Julien LaVerdiere stood carefully by a large black book, riffling the pages.
The book and a stunning line of Moriko Mori mirror mandalas were all that comprised Deitch Projects elegant cubicle at the Armory Show.
Inside the book, color cibachromes of LaVerdiere's mechanical meditations on worldwide power beckoned the collector, with a nice assist from the two black-gowned babes working Deitch's box.
The real treasure lies, however, in the back of the book. An extraordinary photograph of Werner von Braun, inventor of the Nazi V2 rocket and founding father of NASA, shaking the hand of an 11-year-old Jeffrey Deitch at the United Nations in 1963.
Laser eyes blazing under classic '60s tailfin glasses, Deitch resembles the midget ambassador to Earth from the planet Zog.
Indeed, AP's 1963 copy reads that young Deitch is "interested in the conquest of outer space," projected interplanetary war games for which the Pentagon only recently launched a new department.
At the Armory benefit for MoMA Thursday night, Deitch and every other dealer chosen were on their way to conquering the inner spaces of Piers 88 and 90 over the Hudson River, and the deeper spaces of collector's wallets.
We joked with mink-and-Armani Dallas couples in the elevator about New York's unexpected blizzard.
"We spent an hour in a cab on the West Side highway," we chuckled.
"But we spent and hour and a half coming across town in our limo," they replied, drawing their credit cards like guns.
Dealers were in a frenzy as the rich bebopped from booth to booth. At one point, Art & Auction's Steven Vincent attempted to ask Andrea Rosen about an upcoming piece he's doing on artists' charity auctions. "She screamed at me," Vincent told us. "'Get out of my way, I'm talking to a collector'."
Collectors were equally curt with nondealers, as Yvonne Force also gave Vincent a loud, bellowing brush-off. Even Force's husband, Leo Villareal, has come out as an artist, with a blinking-light piece at the booth of Editions Fawbush.
There was so much soul-popping eye-candy to be had that collectors weighed their options solemnly, like priests over mass, as the ubiquitous folders of off-site pieces served as a catechism.
We saw some great Michael Bevilacquas at Frederick Freiser's, met a tall young artist named Peter Strauss, who's kind of a German Martin Maloney, made a luncheon date for Tuesday with London dealer Maureen Paley, and congratulated the pencil-thin Paul Morris on making everything bigger and better.
But the highlight of the evening came at 9:30 when a regal Inka Essenhigh in a black Russian hat entered the pavilion. James Cohan immediately rushed over to greet her, and we understand that Andrea Rosen is also very interested.
But Jeannie Greenberg of Greenberg Van Doren has already made a studio appointment with Inka for Monday morning, as many collectors have allegedly purchased Inka Essenhighs that are still to be painted. Perhaps by Monday the Armory's dealers will be selling the air.
CHARLIE FINCH is author of the good parts of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).