Thursday, May 28, 2015

May madness in the art world

On May 1st, the new Whitney Museum of American Art opened to the public with lines of curious museum goers, mostly positive press and some much needed spring sunshine!  Since that day almost four weeks ago, I have been non-stop art.  After being out of commission from a recent knee surgery, there was lots of catching up to do.  Fortunately with a Block Museum Board retreat in NYC and Frieze Week in New York, this was easy to do.


With the Block Museum board group, we were privileged to some very special and unique art world experiences including a private tour of the Whitney along with a personal welcome from the museum Director Adam Weinberg.  We also visited the home and studio in Chelsea of the late artist Louise Bourgeois, who died five years ago in 2010.  I was honored to engage with Louise while I worked at her gallery Cheim & Read.  I also lived across the street from her on West 20th Street for several years.  Her narrow town house has remained practically untouched since the day she died and the building next door is being renovated to house the Bourgeois estate's Easton Foundation.  The Easton Foundation will serve as a work and study center for graduate students and currently exhibits some of Louise's work and archives.  In the rear garden space is one of her famous Spider sculptures, an image often repeated in her work.
The room at the front of Louise Bourgeois' home in New York
Photo cred: Nicholas Calcott, UK Telegraph
Photo cred: Nicholas Calcott, UK Telegraph

Image result for louise Bourgeois spiders

After a delicious lunch at the Standard Grill, we visited a few galleries in Chelsea.  My favorite show was a two part exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery of Hank Willis Thomas, titled Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915-2015. We were fortunate to have Hank along with us to give us an intimate walk through of the exhibition -- all 100 works.


We also went to Cheim & Read where we viewed some rare works that they have by Louise Bourgeois, as well as Bill Jensen's show Transgressions. Unfortunately both the Jensen and Thomas shows are now closed but I highly recommend seeing Chantal Joffe's beautiful show Night Self-Portraits of pregnant women, which is currently on view at Cheim & Read.

Bill Jensen

Day two of our Board retreat was primarily focused on sculpture. We started off at Madison Square Park to view the spectacular installation by artist Teresita Fernández of mirror-polished discs that create canopies over the park's winding walk ways.  The works will be installed through the winter of 2016 and a walk through Madison Square Park at 23rd and Madison is well worth your while.  

While in the neighborhood you can dine at one of my new favorite spots, the Italian eatery Marta on 28th Street, or grab a drink in the chic Library Bar at the NoMad Hotel on Broadway & 28th Street.  For a quick bite, try the farm-to-counter Dig Inn with it's fresh ingredients at reasonable prices.

From MSP we headed out to Queens to the Mark DiSuvero Studio where we were given the opportunity to see many of his sculptures installed both indoors and outside, as well as works in progress in the vast studio.  Three of his studio assistants work in the space also so they spoke to us about their work and careers.

My favorite was Christopher Yockey, who is mid-career multi-medium artist.  I love his prints as well as his sculptures.
Chris Yockey
From the massive DiSuvero studio on the East River over-looking Manhattan, we walked to Socrates Sculpture Park where five enormous sculptures were being installed by five different artists for their opening on May 17th.  Agnes Denes' Living Pyramid spans 30 feet at its four-sided base.  Socrates Park is one of New York's hidden gems and serves the local community 365 days of the year. 

Another short walk took us to the Noguchi Museum featuring the work and mission of the world famous sculptor, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).  The Japanese American was heavily influenced by an exhibition he saw in 1926 by Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi.   In building the museum, Noguchi was a pioneer who led the transition of the Long Island City area into the vibrant arts district that it is today. Noguchi did not belong to any particular  movement, but collaborated with artists working in a range of different mediums and schools.  In addition to sculpture he was active in design and architecture and had a strong interest in Japanese gardens.

We then took a break and stopped for a delicious brunch in Long Island City at Alobar which included the very decadent "Graceland Toast" -- brioche, peanut butter, bacon and carmelized banana french toast and savory pulled pork with grits topped with eggs.  I can't wait to go back for dinner.

_MG_7558.jpg1 copy.jpg               alobar-1175.jpg

We continued on to MoMA PS1 to view an impressive installation by the artist Samara Golden as well as an exhibition of the video artist and puppeteer Wael Shaky.  It was a truly incredible day of art and sculpture.

My evening ended at the annual gala for the  Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  My college friend Sara Meltzer of WeR2 was one of the event co-chairs.  Renowned contemporary artist and Connecticut native, Tom Sachs was honored and was presented his award by his friend, fashionista and designer Cynthia Rowley.  It was a beautiful evening with gorgeous and divine tasting food catered by Abigail Kirsch.  The Aldrich is one of Connecticut's finest institutions supporting contemporary art.

The next week Frieze opened and the art frenzy continued.  On Mother's Day the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, CT celebrated Rob Pruitt's 50th Birthday Bash exhibition with a stellar opening which is was an all day affair. The exhibition will be on view through the fall of 2015.  You can request a tour on their website.

Rob Pruitt
Frieze, which is hands down my favorite of the annual art fairs, opened mid-May after New York City spent several weeks watching the beautiful, crisp white tent going up.  A friend of mine suggested that a great work of art would be a time lapse video of the ginormous white tent being installed over a course of time.  Not only is the art work at Frieze spectacular, but the natural lighting from the tent skylights is perfect.  Additionally the programming and restaurants that is also offered at Frieze guarantee that your ferry or taxi ride to Randall's Island is justified.  


My favorite dining spots at the fair are Brooklyn based Frankie's and Marlow & Sons -- not to mention the fair sponsor's DB VIP lounge and well as the Neuehouse's VIP room.

But back to art -- I LOVE Frieze - the art, the space, the people watching and the setting.... it's the one fair that I am inclined to visit multiple times if I am able.  

Some noteworthy pieces were:

Jiri Georg Dokoupil
Jorinde Voigt

Chris Bradley

Ghada Amer

Adam Fuss

Oystein Aasan 
Kris Lemsalu - "turtle artist
Julia Wachtel

The satellite fair that I really enjoy during Frieze Week and Miami Basel is NADA presented by the New Art Dealer's Association.  That is one of the fairs where you will find some of the best new artists represented by many of the up and coming galleries. 

Although NADA is nearly as difficult to get to as Frieze - it's located at Basketball City on the way Lower East Side - I am always glad to make the trip.   I love these works by Genieve Figgis from the Half Gallery in Manhattan.  They were all sold during the opening of the fair.


I was also inspired by this series by Peter Wu at Greene Exhibitions in Los Angeles based on film still from the movie the Fly with Jeff Goldblum. 

Like Frieze, the setting at NADA along the East River is a reward for your trip to never never land. 

From there I had dinner with some old friends across the river in Williamsburg at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel.  We gathered to watch the sunset on the roof deck at the Wythe. It is truly one of the finest in all of New York.  And the food at the Reynard is exceptional with a menu that is prepared daily.  It was my third time dining there and I was not disappointed. 

Other highlights during Frieze week included seeing Voltz Clarke's exhibition of Mark Boomershine at the Surrey Hotel.

 Mark Boomershine    Mark Boomershine

I would also suggest a trip to the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side to see five of their outstanding exhibitions: Laurie Simmons: How We See, Revolution of the Eye: Art and Birth of American Television, Using Walls, Floors and Ceilings; Chantal Joffe, Masterpieces & Curiosities: Nicole Eisenman's Seder and the group show Repetition & Difference

Laurie Simmons

  Chantal Joffe - Gertrude Stein, 2014
And while I went to view some of the art for sale at Phillips Auction House, I didn't have a chance to sit through any of the record-breaking art auctions that week at Phillip's, Christie's and Sotheby's.  But speaking of madness, Christie's sold over $1 billion worth of art in that one week alone!

Vik Muniz at Phillips
I can say there is honestly too much art to see and too little time.  I would recommend trying to see the exhibition Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at the Brooklyn Museum, which is up through August.  Unfortunately the beautiful Kehinde Wiley retrospective that was on view recently closed.  The Brooklyn Museum is an easy subway ride from Manhattan.  The acclaimed restaurant Saul is perfect for lunch.  And the gift store at the Museum is one of the best I've seen with an amazing assortment of art books and unique, fun gifts.

Kehinde Wiley: The Two SistersJean-Michel Basquiat: Untitled Notebook Page, circa 1987 EL135.05.16

A few other museum shows that I've seen recently include the New Museum 2015 Triennial: Sound Audience, which is only partially on view at this point.

There is loads to see at MoMA including the exhibitions of Yoko Ono, Gilbert & George, and Björk.  Additionally, I haven't even touched upon the current gallery exhibitions on view in Chelsea and the Lower East Side.  Maybe next week -- promises, promises...

Life is too short not to be inspired and surrounded by art!  Please join me in expanding your horizons...