When Mary Boone was still in diapers, Holly Solomon was the original sultry bitch.
Never exactly beautiful, Holly's youthful face was hard and dangerously sexy, as if to say, "Come and get me, good luck, because I will always get you first."
Even in her 60s, without an ounce of fat on her tiny body, she'd whip the lorgnette off her eyes, say, at a MoMA opening, and kiss you smack on the lips: "I haven't seen you for a while, when are you coming to my gallery?"
She was litigious as hell, of course, in an obsessive, witchy way.
When Robert Miller Gallery first exhibited Warhol's photobooth strips a decade ago, she threatened to sue, demanded that the strips of her be removed from the show, said that Andy never intended for these studies to be shown, which was like saying that Andy never intended to pee on a canvas.
Holly drove her staff nuts in the last years through murky litigation with her SoHo landlord. The space closed, of course. I'm sorta glad she can't rebut me now, but I also miss her.
She was also the fag hag's fag hag -- five years ago she bragged to Avenue magazine about hanging out in some Tunisian mudbaths with a six-pack of rumping studs young enough to be her grandchildren.
The two people she treated the best were Izhar Patkin and Rob Wynne, two glam and jolly elves whose tempered outrageousness made Holly giggle like the schoolgirl she never was.
Holly was born an adult, if not a particularly mature one. No one, not even Professor Robert Rosenblum, adored kitsch as much as Holly Solomon. Her many, many shows were a cavalcade that would make Clem croak.
When Jean Lowe and Kim MacConnel constructed a huge room-sized black papier mache bull in her SoHo space, she kept it up for months like a proud pet.
Every gradation of kitschiness entranced her! Julia Jacquette's TV dinners, Melissa Meyer's bestiary, Rob Wynne's frogs, Izhar's furniture, MacConnell's wall friezes of plastic beach garbage -- one big one-note samba.
Wherever Holly is now must look like a combination of the Elks Club and the Peppermint Lounge. But, just take a look at Peter Halley's new show at Boone -- perhaps Holly's esthetic was, indeed, prescient.
In the end, Holly answered the dilemma "ars longa, vita brevis" in a beautiful, dignified way. It was her finest hour.
Record prices for Shot Blue Marilyn and her Lichtensteins, big money for Warhol's classic rebus of her once not-so-youthful face bought a few seconds of satisfaction, but, ultimately, not more time.
Bravely, feistily she tramped the Rialto to the end! The openings, the dinners, the Chelsea Hotel, then turned into a whisper, then nothing.
The Chelsea dealers who hide behind glass walls, waiting for that sales tax subpoena, could learn a few things from Holly: If you're going to be an asshole, do it in public; bitch it up a little bit; let them see you sweat; kiss me on the mouth, honey, and be sure to come to my gallery.
You were a lot of things, babe, but most of all, you were real.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).
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