Like a most demure Kris Kringle awaiting Xmas tykes at Macy's, a full-bearded Paul McCarthy schmoozed the crowd all last Friday night at Luhring Augustine in Chelsea.
For sale: Not a sour, bloody, snotpfilled gross-out video, but gentle Pop Tart-colored terracotta sculptures of wrapped butts and dicks that had just walked out of a moonscape by Yves Tanguy.
Why, these new saleable McCarthys were positively cuddly, like curios from a Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue.
Suddenly, everyone, even the bluest of the blue chip Chelsea dealers, is ready to deal.
But don't ask us, ask the very czar of Chelsea himself, Matthew Marks, who greeted us warmly outside his 22nd Street showroom for a double show of all-too-concrete pieces by the late artists Paul Feeley and Peter Cain.
Although Jeffrey Deitch conked out in his effort to reintroduce Feeley's biomorphic pods at Andre Emmerich five years ago, maestro Marks has uncovered some unseen gems from Feeley's estate.
Especially alluring in a down market are Feeley's well-preserved butterfly chairs, sure to become conversation pieces in Malibu whenever the Dow rises again.
Also winning are Matthew's finds in the Peter Cain inventory. Cain, who passed on like an art-world James Dean, graced two '90s Whitney Biennials, with surreally menacing monster cars that presaged today's ubiquitous, threatening SUVs.
Somehow, Marks presciently reserved enough of Cain's subtler paintings to mount this show -- the work benefits greatly from the passage of time.
These shimmering Chevys and Oldsmobiles possess a vulnerability now, the perfect counterpoint to the ancient Feeleys in commodity sex appeal. The dual show settles gently on the eye.
Let's hope someone remains, after a capital year of corporate scandal, in which many Chelsea buyers, like Enron exec Andrew Fastow, have been indicted, to sign, and make good on, the checks.
Note to readers: An extraordinary book, The Rage and the Pride by the legendary radical journalist Oriana Fallaci has just been published by Rizzoli.
Fallaci's shimmering text ranges from Italian fighters in the American Civil War, to long-forgotten professors who journeyed to New York in the '30s to warn America about Fascism, to her courageous confrontation with Ayatollah Khomeini.
Most touching is her chilling description of the Taliban's execution of three young women for going to the hairdresser.
As she drops dead from a bullet in the neck, one true martyr defiantly exposes her naked leg as a last act of resistance.
With its call to fight the reverse crusade of radical Islam, The Rage and the Pride has been denounced by the anti-American left in Europe, while selling millions of copies to the proletariat.
If you are disgusted by the moronic art world ostriches who signed the "Not in Our Name" abomination, this is the perfect antidote.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).