerman, whose previous restaurant Barocco was the dining mecca for the then SoHo art crowd during the 1980s. A couple years ago Bottino’s was always jam-packed during cocktail hour but Mayor Bloomberg’s smoking police have of course ruined that too.

I’ve known Chris Hohenberg for a few years mainly through mutual friends in Europe. We got together to look at a book he wants to produce of the photos he took of Andy Warhol’s funeral at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral almost 18 years ago in 1987.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since Andy died. The photos Chris took that day are now a time capsule of an almost vanished time in the New York art world. For one thing, a lot of the people are gone such as Halston, George Plimpton, Roy Lichtenstein, Leo Castelli, Fred Hughes, Holly Solomon and Henry Geldzahler. Sometime after the funeral, Chris wrote many of attendees such as Julian Schnabel, Joey Arias, Lynn Wyatt, Lou Reed, Halston, Bianca Jagger, Debbie Harry, Francesco Clemente et al to get letters of how they felt about Andy for the book. I think the book’s time has come and I hope to help Chris bring it out in the next year or so.

A page from Christophe von Hohenberg's Warhol book: Grace Jones, Henry Geldzahler, and David Hockney arriving at St. Patrick's
Afterwards, we headed down 25th Street for Cheim & Read’s exhibition of new work of Louise Bourgeois entitled The Reticent Child. By the time we arrived, the gallery was already packed with a diverse crowd of collectors, artists, and curators who came to see this amazingly protean nonagenarian’s latest efforts.

Louise Bourgeois. Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982.
Born in Paris in 1911 to a prosperous family, Bourgeois studied first in Paris at Ecole du Louvre, the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian, and the Atelier Fernand Léger. After immigrating to New York in 1938, she continued her studies at the Art Students League here. She was first heavily influenced by the Surrealists — many of whom like herself had escaped the growing threat of war and settled in New York. But by the 1960s, her work had moved away from the cerebral dreams of the surrealists to a far more personal art anchored in the memories of her family, childhood, and notions of gender and identity.

Today she is one of our most important artists, the subject of dozens of museum and gallery exhibitions throughout the world each year. The current show takes its title from the sculpture "The Reticent Child" that she created for the Freud Museum in Vienna in 2003. It also features a suite of 82 drawings entitled "Il était réticent. Mais je l'ai révélé." (He was reticent. But I have revealed him.), and an autobiographical series of cut and sewn fabric drawings inspired by the memories of the river that flowed through her garden in the house where she grew up in Antony, France. As Bourgeois has stated, "my childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama."

John Cheim and Howard Read are contemporaries of mine having first entered the art scene at Robert Miller’s gallery in the Fuller Building on 57th Street during the boom years of the 1980s. They left Miller in 1997 — first opening on 23rd Street in the space now occupied by Christophe van der Weghe. The gallery also shows the work of dozens of important artists including the late Joan Mitchell, Jack Pierson, Pat Steir, Donald Baechler, Adam Fuss, Rene Ricard, William Eggleston and Jack Pierson. The Bourgeois show remains until December 31, 2004.
From Louise Bourgeois' The Reticent Child at Cheim & Read
Virgil Marti
After seeing the Bourgeois show, we went down to Elizabeth Dee’s gallery on 20th Street for Virgil Marti’s opening. I met Virgil this past spring while he was setting up his brilliant Grow Room installation at the last Whitney Biennial. Arranged according to the configuration of James McNeal Whistler’s famous Peacock Room, it sported cast resin chandeliers in the form of blooming antlers with mirrored floor-to ceiling Mylar panels, silk-screened with macramé representations of webs spun by drugged spiders. It was really quite a spectacle if you didn’t get a chance to see it yourself.

Arriving at the gallery we spotted Virgil among the hoards of his smoking fans enjoying a puff or two outside. Informed by a wide range of art-historical and pop-cultural references, Virgil’s art is a decidedly bizarre take on installation art — Baroque and Rococo sensibilities morphed by such decorative tropes of chinoiserie and japonisme, the art of the 19th century Symbolists and moving on into 1960s psychedelic art tinged with a dash of pop science fiction. I assure you — it’s all there!

This is Marti’s first one-person show in New York thanks to Elizabeth Dee. To mark the occasion, he created a group of oversized wall sconces made from casts of shells of Russian and Egyptian tortoises that are mirrored on the inside and feature silver-plated cacti with brightly colored resin flowers lit by light bulbs. In the center of the room, a large striped candle embedded with coral gives off the scent of leather.
Marti’s Day-Glo installation
One of Marti’s resin-cast antler chandeliers
Past the main gallery, we next entered Marti’s room installation that features fluorescent flocked wallpaper with a panoramic landscape lit by black lights that was inspired by among other things, Nicolas Roeg’s great 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth as well as architect Frank Furness designs for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Over all, one gets the feeling you have walked into a very intellectual post-modern head shop. Perhaps there is still hope for humor and bohemianism in art these days.

Dee also exhibited Marti’s resin-cast antler chandeliers in the galleries offices. Fine art consultant Nancy Whyte told me she bought a lovely blue chandelier during the opening reception. We headed up the street to Sara Meltzer’s gallery for the opening of the New York-based art team Type A, (aka Adam Amesand Andrew Bordwin) Push exhibition of works on paper, photographs and video.
Dylan Cohen and Elizabeth Dee
Trevor Smith and Chris Eamon
I had to cut out early then and head down to the black-tie art auction and dinner benefiting artist Frederic Church’s Persian-style house Olana. The party turned out to be at what was until recently Los Angeles art dealer Doug Christmas’ enormous New York Ace Gallery space on Hudson Street.

Frederick Churchs Persian-style house Olana
If you didn’t’ know, Hudson, New York has been having a re-birth during the past several years as more and more New Yorkers buy week-end retreats there. I first knew about this renaissance a decade ago when my good friend the late Christopher Scott bought a dilapidated Federal row house in the center of town with money he inherited from his great friend curator and the first cultural commissioner of New York City Henry Geldzahler. In recent years, I have know slews of friends opening up businesses and restoring places there including Ashton Hawkins, Johnnie Moore, Reggie Young to name only a few. When I first visited Hudson a few years ago, the first place I wanted to see was Olana.

Perched on a high place overlooking the Hudson River, Olana is one of the great artist residences we have in the spirit of Claude Monet’s Giverny and David Hockney’s house in the Hollywood Hills from which I write this column. Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Thanks to a wealthy father, he was able to indulge in his early passion for art thanks to encouragement from the great Hartford art patron Daniel Wadsworth. Wadsworth, who’s collection form the basis for America’s first art museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum, was the son-in-law of revolutionary war artist John Trumbull as well as the preeminent patron of what we now call the Hudson River School of American painters — our first native art movement.
Before the dinner at a Night of Olana
Sara and Paul Costello
By 1848, Church had taken a studio in New York City, and was selling his pictures of New York and New England to the growing bourgeoisie of New York. In April 1853, Church and painter Cyrus Field took his first trip to South America. He would take several other trips there throughout the 1850s — as well as trips in New England and the Hudson River area stretching up to Niagara Falls. His fame as one of America’s greatest painters was secured with two paintings — Niagara, 1857 and Heart of the Andes in 1859 — on the eve of the Civil War.

After the war, Church bought farmland at Hudson, New York, and married Isabel Carnes, whom he had met during the New York City exhibition of his Heart of the Andes. After their marriage, the Churches embarked on an eighteen-month trip to Europe, North Africa, the Near East, and Greece that was to be the genesis of several important pictures and influenced the design of their home on the Hudson. After their return, Church would spend the balance of his remaining year designing and redesigning of Olana, with help from architect Calvert Vaux — partner of another Hartfordite, Frederic Law Olmstead — the creators of Central Park. By the time Church died in 1900, he was probably the most famous artist in America.

The benefit on Thursday was entitled a Night of Olana and was hosted by Oscar de la Renta. The evening began with a silent auction of over 30 works of art by artists such as Delia Brown, Will Cotton, Adam Cvijanovic, Jane Hammond, Alexis Rockman and Cynthia Rowley. Chairs Eliza Bolen, Amy Fine Collins, Daisy Hill, Jazz Johnson Merton, and Allison Sarofim greeted guests during the cocktail hour as guests placed bids on their favorites.

I got to sit at Amy Fine Collins’ table with among others, her husband Brad, Vogue’s Alexandra Kotur, Richard Turley, Alex Hitz, Tiffany’s Robert Rufino.
The silent auction (l. to r.): Hope Atherton; Bill Powers, Cynthia Rowley, Eliza Reed Bolen and Alexander Bolen.
Photographs by Patrick McMullan
Cynthia Rowley and Eliza Reed Bolen
Fabian Basabe and Annie Churchill
Ivanka Trump and Amy Fine Collins

The Art Set, ©Charlie Scheips, 2004

Previous Art Set columns -
Volume I, Number 1: In Search of the Continuous Present
Volume I, Number 2: A Tale of Two Cities
Volume I, Number 3: Julian and Julien
Volume I, Number 4: The Lobbyist
Volume I, Number 5: Hot and Cold
Volume I, Number 6: Design for Living

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October 29, 2004, Volume I, Number 7


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