I am standing with the painter Donald Baechler at the opening-night party for his exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, which he is sharing with Philippe Bradshaw.
This should not be confused with the public opening from 4-7 p.m. on the same day. This is the after-opening opening by invitation only (complete with coat-check, even).
So we are standing there admiring the catered crowd and he asks who all these people are. I point out a few familiar faces and conclude that this is the typical Parisian fashion-art crowd.
To which Donald says, "That makes sense. Either that or the art world got a lot better looking while I wasn't watching."
The beautiful crowd was treated to an upstairs gallery filled with installations of aluminum chain by Bradshaw and a downstairs gallery featuring seven recent works by Baechler.
Bradshaw (whose works were on view in New York at Deitch Projects not too long ago) uses multicolored anodized aluminum chain to piece together replications of masterworks then installs them in 1960s beaded-curtain style, hanging either independently from the ceiling rafters or against the walls.
Many of these works also serve as backdrops for a video projection. Bradshaw's use of chain link is clever, and can produce attractive visual effects, especially when he uses multiple layers, like he does in his "Mona Lisa" series.
His predilection for video, and the club beat music he likes as its accompaniment, is another thing altogether. One could even say that it is annoying and combative and completely out of sorts with the flowing chain pieces. It was, however, a good lubricant for the party.
Later in the week I asked Philippe about the use of video with the chains and he explained that he had no idea, that it was about putting unlike things together. Agreed.
The seven classically iconic Baechler paintings downstairs included four ice cream cones on paper plus three small red flowers on canvas that were all titled More of the Same (Thistle). The authenticity of these paintings is as clear as ever, despite the anomie suggested by their title.
In the back office beyond public eye hid the real treasures.
Two beautiful small square paintings of our planet and several more flower pieces that appeared much more intricate and less rationalized than the ones on the Galerie walls.
* * *
Ropac was not the only opening that week. Galerie Yvon Lambert and Galerie Xippas shared a date for their vernissages. Xippas displayed works by Ian Davenport, the English painter who was a runner-up for the Turner prize in 1991.
His extremely sleek and studied works, done on aluminum in tall narrow rectangular format, are all filled with the same surfboard-like shape. Really nice are the trio of monochrome pieces with matte and shiny mixed surfaces, and two other black and deep purple pieces that bring to mind Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt.
Unfortunately the show is so grossly overhung that the small differences and variances get lost in the sheer monotony of the production.
Lambert went with two young American artists, Slater Bradley and Jonathan Horowitz, both in their Paris debuts.
Horowitz to me makes some of the smartest and most poignant video work around. They are watchable and inviting. A piece from 1995, titled Middle and End, has two monitors, one with a still of a baseball trophy and the other with a baseball in midflight, never landing or taking off, never within reach of the trophy. Both continuously suspended without the possibility of the image adjacent it.
Bradley's most impressive piece is a series of striking photos of Chloë Sevigny with a kelly green background. Who could be tired of this young Academy Award-nominated actress? I am.
Despite my weariness with Bradley's choice of subject, his intimate observing eye of her is interesting all the same. She is on set, she is there to be watched, others are watching, there are glimpses of the film crew, lighting equipment and she is at the center of it all.
And Bradley has a way of seeing something else of introducing an intelligent, public, viewing eye that is about a voyeurism of relationships rather than a spy.
That night it was rainy and the combination of one English and two American artists attracted a sparse crowd, the diehard Parisian art crowd. After the gallery hosted a dinner at a nearby restaurant that in New York would have been packed but in Paris there were spare seats available and leftovers!
José Freire was there, being Slater's New York dealer, along with the artists and a handful of other jet-setting Americans on their way to one exhibition or another in Europe.
* * *
Around the corner at Galerie Karsten Greve was the truly museum-quality show of Louis Bourgeois in "Oeuvres Récentes." A series of prints on vintage linens are absolutely stunning. Each is embroidered in the lower right-hand corner with the artist's initials in red.
One series features a naked man and woman in various positions of sexual coupling, such that the woman is holding the man upside down. Hair from the woman's head rips off the page like streams of water.
Paris has an important corner for art here, where Rue Debelleyme and Rue Vieille du Temple cross. And this established group of galleries has a new neighbor -- G-Module Galerie. Ignoring the white cube as model, the American Jeff Gleich has designed a galerie space that has not a single pristine white wall in it.
Instead, he has preserved the aging hole-pocked ceilings and 150-year-old smoke-patinaed walls and added a slightly chemical green poured resin floor and matching green freestanding walls to create a vision of a gallery with absolutely no comparison in Paris. He has also located his galerie right on a prime spot of rue Debelleyme and is showing mostly emerging and young artists from New York.
On view now is "Perfect Plastic," a group show of nine artists all working in and taking inspiration from . . . plastic. It is one of the smartest group shows I have seen in Paris, and includes works by Scott Reynolds, Laura Emrick and Nancy Davidson, who has three sets of giant inflatable latex balloons with corsets for eyes peering out the window on to Rue Debelleyme.
Definitely a new neighborhood watch.
JULIE RYAN is a correspondent for Purple magazine.