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  the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Vilhelm Hammershøi

Nude Figure

Why does anyone pay huge sums of money for a Cézanne? Why should it have value? Because it's a myth. We make myths about politics. We make myths about everything.

I have to deal with myths from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. And it becomes harder and harder. We live in an age of such rapid obsolescence. Who decides what is art?
        -- Leo Castelli (to the New York Times in 1973!)

Tom Krens, Rob Rosenblum and the Flush joined 200 Danes at the Guggenheim Museum Thursday night for Rosenblum's resurrection of depressed Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi.

Chelsea swells like Jerry Saltz and buffer-than-buff Roberta Smith were conjoining at Gavin Brown's starship for a tepid conceptual effort from John Waters (the gallery literally stank rank of B.O., by the way).

How delicious, by contrast, are the delectable Danes. Billy Shakes' Hamlet, unjustifiably, gave them a bad name. Blonde, porcelain-skinned samples of both sexes flashed long, winning smiles over chocolate strawberries and various cheeses.

Krens had promised a recovering Rosenblum, at that morning's press preview, that he would "try to make the opening," and by the looks of the grin on the not-so-gentle-giant, Tommy Boy didn't regret it.

Danish paparazzi jolted the Goog's back galleries when nonagenarian Dane comedian Victor Borge stopped by for a quick photo op. We gave the vigorous funny man an opening for one of his signature rejoinders --

Flush: We saw you on Broadway in 1966, with Leonid Hambro.

Borge: That was you!?!

While Borge's handlers hustled the old gent, ex Goog Rob Rosenblum basked in the satisfaction of revivifying yet another minor painter.

The gray buildings without figures are Hammershøi's best paintings, redolent of Toba Khedoori's repeating gray windows.

Domestically, things are looking up at Chez Kaplowitz -- Rob bounded from sick bay for the vernissage, and a brand new baby bulldog, name of Winnie, now graces lower Fifth Avenue.

Bow wow wow!!

I've had a reasonable amount to do with this gift. Ever since I signed on here, I started working. I disassociated myself from the Whitney in March.
        -- SFMOMAholic David Ross, last week in the New York Times

Gary Garrels

Wynn bio
Chief curator Gary Garrels told the Times that the trustees' gift helped "fulfill a wish list drawn up sometime ago by the museum's curators."

Look for Garrels in New York soon, either at MoMA or the Whitney, in a top post.

Want to know how desperately craven art critics are?

Vegas mogul Steve Wynn, whose big bux move auction mountains, has commissioned a catalogue of his collection, under supervision of Libby Lumpkin, critic spouse of University of Las Vegas art guru Dave Hickey.

15 critics and art historians have signed up at what one of them, Rob Rosenblum, told us is "just under $4 a word." They include Village Voice critic Peter Schjeldahl, van Gogh expert Ronald Pickvance, Cézanne specialist Richard Shiff and several others.

One little problem: Wynn's recent multimillion-dollar Nevada libel-and-defamation verdict against publisher Lyle Stuart has sent a major chill through U.S. publishers, editors and writers.

The judgment bankrupted Stuart, a longtime New York publishing institution, and by extension, its subsidiary imprint edited by legendary First Amendment pioneer, Evergreen magazine/Grove Press founder Barney Rosset.

For once Josh Decter, Peter Halley, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and their gang o' dweebs are on the right side of this one. They held a silent auction benefit for Rosset downtown recently.

Rob Rosenblum's reaction to the big chill? He told us, "I haven't heard about it, but I love Las Vegas."

Yet, big name critics don't carry too much weight with Vegas titan Wynn -- he reportedly turned down Rosenblum's request to lend Picasso's Portrait of Dora Maar from his collection for the show "Picasso and the War Years" at the Guggenheim and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Wynn knows what he wants -- a blue-chip collection of masterpieces you gotta go to Vegas to see.



A truculent, unkempt critic stormed out of the museum; he loudly branded the audience a bunch of idiots ("25 years of feminism coming to naught!"). He was, however, the only audible dissenter.
        -- Wayne Koestenbaum, on Vanessa Beecroft's one-night Show at the Guggenheim Museum, in the current Artforum

In the new issue of Guggenheim Magazine (sponsored by Gagosian Gallery), Time Out critic Linda Yablonsky reviews high-end shoes "as architecture," a la Goog Bilbao.

Nowhere in the author's credits does it say that Yablonsky regularly reviews shows (at the Guggenheim and Gagosian, for example) for Time Out.

Critics who jape at Savonarollian exposure of their petty conflicts-of-interest and dishonest evasions misunderstand the sound basis for these small revelations.

It's not the needed cash emoluments, connections or "prestige" accruing to the needy individual critic that necessarily rankles -- it's the comfortable perception, reinforced, of rich museum board members, snotty senior administrators, the Krenses and the Rosses, that critics are powerless pocket puppets up which to stick their lucred mitts.

Total critical acquiescence (kemptness, Mr. K!!) leads to the scene we saw at Beecroft's Show, NYPD gendarmes and uniformed Goog goons ready to jump and strangle any verbal dissenter.

Maybe it's all turning into Vegas, after all.

For talented critics like Linda Yablonsky, if you must theoretically debase yourself, a simple "I write for the Goog Mag" in a Goog or Gogo review, parenthesized, does the trick.


John Cage
Photo Susan Schwartzenberg

Did you know? Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once gave John Cage a complete LP collection of the band's work.

Sage Cage listened to each disc once and then broke it. "I only have time to listen to things once," he said.

What beautiful daughter of a prominent photographer should not be copping weed out on Avenue B? It's perilous for all the obvious reasons. If you must, we're sure daddy's sock drawer will do fine for your noxious needs.

Brian Wilson was utterly resistant to interpretation in the way, say, a painting by Bonnard is.
        -- Rock author David Dalton in the June Mojo. Wilson's new CD Imagination has just hit the stores.

Pierre Bonnard
Portrait of the Painter
in a Red Dressing Gown


The Bath

Man and Woman
Kant was right. The easily malleable selfness of our noetic structure, the assumptions we are fed about the world around us, radically shapes the way one looks at art.

A decade of the body, gender, head angst, mortality of the one, and sex, sex, sex sharply changes the way we look at Pierre Bonnard's paintings, now in the cramped MoMA basement (get rid of it, Tanaguchi San, please).

Two bodies of work leap out -- wifey disintegrating in the tub and the late Bruce Nauman-like têtes de Pierre. God, they're great.

And yet, the signature Bonnards that warmed one's youth, flappers disappearing in a frieze of flowers, now seem dated and conservative.

One can precisely pinpoint the time when Matisse scooted by with his crosshatches and monochromes, and Bonnard said, "Enough -- a little dab will still do ya."

Matisse's odalisques once again loom radically in the mind -- paradoxically, Bonnard retreated to Degas.

All visual artists are grossly self-involved -- but ol' Pierre took it to the max. Whilst rocking with Matisse on a Riviera porch under control of Vichy France, Bonnard bitched about the noise made by Allied planes overhead, on their way to bomb the Nazis.

Kenny Schachter is planning to open an art restaurant in Chelsea this fall.

Congratulations, Jack Bankowsky, on your sixth managing editor, Tracey Hummer, in three years, at Artforum.

Spotted at Silverstein Gallery ogling six Yayoi Kusamas: Peter Blum, whose offer unfortunately for Dan was $1,500 under retail.

Already paying piper Sotheby's, Jeffrey Deitch will be delivering a Bastille Day lecture on "globalism" -- that's July 14, at 6:30 p.m. -- part of a series of six tourista summer lectures that the auction house is offering; you haven't heard of the other five.

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