19 November, 2010

19 Nov - Roxy Paine at James Cohan Gallery

LAUNCHPROJECTS - The first time I experienced Roxy Paine's work was in 2003 when I was volunteering as a docent at SITE Santa Fe. His solo exhibition Second Nature featured computer-driven automated art making machines as well as his hand made mushrooms, poppies, and poison ivy. Smart and elegant, I immediately responded to his work at to this day it remains among my favorite SITE Santa Fe exhibitions (including Juan Munoz, Janine Antoni, Gary Simons, and the group show
Uneasy Space curated by former SITE curator Norah Kabat Dolan).

Paine's latest project at James Cohan Gallery, Distillation is in Paine's words (from a New York Times Review by Hillary M. Sheets) "a meditation on seeking purity, the pure essence of something, but at the same time the piece is very impure...It also relates to the way I’ve always thought about my process. How ideas come in coarse and ferment in the brain, and eventually are distilled out of that brew. It’s a map of the way humans constantly flit between different frames of mind and fields of knowledge.”

Also included in the show is an elaborate mushroom installation and drawings, paintings, and a maquette of the Distillation installation. A gorgeous and thoughtful exhibition - Roxy Paine (who incidentally attended the College of Santa Fe) continues to grow and expand his original lexicon that straddles the lines of art making and automation, beauty and industry, perfection and rupture.

Pictured: Roxy Paine in front of a mushroom installation at SITE Santa Fe, Distillation 2010.

17 November, 2010

17 Nov - Steve Martin "An Object of Beauty"

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I acquired a preview copy of An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's latest novel that focuses on the New York contemporary art world. An avid contemporary art collector (he sold Steve Wynn the Roy Lichtenstein that just sold at auction for $43MM), Martin clearly has the inside scoop on the Manhattan art scene. He describes uptown, Chelsea, SoHo, the art market and all of the inner workings of auctions, dealing, and art intrigue. It is a fluffy and fictionalized version of Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World with sex, scandal, and intrigue thrown in to constitute a plot.

Throughout the novel, Martin lists every restaurant, hotel, bar, and gallery in which the art glitterati dwell. Ben and I laughed as characters had cocktails at Boulud, partied at the Carlisle Hotel, and flitted to Chelsea for openings at Gagosian, 303, and Andrea Rosen. By page 200 the novel started feeling more like a Zagat guide to the Upper East Side than an actual work of fiction - the next time friends request the NYC art experience we will earmark pages from Object of Beauty for a perfect week of extravagant meals, elegant settings, and posh eye candy.

The book is unquestionably a fun read. Martin's access is real and he provides an astute assessment of both the pre- and post- 911 art scene in Manhattan. The book is also tedious and the characters are better described as caricatures. The "heroine" of the story uses her golden hair, sharp wit, and easy sexuality to climb her way to the top of the art world, burning the "nice guy," the "sexy French collector," "the struggling SoHo artist," and the "strong, silent detective" to get what she wants and never look back. Surely Martin could have come up with less predictable stereotypes and a more interesting story line to weave into his insight and experience in the art world. This book made me want to write my own tale of the scandalous and fascinating world of contemporary art... pure fiction, of course.

Images: In an art conversation at The Getty, Object of Beauty, with former partner Cindy Sherman

16 November, 2010

16 November - Bruce Nauman at Sperone Westwater

LAUNCHPROJECTS - While in New York we attended a private reception at Sperone Westwater for the latest Bruce Nauman exhibition For Children/For Beginners. The brand new Bowery space is a 25 by 100 footprint that includes 12 by 20 foot “moving gallery” - a very large elevator - approved as an "amusement ride" by the city of New York. The space is chic and a bit daunting to behold and the clean white interior worked well for Nauman’s site-specific audio and video installations.
Nauman’s installations enveloped the gallery, a projection of his hands filled the massive front wall with his voice calling out commands for his fingers to follow. I loved that it was his voice this time that commanded the room and his movements. The moving gallery was comprised three precarious (yet surprisingly comfortable) stools with only an elevator operator and the sounds of Terry Allen following Nauman’s instructions to play on the piano. The dynamic cacophony moved us slowly to the third floor where a clean white room held an audio installation of voices repeating over and over For the Children.
Nauman’s work perpetually poses challenges, creates tension, and heightens awareness through disorientation, frustration, awe, confusion, anger, and humor. The new Sperone Westwater exhibition space engages audiences in a similar manner. We found ourselves uncomfortably laughing at the opening as we heard voices and saw glimpses of people moving throughout the space, yet bodies and voices disappeared as we arrived to each floor to meet them. The gallery unquestionably boasts a white-cube Nauman/Hitchcockian mystique yet inherent in its design is a sense of isolation and frustration – even the staff has to have a surveillance camera base operator to find one-another throughout the day.
Fitting that the space dedicated to Nauman’s ongoing explorations dealt with the same limitations of space, comfort, and possibility; but it begs the question how other artists – painters, for instance – might manage such a maze of levels, heights, and vertiginous spaces.
Pictured: The gallery from the street; In the elevator with Juliet Myers, the installation from the second floor balcony

15 November, 2010

15 Nov - Christies, Sotheby's, and Phillips

LAUNCHPROJECTS - We returned last night from New York where we attended auctions, Bruce Nauman's opening at the new Sperone Westwater Gallery, met with clients, gallerists, and saw many great exhibitions and works of art. All three auctions were exciting and indicated that the market is truly in recovery mode, the three auction houses combined came to the sum of $632 million, almost triple the $216 million a year ago.
Phillips de Pury was the first of the three auctions and made the most stunning increase in sales over it's results last year, increasing its total nearly 20-fold to $137 million total. The stunner of the auction was a black and white painting of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol fetching $63.4 million, the second-highest price ever for a Warhol at auction.
At Christies, Roy Lichtenstein’s 1964 painting of a pouting redhead sold for an artist record $42.6 million - it seemed as though as buyers stuck predominantly with 1960s pop art. The evening was excruciating long (two hours, 75-lots), yet 93 percent of lots found buyers. At Sotheby's, a Warhol painting of a Coca- Cola bottle sold for $35.4 million yesterday, making the artist the star of New York’s contemporary art auctions across the board. As art advisor Mary Hoeveler told Lindsay Pollock reporting for Bloomberg, “Warhol has been the driver of the postwar- and contemporary-art market since the decline...The appetite at the very top seems insatiable. You can name your price.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of this week's auction was that much of the success of Phillips de Pury's auction can be attributed to collector and private dealer Philippe Segalot who curated “Carte Blanche,’’ a smaller section of the Phillips evening sale. Segalot stocked the sale with names he champions and lined up bidders in exchange for a cut of the buyer’s fees. With the success of the joint venture it seems likely that there will be more "curated" auctions in the future. Auction catalogs already look like exhibition catalogs with critical essays and art historical references - this new approach promises to further blur the boundaries of the gallery, museum, and auction worlds.
Pictured Above: Roy Lichtenstein's record busting "Ohhh...Alright..." at Christie's from seller Steve Wynn, Tobias Meyer with Warhol Coke bottle at Sotheby's press preview. © Photo: Lindsay Pollock