Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  

  the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Bowie and Koons on the cover of Modern Painters

Jeff Koons

Blimey! with Matthew Collings

Julian and Olatz

For more pix see PEOPLE
Demonstrating the impeccable sense of spectacle that placed him at number seven on VH1's All Time Rock 'n Roll 100 (Elvis finished eighth!!), David Bowie took a rejuvenated New York art world by storm last week with a chaotic book party at Jeff Koons' SoHo studio, celebrating Matt Collings' Blimey! and the New York issue of Modern Painters, featuring a scoop-filled piece/interview with Koonsy by Bowie himself.

Koons told the thin white Duke exclusively:

1. His flat, soulless "Celebration" series sucked every dollar out of dealer investors Jeffrey Deitch, Anthony d'Offay and Max Hetzler, yet remains unfinished. Large nude sculpture casts of cats, hearts and balloons have been gathering dust in his studio for months. (Sell them as is, Jeffo?)

2. Consequently, Koons can't show with any of these three, so he's returning to ex-dealer Ileana Sonnabend with a new body of work in 1999. We'll believe it when we see it.

3. The four-times delayed Guggenheim show has now morphed into a full-scale year 2000 career retrospective at Goog Uptown.

Strange how the perpetually grandiose Koons ups the exhibitions ante, while his actual product stagnates. Perhaps he's been staring too much at Bellini and Fragonard, his personal favorites.

Bowie (who quotes the Flush in his ten page Koonshalle) cleverly konned Koons into letting MP reproduce some disturbing early '70s student work, full of severed heads, disembowelments and sophomoric bloodshed -- this is the stuff that's supposed to prove that Koons really knew how to paint on his own. Apparently while listening to Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd.

Discerning David also pegs the soullessness of Koons' new pieces, comparing them to the monumental sculpture of Nazi favorite Arno Breker.

Bullseye Bowie doesn't fall for the usually repetitious Koons folderol about happiness, restraint and classicism, noting Jeff's taut, furtive unease. We're biased, natch, but we've seldom read a more probing bit of crit.

Partywise, the thinning cultural elite that has nervously held sway over New York since the Studio 54 days stopped by to kiss the rings of the man who fell to earth and his heavenly bride Iman, who lensed Koonsball's studio for her hubby's piece.

Julian Schnabel, on a fitness kick, presented the lovely Olatz; Jay McInerney, who hasn't had a hit in years, clung to abstract friend Caio Fonseca; Fran Lebowitz escaped from a Chinese laundry with extra starch, while the recently revamped Ingrid Sischy returned to the sty for the evening.

Ingrid, honey, we've been there! Plus, there were more art journalists than could be mentioned, so we won't.

Mr. Bowie is to be commended for jumping into the SoHo/Chelsea maelstrom with both feet. Good show!!

I should rather know the truth of the talk he had in his tent with one of his close friends on the eve of the battle than the speech he made the next day to his army, and what he did in his study or his own room than what he did in public and in the senate.
          -- Montaigne

Richard Bellamy
Photo Pat Lipsky
To consider the careers of art geniuses Richard Bellamy and David Bourdon, who died last week, is a humbling task.

Bellamy, who passed away while reading the next to last page of Proust's Le Temps Perdu, discovered, curated and advocated every major art giant of his era, especially Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and Mark di Suvero, most before they even had a market. His di Suvero curation of monumental machines at Storm King Center in 1995 was the single best contemporary show of the decade.

Swinging' dicks Robert Scull, Leo Castelli and Larry Gagosian owed huge chunks of their success to Bellamy's self-effacing pioneer spirit.

In recent years his projects, like Barbara Flynn's high Crosby Street temple and the Oil & Steel vista across the East River, continued to shine brightly.


Alice Neel
David Bourdon and Gregory Battock
As for David Bourdon, who left us while Alice Neel's masterpiece David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock graced the walls of Cheim & Read, few did more to popularize (emphasis on "Pop") art in the USA.

David's seminal role as Life magazine's art correspondent in the '60s exposed America to Warhol, Lichtenstein and other Popsters for the first time. It's hard to believe, but Life was the number one media outlet at the time, featuring Alfred Eisenstaedt's hip photos of Bourdon's Pop Art subjects.

Of the many interesting Warhol biographies (cf. Bob Colacello and Victor Bockris), Bourdon's "Warhol" leads the field, with you-are-there intimacies strained through a critical distance.

Bourdon was at his best, speaking at Ray Johnson's 1995 memorial service in the Stuyvesant Square Quaker meeting house. He created a timeless tableau on the banks of the Seine, with Manet, Picasso, Appollinaire and others welcoming Ray to the Other Side Café, where two more greats, Richard Bellamy and David Bourdon, now reside.

I'm only interested in people who own art.
          -Alexandra Peers of the Wall Street Journal, who had never heard of Bellamy and Bourdon


The "new" Whitney classic galleries are the single worst museum curation of the last 50 years.

Worse than years of Whitney Annuals.
Worse than Harlem on my Mind at the Met.
Worse than Frank Stella's second Museum of Modern Art retro in 1987.

Why? At a time when the butterfly balances of small Calder mobiles are going for top dollars, the Whit crams his good stuff, plus the kitsch piece of garbage Circus, into a stairwell!

Instead of contrapuntally Nadelmanning the whole installation, the Whit dumps Elie's follies together into a hallway. Add a dumpster full of forgettable drawings, and a minimal mess of a photography collection (MoMA laughs), and the whole effect gives one a migraine, it's so cramped and colorless.

How come? Stop ten people on Madison Avenue at random and they will have better taste than Leonard Lauder, who has a '50s-era unidimensional, Eurobourgeois love of tame little pictures. Gee, when knucklehead realist painters protested the 1995 Biennial, they had a closet friend in Lenny.


Alexandra Peers
Alexandra Peers told us, after lunching with Spritz last week, "The Whitney is not going to make a decision for six months, because Lauder really wants to be his own director."

Oy vey!

It's odd how a person always arouses admiration for his moral qualities among the relatives of another with whom he has sexual relations. Physical love, so unjustifiably decried, makes everyone show, down to the least detail, all he has of goodness and self-sacrifice, of those nearest him.
          -- Proust

Helen Hunt
Hottest theme bashes on the Sappho circuit are so-called "Helen Hunt" parties, as those in the know claim she's one of them, in spite of Hunt's public link to Simpsons voice Hank Azaria.

Helen besottes detected a same sex clue in her mysterious reference to "my beloved" on Oscar night, and noticed that she obliquely admonished co-star Greg Kinnear to abide by the gay character he plays in As Good as it Gets (Kinnear has been the subject of recent blind items alleging he's a real life homophobe).

But whether Hunt is or isn't, the possible homosexuality of career child-to-adult actors like Hunt and Jodie Foster is quite natural.

They've lived their lives with lesbian and gay people in the industry, where, privately at least, tolerance far exceeds the rest of America, so attractions form and que sera, sera.

Because of big money and big fear, a Hollywood industry built on titillation keeps the velvet curtain down on the intimate lives of its stars.

Still, it's jarring when you get a brief peek at reality. I'm thinking of an aging male star, with a lot of movies and two long-running TV action shows to his credit.

He married two of Hollywood's most glamorous and sexy actresses, a brunette who died under bizarre circumstances and then a blonde bombshell, who even turned heads in Washington.

The guy was, and is, gay, living his public life as a primo hetero heaththrob for decades, hiding in plain sight.

Somehow, people shouldn't have to do that anymore.

Helen, when she looked in the mirror and saw the withered wrinkles which old age had put on her face, wept, and wondered to herself why ever she had been twice carried away.
          -- Leonardo da Vinci

Bella Abzug (in hat) protesting Vietnam
In 1972, I was New York student coordinator for McGovern for President, taking on President Tricky Dick Nixon.

In this august role, I often spoke on TV, radio and at rallies.

Preparing to take the stage at NYU, I was told to wait -- Bella Abzug wanted to say something.

Forty-five minutes later, Abzug, who also died last week, was still bellowing like Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture. Your scribe couldn't top it, spoke about 30 words, then sat down.

That year, I also worked as a celebrity usher at Madison Square Garden's Star Spangled Women for McGovern.

Nostalgists will twinkle when you hear that the bill included Tina Turner's revue, a resplendent Judy Collins, Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera doing a soft shoe, and Shirley MacLaine Vegas-style.

As I escorted the likes of Paul Newman and Warren Beatty to their V.I.P seats, a giant purple hatted presence blocked my way.

"Where's my seat, buddy!?!"

Bella glared -- she had a vicious streak, even by New York political standards.

So goodbye Big B -- God must have wanted an argument!

CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.