Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The biggest ticket in town

Rooftop activity. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Bright, sunny late winter’s day in New York.

Last night at the Park Avenue Armory
was the Preview Evening benefiting the Henry Street Settlement of the 23rd Annual Art Show which opens to the public today at noon, and runs through this Sunday coming.

The biggest ticket (don’t know the price but assume it was four figures) started arriving at 5:30. By 7:30 when I arrived (press ticket), there were hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand – the Park Avenue Armory is vast – milling about taking in the creative splendor.

This is the beginning of Art Week in New York. MoMA has something tonight. The Armory Show opens tomorrow at Piers 92 and 94 with booths of more than 200 galleries, as well as Gallery Shows all over town. People are arriving from all over the world this week. Before it is over, tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in contemporary art will have changed hands here in New York.
Looking across the entrance corridor to the aisles of galleries at last night's Preview benefit of the AADA Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory
I went last night with my friend, Mr. Art Set, Charlie Scheips, who always has something interesting to point out, and someone interesting whom he knows. The place was filled with collectors, dealers and New Yorkers interested in the scene (and being a part of it). The silver trays bearing flutes of champagne were omnipresent from the entrance on in. The canapé tables were in steady supply of irresistible bits to gnosh on (elegantly of course).

And the art ... was just fabulous. Fabulous to be surrounded by, if nothing else. All kinds of beautiful pieces, pictures, sculptures. The Newhouse Gallery, for example, had a small bronze Rodin head of Balzac that obviously was the preparation of the master’s epochal portrait of the master storyteller that stands godlike just inside from the garden at MoMA. I didn’t ask the price, agreeing with Pierpont Morgan who famously said if you have to ask you can’t afford it. Someone will and can.
Upon entering -- across the way -- an exhibition of Alice Neel portraits.
Evenings like this now provoke a frequent comment from those attending: things are getting better. There are two explanations other than the obvious (people like to collect). One is that those who can afford to are looking for places to put their money and Art is one of those places (especially Contemporary Art — although someone told me last night that Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are both buying Old Masters these days).

Another explanation is that people (who can afford it) are feeling more optimistic about the state of the economy and spending once again. Whatever the reason, the excitement last night was palpable and frankly, its own kind of palliative — a pleasure to be around (even for this “poor” writer). Everything is enhanced in this kind of atmosphere including even the art itself.

There were big spenders there last night also. I know of one well known collector who moved through the aisles with alacrity and made a number of big ticket acquisitions.
Liz Peek and Adam Weinberg. Jay Diamond and Alexandra Lebenthal who are celebrating their 20th anniversary of wedded bliss today.
Craig Starr, Beth DeWoody, and George Farias. Colette.
Meanwhile, if you want spend an afternoon in a wonderful place, out of the rain and the the wind and into a cornucopia of the creative mind and spirit, for twenty bucks – get yourself over to the Park Avenue Armory. Bring a date or a mate or a friend. You can get also refresh your appetite and thirst as well from time to time, and otherwise spend a few hours taking in the sheer treasure trove beautifully presented. The dealers are in a good mood too, which will make your visit even more a pleasure.

Jill Krementz is covering this Art Fair for NYSD, so you’ll get to see more tomorrow.
Amy Morken.
Afterwards Charlie and I walked up the avenue to the apartment of Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels where Fernanda’s daughter, also Fernanda (Gilligan) was hosting a pre-Armory Show cocktail party for a few score friends. The Kellogg/Henckel apartment is one of those human scale grand apartments that went up in New York in the late 1920s and early 1930s along Park Avenue that have kept its classic elegance. It’s fun to attend a cocktail party in such surroundings, bright and spacious in a way that puts a guest at ease.

The crowd was mainly 20- and 30-something. Fernanda Gilligan has been living in London for the past couple of years and is developing a profession in the art world. Last night at the party, she exhibited four works by a young artist by the name of Amy Morken. I first saw one of them on the invitation Fernanda sent out. Morken’s figures grab your eye with the color and human shapes as if in a Cirque de Soleil. But then they become quietly startling. You might even turn away. Or not.

The artist is married to a Mr. Flynn with whom she has a son, and lives here in New York. She has a modest, polite, almost self-effacing manner in conversation. But her art has its opposite. She is intriguing like her art, and her humor.
Departing the cocktail, we went around the corner to ... where else ... at nine pm, hungry and no reservation ... but Swifty’s. Swifty’s was packed too. In the back room there was a birthday dinner being given by Eva Mohr for her husband Stanley. There were two tables of guests including some familiar faces – Bob and Barbara Taylor Bradford, Ellen and Chuck Scarborough, Pat Kluge, Dick Morris; Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford and Regis Francis Xavier Philbin and his Joy. At a table nearby Gale Hayman and Dr. Richard Bockman were entertaining friends, including Christy Ferer and Shirley Lord Rosenthal, as were Jim and Zibby Tozer at another table, and David and Lisa Schiff and Cynthia Boardman at another; and at another Bunty and Tom Armstrong. It was one of those nights where there were cross conversations of tables in what is basically a small, cozy room; one of those moments where the metropolis seems like a small town.
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