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Lane Twitchell, "Here & There," installation view at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery

Lane Twitchell
Mountain Meadow's Mysteries or the Evening Redness in the West
Greenberg Van Doren Gallery

Lane Twitchell, 2003
Photo by Mary Barone

Mad Money
by Charlie Finch

Last Saturday we journeyed to Greenberg Van Doren Gallery's gorgeous Fifth Avenue space for a breakfast viewing of Lane Twitchell's sold-out show.

At 9 a.m. we were the first visitor under the gallery's breathtaking skylight.

"I love looking at my pieces in natural light," Lane told us.

"They're so underpriced," we replied, gazing at Twitchell's labor-intensive collaged starbursts, which cost between $14,000 and $20,000 apiece.

"Now that I've got the technique down, I can easily make more," Lane laughed.

We moved into Greenberg Van Doren's back room, with our fruit and coffee. On the walls: a gorgeous blue and white abstraction by James Brooks; a stately, vertical Franz Kline, black strokes on graying white; a small Diebenkorn still life from 1957; and a slapdash 1990 Lichtenstein "Brush Stroke" painting.

One of David Hammons' genius rock-heads with its appliqué of kinky black hair leered at us from a vitrine. In walked Richard Armstrong, director of the Carnegie Museum, with a collector couple, the Gompers.

Armstrong started to pitch the Kline -- it's a 1958 tribute to Franz's first wife Elizabeth, who was an English ballerina. The black strokes could symbolize her feet, en pointe.

"It looks like a Warhol 'Electric Chair'," we observed.

"You're being too iconographic, Charlie," Armstrong riposted.

"It's an unusually iconographic Kline," we replied. Like the proverbial used car owned by a little old lady, Elizabeth had been owned by one collector, who purchased it from Sidney Janis.

The Gershes, major Hollywood collectors who fund L.A. MOCA, joined us, and gallery staff brought out a tiny Diebenkorn of a woman sitting in a sun-dappled Berkeley backyard in 1955.

"It's $425,000," the staffer said laconically. "A charcoal sketch by Diebenkorn just sold for $125,000 at the ADAA show."

She turned towards the Diebenkorn still life, a purplish bauble with fruit falling over the side á la Cézanne.

"That's $750,000."

These days anything under a million bucks is apparently chump change, but the Gershes appeared to resist the bait.

They inquired after the Lichtenstein, not exactly a masterwork. It was also $750,000. The James Brooks sighed and the David Hammons appeared to roll over on its side. Rafts full of money floated back into the last century.

We rejoined Lane Twitchell.

"There's mad money in the back room, Lane. Think you'll see any of it in your lifetime?"

The artist shrugged his shoulders and smiled in the sunlight, just another beautiful day at the office.

A lovely young lady at the front desk smiled wide. "There's so much food left, would you like to take some with you?"

"Maybe next time," we replied.

Lane Twitchell, "Here & There," is on view Feb. 17-Mar. 19, 2005, at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, 730 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10019

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).