Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Navigation Drawings

The scene at Sperone-Westwater Gallery for the opening exhibition of Julian Schnabel’s Navigation Drawings.
It was very warm yesterday in New York. Off came the boots and the overcoats and even the jackets. At the lunch hour on 56th and Fifth I saw a very pretty, slender young woman in a hugging short tee. Meanwhile, up in New Hampshuh, as the world now knows, Senator McCain made his comeback and trounced Mr. Romney, and Senator Hillary Clinton made her (sorta) comeback and beat (not trounced) Senator Obama. This came as quite surprise to many of the newer (younger) pundits although not so much to the seasoned observers who see the Clintons as immensely clever in their ability to control and manipulate situations.

On the international markets, Gold, the metal, reached an all-time high, inching up to the $900 per ounce level and the mortgage stocks took another bath.

Meanwhile, last night at the Sperone
-Westwater Gallery down at 415 West 13th Street, there was an opening for an exhibition of artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s Navigation Drawings.

From Julian Schnabel’s Navigation Drawings.
Gallery openings remain fascinating to observe to this non-collector, non-connoisseur. At first glance upon entering a gallery, it would seem that it’s about everything but the art, with the crowds milling about talking, looking for more conversation, drinking, most often with their backs turned from the art on the walls.

There was a big crowd — Sperone-Westwater, one of the higher profile, more prestigious galleries of the contemporary scene in New York — always draws a big crowd. It was packed, jammed in when I arrived at 7:30 (it was called for 6 – 8) Mr. Schnabel was greeting and gabbing with Al Pacino, Dick Cavett, and Ben Gazzara.

All surrounded by masses of friends and supporters looking on, waiting for their moments to congratulate the artist. Closeby were Charlie Rose, Peter Brant, artists  Jeff Koons, Tom Sachs, Ross Bleckner as well as Guggenheim chieftan Tom Krens. I didn’t see them but according to one source Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were there, as well as novelist Paul Auster, actor Mickey Rourke.

It’s a scene with costume as predictable (although the diametric opposite) as an opening night at the Met. In fact, in the last forty or fifty years, with some exceptions in detail, the overall style of dress for gallery openings (staffs, museum people and collectors notwithstanding) remains the same. Artists and their flock distinguish themselves by dressing down (and even out). Ironically, many of them are as rich as the collectors who patronize them.

Julian Schnabel at 55 has had a long and successful career as an artist but is without peer among fellow artists in that he’s also had a successful career as a film director. He has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his latest film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” He is without question one of the most celebrated artists living in New York today.
Clockwise from above: Carriacou to Bequia; Port Shepstone; South Coast of Oahu; Approaches to Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This new series, according to David Moos, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, is about the artist’s relationship to the sea and other bodies of water, of the artist’s painted strokes over nautical charts (such as: St. Vincent and the Northernpart of the Grenadines, Port Hueneme to Santa Barbara, East China Sea). Some of the abstract work nearly covers the charts completely such as East China Sea and South Coast Prickly Point  and Sushima Kaikyo. All of it looks so simple in composition that an amateur could almost believe he could have done the same himself. Except: the more you look, the more you see how far beyond your imagination and skill Schnabel transcends. It’s the broad strokes, the choice of colors, the compellingness, the nerve that speaks of certainty, artistic self-confidence and knowingness – like the knowingness of the surfer on the ultimate wave. The artist takes you with him, and you wish you could take one home.

There were a number of people there last night who have done just that. Someone told me of one collector who owns 60 Schnabels.
Julian Schnabel and Ben Gazzara
Julian Schnabel and Tom Krens
Angela Westwater and Charlie Rose
John Astinza and Randy Bourscheidt
Liliana Cavendish and Julian Schnabel
Dick Cavett and Al Pacino
Jeff Koons, Peter Brant, and Ross Bleckner
David Lieber, Tom Cashin, Susan Penzer, and Jay Johnson
Harry Stendhal
Nuni and Lorenzo Sassoli de Bianchi and Liliana Cavendish
Vincent Fremont and David Meitas

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