Sunday, June 15, 2014

Frieze Art Fair NYC 2014 - Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

A fast ride up to the bridge to Randall's Island, host to the giant Frieze tent
New York abounds with art fairs converging rather frustratingly on the same long weekend - Scope, Pulse, Frieze, NADA ... plus a bunch of outlier events you read about only after they're over. It's hard for the average art freak to get to them all even when equipped with press passes and a fast folding bike.

But this year I decided to gal-up and pay the pricey $46 to attend Frieze New York, a "first tier" art fair, according to my art dealer friend. Now there are plenty of scholarly rants written about this much vaunted art spectacle, dramatically (if somewhat inconveniently) sited "offshore" on Randall's Island, New York. So here are a few things I found iPhone-worthy - remembering they never built a monument to a critic ...

A tent fit for an octomom's wedding! 
I had my first flat tire in ages, stalling my grand entrance. You NEVER find glass on the road when biking in Tokyo.

It's an easy spin on the folding bike up 1st Ave with a very civilized bridge taking you to the land of luxe for a weekend: picture a giant air-conditioned tent with very fancy pop-up bathrooms - I'm talking ornate handles and turned wood and Hollywood-lit mirrors. Not to mention some decent eats, including a $15 all-you-can-eat salad bowl full of hipster salads from hot new LES vegan place, The Fat Radish.

Oh right, the art:  I have to be honest, nothing inside this spectacular setting blew the Gallerista away.  Nothing like wandering with mouth agape at the modern art wing of the Armory Show or anytime the auction houses (Christies, Sotheby's, Phillips) are open to the rubbernecking 99%.

Visual puns, mundane metaphors, riff-offs, irony with a cap I and many efforts I shall cynically bucket as "Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should" abounded. Like this ...

"Just because you can doesn't mean you should." An apt title for this "work." 

In case you can't be bothered zooming, this is a wall-mounted table pierced by forks gently swaying in the breeze of an electric fan. Was it a eulogy to the buffet line on the Titanic, or the packed Manhattan restaurants that people had to suddenly flee, mid-forkful, when Hurricane Sandy hit? Maybe its sole function was to raise the hackles of the "my 6-year old with my electric drill could do that" faction. Here's another, I mean, really ...

A Koons/Oscar Meyer mashup?

An artist friend offered this take on my take:

I don't think your comments on the forks or weiners are out of order at all....totally justified. Both are great examples of the opposite ends of the artist who has a factory and machines and a few peeps who polish his mass produced very expensive sculptures (very little artistic input there other than a CAD operator)...and an unknown emerging conceptualist that a gallery took a chance on just for sheer neck. All a matter of taste in the end and if you are an aesthete then much of what Frieze has to offer will offend.

All right, enough of that bucket. In the "Cool idea, let me try that at home" was a set of four bicycle inner tubes pinned up in squares:

Gareth James, "" Yes, there was a 4th but it wouldn't fit in my viewfinder.

I am sure one could pen a PhD art history thesis on this about "de-inventing the wheel" and someone probably has in order to get curated through the Frieze door. Having flatted on the way here, I was already 1/4 on my way to making this a reality on my own living room wall.  And how about this, which caught my eye from across the room as only ultramarine can ...

Hayley Thompson, Digital Light Pool LXXI 2014

"Digital Light Pool LXXI 2014" was fashioned from a plastic tray from somewhere like the Container Store, then slathered with ultramarine colored paint. I confess I was drawn to it by my current obsession with the Yves Klein's IKB stamps I spotted at the Metro Show this year:

Yves Klein Going Postal ... this will set you back $25K or more. Read about it here.

In the Riff-Off bucket (which others may kindly call "homage") was a shark that channels Damien Hirst if you haven't got room for the formaldehyde-filled tank:

Shark not in formaldehyde by ... who?
"The Physical Impossibility in the Mind of Someone Living" by you-know-who
This next riff-off is really quite cool: what would happen if you put colorfield artist Morris Lewis in  a flapper dress, threw him in a blender and hit "puree?"

A flapper take on pioneering colorfield artist Morris Lewis

The real McCoy: Morris Lewis Alpha-Phi at the Met
In addition to visual irony, a lot of the spectacle of contemporary art owes itself to craft and execution -- as a canny gallerist put it, "if the art's not good, make it big and paint it black."  Call me jaded, but I earn my daily crust as an advertising copywriter - a job where you come up with these "concepts" hourly but have discard them unless you can make 'em actually sell something - so I find it all a bit "easy." Like Word Irony:

This really isn't that clever

Now in the bucket of "make it big and a s***load of effort" (think Tara Donovon - but we all love her stuff), check out this impressive needlepoint with an equally big title entitled Of what is, that is is; of what is not, that it is not 2, 2012. Everyone had their noses up pressed up against it to peer at the threadcount:
Detail of the tapestry

Goshka Macuga: Of what is, that is is; of what is not, that it is not 2, 2012

I'm assuming a computer had a digital hand in producing this massive duvet cover. Imagine if they got Andres Serrano to come along and pee on it at 15 minute intervals until it turned as yellow as Warhol's celebrity pee canvases ... 

Nick Cave's Sound Suits were eerily totemic, ritualistic and other -ic words; you could almost hear jungle drums and wailing sounds of someone being garotted by bugle beads over a boiling cauldron:

Nick Cave's Sound Suits
Detail of Nick Cave's "Sound Suits"

In lieu of his usual crowd-pleasing butterflies, spots and spin-paintings (because this is a serious, "If you have to ask the price, turn the page young man" art fair), the world's richest living artist, Damien Hirst was represented by Fear, a surgeon's shop of horrors. Noooo, not the kidney shaped dish ....

Above: Damien Hirst "Fear." I own a couple of the round bowls.
I assure you it is not at all frightening to do salad surgery in them.

(Got a thirst for more Hirst? See my Damien Hirst Spot Challenge blog - yes, I'm still wondering how on earth I convinced myself to visit 8 countries in 12 days to snag one of his screenprints).

Back to the Make it Big and ... bucket: Since it was Mother's Day, it was not surprising to see a Yoko Ono message of peace, love and understanding executed in her often-crowdsourced way - with a zillion post-it notes presumeably written by passers by:

Yoko Ono's crowdsourced Mother's Day installation

In the same bucket, here's a way to recycle a mountain of Chinese novels - make the Manhattan (or is it the Hong Kong) skyline out of them ... now what if this was done with Bibles - would the Vatican and Gideon be up in arms?

Above and below: impressive recycling of Chinese phonebooks et al at Lahmann Maupin Gallery

In the Make it Big and Barely Touch It bucket: Everyone must envy street/graphic artist Kaws, who's has gotten such fame and fortune out of simply putting a "x" sign on existing icons for eyes - that's even easier than drilling a table with 54 holes to hold forks ...

Kaws is really onto something here ... 

In the Make it Big and Irresistably Decorative bucket I'd rather have this dominating the wall of my 236 sq ft apartment, a Bridget Riley-Hallmark-gift-bow mashup ... 

Philippe Decrauzet: Untitled, 2014. Bridget Riley-Hallmark-gift-bow mashup .

And now for the Good Old Fashioned Art bucket: midst all the art-robatics, I found myself strangely drawn to comparatively "ordinary" painting and sculpture, like this George Condo:

George Condo - Tan Orgy Composition 2005

and this restfully pleasing example of Thomas Kiesewetter channeling Picasso (don't they all) ...

Above and below: Thomas Kiesewetter channeling Picasso via at 360 Mal Vorn Gallery 

... and how about this comforting collage by Jens Fange (with an umlaut):

Jens Fange: The New Order, 2014

... or some pleasant abstracts even if they co-channel Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Kaz Malevich for your kitchen backsplash ...

Above and below: Alain Biltereyst, Untitled (come on Alain, sell it as feature tiles to IKEA and you'll be rrrrrich ...)

But I too am a sucker for certain visual art-robatics. One of my fave abstract artists Jeff Elrod has a knack for doing cool things with doodles and lately, putting 'em over bokeh backgrounds:

Jeff Elro: #InterZone 2013
Jeff Elrod: Twilight, 2000.
I've liked Elrod ever since spotting this ultramarine number at an auction ... and wishing it was mine!
I'm pretty sure if I hung that in my 236 sq ft studio it would make it look a whole lot bigger ... and maybe marginally cheaper than moving in 1%-or-you're homeless Manhattan ...

See you at the next art fair!

A few more shots (but not many) on Chelsea Gallerista's Facebook Page (go ahead and Like it of you want - it's a lot more up to date than this blog)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pop-Ups, Property Promos and Pocket Paintings: New collaborations toride out the recession

Mixed media artist Rodney Durso, founder of Artbridge

Last week I found myself in a couple of small, personal Chelsea art events that signal the alternative ways art is being "done" these days - largely due to the economy.

The traditional way: An established gallery in a prime location which is never open Sundays, and in fact, shuts promptly at 6pm weekdays, thus winnowing out the artless tire kickers. Staff, of whom you see only the very top of their heads behind the high reception desk, basically ignore you if you wander in without an appointment, because they are busy dealing in cyberspace ... unless you're an art target of course.

The new way: slap up, pop up, art up. Let's look at three different "recession suppression" happenings I stumbled on in the same week:

Rodney Durso and Blair Bradshaw: Together Again Press Release

Blair Bradshaw flanked by "Burr" and "Hamilton"

Rodney Durso (NY) and Blair Bradshaw (SF) showed their work in a small pop-up space on 526 West 26th St orchestrated by Reaves Gallery.

As I understood it, Sharon Reaves, the gallery director, recently moved from San Francisco and is making her New York debut in this flexible and low-key manner: renting a space in an existing space. It makes sense - like a pop-up window on a website, you're invited in to step inside and click around, until the window closes. Next time, a different space, a different artist, a different gallery. But if someone liked the art, connection has been made; the popped-up space is now irrelevant. Especially the internet is a 24/7 zero-rent gallery space.

Rodney Durso is a mixed-media artist who mashes up the things he clearly loves - architecture, design, politics, graphics, intense color, community.  I met him while scarfing tiny little cookies at Three Tarts, the Oprah-favorited micro-desserterie he co-owns with his sister, Marla. We found we had a mutual background in advertising, and friended each other before there was this thing called Facebook.

A series of ArtBridge canvases beautifying the scaffolding in front of thevenerable London Terrace, Chelsea, NYC

Rodney also founded ArtBridge, a sustainable art innovation in itself: it commissions artists to do their darndest on otherwise uninspiring scaffolding, thus transforming the streetscape into an overhead, tree-level gallery. When it's time for the art to come down, it's made into sturdy and chic tote bags which are sold at Three Tarts among other places from around $32 and up. And who couldn't do with another sturdy, chic tote bag?

Detail of Blair Bradshaw's "Untitled (Hamilton)"
Now over to Blair: ever thought what fun lives artists must have, those who do the whimsical full-page magazine illustrations for articles about monkeys or oil spills or anti-depressants?  Blair Bradshaw is one of those lucky peeps, a graphic artist with creds including New Scientist, the NYT and Absolut Vodka. We all postured over his diptych depicting a speed-dying version of the Burr-Hamilton Duel. From Wiki:

Hamilton did fire his weapon intentionally, and he fired first. But he aimed to miss Burr, sending his ball into the tree above and behind Burr's location. In so doing, he did not withhold his shot, but he did waste it, thereby honoring his pre-duel pledge. Meanwhile, Burr, who did not know about the pledge, did know that a projectile from Hamilton's gun had whizzed past him and crashed into the tree to his rear. According to the principles of the code duello, Burr was perfectly justified in taking deadly aim at Hamilton and firing to kill....

The panel features strips of stained wood neatly stamped with the death dates of both men, respectively. No, the wood was not from the tree above and behind Burr's location, but we all pretended it was ...

Art, furniture, real estate, action! 
Open house showing of a renovated studio with art exhibition
(Photo from

Staging an apartment to show it in its best light isn't new. But having an art exhibition with the gallery director,  interior designer and real estate agent all present and lubed with wine and crackers is a perfect example of a modern day real estate marketing mashup.

The apartment:  a $399K studio in the "post-war" Victoria building on East 14th Street.

The estate agent:  Renee Fishman for Halstead Property, was apparently awarded Rookie of the Year in her industry for her imaginative approaches to real estate marketing using social media - no doubt like this, and with her professionally shot video tours. The willowy Renee's commentary rolls off her tongue like melted butter on a piping hot scone that I devoured even though I'm not in the market right now for a new cave.

The interior designer: Stephen Alessi, whose name immediately evokes those amoebic stainless steel accoutrements from the famous design house on Manhattan metrosexual's wedding list.  He did a great job "on a tiny budget", showing what a difference a nice thick cream rug and a pair of Japanese-inspired curtains can do.

The gallery director:  Jessica Porter, of the enigmatically named RAANDESK.  She selected several art works for the apartment, with several benefits:

1. You get to see art as it might look in your own modest living room.
2. The apartment looks sharp, with any tattered Jim Morrison posters no doubt rolled out of sight in the broom cupboard
3. You get to know about another great gallery in Chelsea: Raandesk.

Seeing the three pros in one place gave the visitor plenty to do - admire the could-be-mine home, pick the interior designer's brains for the latest trends and file him away for a future project, and gaze upon some fresh new art that wasn't a series of lame, framed art gallery exhibition posters with the artist-date-time-location on the bottom.

And so,  from affordable caves (well, relatively) to affordable art (since this is Chelsea Gallerista):

Raandesk's selling point is its focus on affordable art - from $100-$5000. It even has a special section called Art2Gift - works under $500. You can actually select art from the site based on price range and other categories, like buying a rainjacket from Even more amazingly, you can click a button to "make an offer" on several works.

Jessica is clearly thinking ahead, getting young art lovers into collecting and starting a lifelong and potentially profitable relationship with them. She's also opening things up for that people who might never have thought they could afford an original. Though I have zero room for art (as I lamented last post), I found myself again, seriously contemplating becoming the owner of not one but two works on the wall behind the carefully staged and plumped sofa. Someone hold me down!

Thanks to Marie Wiltz for introducing me to Renee and Raandesk.


Fragments by Ellen Shire - a perfect little pocket painting, at just 16cm x16 cm (just over 6" x 6") 

I mention these two artists in this post because I stumbled across their tiny little artworks quite by chance - a real recession suppression idea.

Ian Mack, who I met at the aforementioned Reaves show, is famous for his giant bold color field abstracts, but he also creates "emergency art".  Priced at around $100 each (update: now $50 as of 2014), they're tiny paintings about the size of a credit card.

"It's art to carry on your wallet," he says. "When you need an emergency art fix, just reach for you wallet [without emptying it]."

As you can see he's even doing little easels for them. None are shown on his site - you can try emailing him about his next showing.

Update: as of 2014 I'm the proud owner of this Ian Mack miniature

My "MiniMack" is a substitute for my favorite painting of his, "Big Lift," now in some lucky beach bungalow in Florida I hear... 

Big Lift, my favorite Ian Mack of all time 

I also stumbled across Ellen Shire, who divides her time between New York and France, some years ago at Chelsea Open Studios. She had this one tiny little painting - actually a paper mache collage that I wish I'd bought back then, because now, she can't seem to find it. She's produced some marvellous, wonderfully textural little works for somewhere around the $100 mark.

And wandering past Leo Kesting Gallery in the Meatpacking, I noticed the walls covered with tiny little paintings and constructions, some just over the size of coasters. I have no idea if they are for sale or if they're part of the interior decor, but they screamed "take me home in your pocket!"

I see a great market for art to wear, have and to hold, at a price more people can afford to have lots of.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

If you can beat 'em, join 'em: Banksy's Street Residency in New York

Beware of the cheap wine - and don't forget to look at the art 
For those of you chasing around after Banksy's latest meticulously orchestrated stunt, his month long "New York street residency/scavenger hunt,"  the artist's Oct 18 edition is smack in the backyard of ChelseaGallerista, on W24th St at 10th Ave.  Typically, it pokes fun at someone, in this case the gallery scene itself.  Read/listen to Banksy's own cliff notes on W24th
You touch de art, I break your face - but perhaps you would like me to take a photo for you? 
Under the Highline, on a pebble-strewn private lot, are two paintings hanging in an impromptu "gallery space" that are apparently collaborations with Brazilian street art twins, Os Gemeos (you might have trouble reading Portuguese so just Google image them). Adorning an 80-foot wall of PS1 on 21st St  is one of the twins' signature pants-yanked-up-to-the-armpits big yellow men - itself a collaboration with another established street artist, Futura2000.

The audio narrative for this work on Banksy's site promises all the things you expect to find at a gallery opening - a bench to sit on and admire the work, a water cooler of cheap wine for ignoring the work, and paintings "so painterly you can actually see them."

Banksy apparently paid the phalanx of security guards to do their signature security guard thang, and in NYC that means being big, black and intimidating, in that order. However, he appears to have given one of them a witty script with which to address the crowds politely pushing against the yellow "CAUTION" tape - and who appeared to be the most handsome. It wouldn't surprise me if he was a paid waiter. I mean, actor.

You get five minutes then you're gonna move back behind the tape, OK?
"If you get split up from your friends and family, remember these are not the gates to heaven - you will see them again," boomed the Laurence Fishburne-act-alike.

A friend told me one of the security guards was being exuberantly and uncharacteristically obliging asking patrons if they wanted their picture taken in front of the paintings - again, you can only imagine this was meticulously scripted by Mr Laconic Ironic himself ...

There's an online ruckus about jealous street artists defacing Banksy's work even before the spray dries. As some people say, it's par for the course. The only reason why someone hasn't defaced the Mona Lisa is because it's protected by a 100 foot chasm right in front of it - last I saw it. I think Banksy probably expects and welcomes the interaction. Anything that creates a commotion spells commerce.

I'll have a video of the guard's witty script reading ready soon, so watch this space. Meanwhile, retrace my steps today here ...

The approach to the site includes a sure-to-vanish piece of yesteryear  - a 35-year old car wash 
The two paintings hung on the "gallery" walls of the highline
Note the water cooler of cheap wine. Apparently someone tasted it and it "wasn't good." 
Do you have repose? asks the wall.

That might have been the friendly picture-taking guard but he wasn't in character when I took the shot. 

The waiting throng. Apparently Banksy funded the bench, water cooler, gates, security guards and truckload of stones underfoot.
Everyone patiently waiting for their 5 minute brush with fame
Photos with oneself smiling on front of art are utterly lame so therefore must be executed.

The crowd swells - the show ends at midnight tonight. 
They needn't have worried - 5 minutes enables everyone to get close. 

The car wash to the left, an odd relic amongst the exploding starchitecture  and generification of West Chelsea. 

Ho hum.  

Street art abounds in this area, though much if it is somewhat polite and accessible, like this mural across the road. 
On the opposite corner is the Shvo/Kasmin GettyStation - a sheep station (get it?).  Don't try and steal the sheep, big security guards abound here too, and besides, they weigh a ton - and so do the bronze sheep. 

Another view of the Highline and starchitecture flanking the Banksy show.

"Well look at that, Merl ..." [Insert way better Gary Larson line here]
Just had to show you another shot of that REAL turf. Someone was seen mowing it the other day... 
35 years and counting

Another shot of that classic sign. No artsy irony here.  Strangely refreshing, isn't it? 
A nearby gallery naturally is on its toes ... 

Banksy - the man of the moment!