Accompanied by Sarah Douglas of the Art Newspaper and art dealer Vanessa Buia, we walked into the Bottino restaurant in Chelsea last Saturday night for Mary Boone's after-opening dinner, only to find the dark diva, dressed in a flaming red Prada minidress, directing a game of musical chairs, as a crowd of swells demanded satisfaction for their fannies.
Through the careful ministrations of Mary's handsome attachs, Ron Warren and James Solomon, first private dealer Pearl Albino and painter Hilary Harkness, then painter Jay Davis, then everyone else was eventually seated, and, with Bottino's serviceable salmon on the tongue, the schmoozing had begun.
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders stopped by our table to describe his talented daughter Isca's wedding (Lou Reed officiated) and Damian Loeb told us about the new movie theater installed in his downtown pad. As our mind drifted to art parties past at long-defunct jewelboxes like 55 Wooster and M.K., we realized that it was just another crowded night on the rialto.
For Chelsea last Saturday was jammed from one hazy street to another with pockets of excited arties, apparently re-enacting the recent blackout. Show-wise, the lagniappe included the revival of two brilliant careers, Ellen Berkenblit at Anton Kern and Marilyn Minter at Fredericks Freiser.
The excessively beautiful Kristin Baker, who had opened at Deitch Projects the night before, and the impossibly sexy Laurel Nakadate greeted their Yale classmate Tim Davis at Brent Sikkema, where his show of mutilated museum classics was considered the hottest shot.
Our colleague Phyllis Tuchman crowed about purchasing a Davis, but we beg to disagree -- this stuff is the kind of nouveau kitsch that deeply insults the eye and mind, and is all too prevalent in Chelsea.
For our money the two best shows opening last week were Katy Grannan's giant pastorals at Artemis Greenberg Van Doren, where we purchased a stunning meditation of two wary-eyed youths swimming in a long gray sea, and Greg Bogin's breakthrough effort at Boone uptown. The rough-hewn Schnabelian has finely manufactured a perfect blend of Minimalist precision and Pop whimsy.
Otherwise, the demand for new work from fresh pups right out of Yale and the search for work by mid-career artists of any distinction has left quality pretty thin on the ground.
James Welling's architectural photographs cough up the blahs at Gorney Bravin + Lee, and the normally inspired Slater Bradley and Banks Violette produced a mess of high-def video and drek at Team.
At Galerie Lelong, Duchampian Donald Lipski, always a spinner of elegant forms, uses stacks of books this time to create swells and circles, a tired conceit. Lee Krasner's flat, dry paintings at Robert Miller looked positively demure, satisfying the throngs for a millisecond, before the caravan moved on.
It was hard to believe that the New York art world once solely comprised Lee Krasner and her circle soaking canvases with thin layers of paint, and then exhibiting them quietly, uptown, say at Betty Parsons or Martha Jackson on a lazy Sunday afternoon, reception at four.
For a moment, we felt as if we had wandered into a monastery smack dab in the middle of an amusement park, and we mourned for a better time and a lost good.
But only for a moment -- Boone and Bottino called.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).