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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Montien Boonma
House of Hope

Elizabeth Phillips

Hirst at

Logo by

Gary Hume

Betsy Baker

Roy Lichtenstein

slipcase for
Jim Dine's
Ape and Cat

Arthur Danto

From Ape and

Brooke Alexander
   "Insiders warn that this perceived resurgence may be wishful thinking, pointing out that much work by the stars of the 1980s lacks any secondary market at auction, but they agree that Sotheby's move may be an effort to seize market share pre-emptively."

"Like many firms, Sotheby's fears the aging of its clientele and is counting on Mr. Deitch to bring new blood to the salesroom."
   --David D'Arcy in the October Art Newspaper

Hipness dropped like a rock at Jeffrey Deitch's first opening since Patrick Painter stole Sarah Watson to work at his new L.A. space.

It was hard to tell who was more enervated: the five civilians who showed up at Deitch Projects to smell Montien Boonma's curry-smeared walls or Ms. Watson when she discovered that the L.A. "A List" goes to bed at 5 p.m.!

A perky little thing bearded us as we crossed the Deitch threshold.

"Hi! I'm Elizabeth Phillips, the new director!" She's a grad of Bard's Center for Curatorial Studies.

Good luck.

Boonma, Thailand's most famous artist, used 18 medicinal herbs and spices to make the strings of beads that hang in a dense temple shape in the middle of the space. Rirkrit Tiravanija calls him teacher (and I thought he gets all his recipes from his grandma).

With nobody to meet 'n' greet, Deitch relaxed in his rocker, offering to give us a genial tutorial re: Stefan Hablützel's 1929/1966, two wall figures that formally cross Charles Ray and Stephan Balkenhol in Jeffo's back room.

"Each figure represents the artist's grandfather and father at 33," Deitch described the doppelgangers in his distinctive drawl pitched betwixt Sylvester and Tweetie."

A quick glance at the 33-year-old live artist revealed that his mother's genes had toppled a delicate
balance --

"You've got quite the beak," we remarked.

"You know what to do."
   -- John Chamberlain's answering machine message

In spite of chain-smoking London dealer Jibby Beane's droll wordplay with 60 Minutes gargoyle Morley Safer, Safer's effort to diss the London scene was half-hearted.

What shows the total irrelevance of contemporary art to TV culture? Safer's extensive use of 18-month-old tape of Damien Hirst's Gagosian opening! Who cares?

The art scene just doesn't engage the wider world's interest. Safer was even way behind the times re the London scene.

In the current Spectator, critic Martin Gayford asks, "Is the game up?"

About the Royal Academy's "Sensation" show, Gayford comments, "the unintentional effect of seeing all this disparate young British art gathered together is to diminish it."

As for individual artistes:

"Gary Hume has never done anything as good as his hospital doors. Rachel Whiteread hasn't done anything as striking as Ghost (1996), her cast of a complete room. Tracey Emin was always bad. The Chapman Twins are brilliant at being nasty, but no good at anything else!" Could be time for another Saatchi firesale!

"In 1996 Lichtenstein designed the logo for Dreamworks Records as a favor to friends David Geffen and Mo Ostin."
   -- Last line of Entertainment Weekly's four-sentence obituary

"Lichtenstein acquired in his later years an odd physical resemblance to Georgia O'Keeffe .... Today you see his dandy's taste almost before you see his painting."
   -- Robert Hughes in Time

That Bob Hughes, what a class act!!

Predictably, rumors that Roy Lichtenstein died of AIDS swept the art world after the New York Times listed the cause of death as "pneumonia."

Let's remember that pneumonia is the primary killer of the elderly, overcoming the body's lowered resistance due to a myriad of other pathologies.

Betsy Baker's poignant Times tribute contained an unintentionally comic image of Roy, Betsy, Richard Artschwager, et al., riding horses through the Rockaways in the halcyon '50s.

We'd rather surf out there, but Baker reminded the young 'uns that this Queens peninsula was once a locus of low-rent romance.

To read more on the Rockaways, try Henry Miller's Plexus, the non-pornographic second volume of the "Rosy Crucifixion" trilogy.

Meanwhile, among the living, competition for Lichtentstein's mantle of best living popster boils down to an unsatisfying joust between Jim Dine and Alex Katz.

Dine looked superfit at Brooke Alexander's cocktail party for Dine's new art edition, Ape and Cat, from San Francisco's Arion Press. Dine's collaborator, sage emeritus Arthur Danto, entertained a select group with a pastiche of Henry James' The Madonna of the Future, the literary fundament of the project.

Evocative of H.H. Munro, James' tale concerns two artists, a romantic who wishes to emulate Raphael, and a vulgar Jeff Koons-like charlatan whose ape-and-cat figurine is a Victorian vogue.

The seductive quality of the vulgar is James' theme, presaging Danto's own writing on Robert Mapplethorpe. Arion Press Apollo Andrew Hoyem invited Dine to comment.

Dine declined, but he did do something we've never seen an artist do before.

A fan brought out a bagful of various Dine art books and the sinewy simian actually sprawled on the floor to sign each volume with a flourish!!

As for Alex Katz, his constant pinballing between art openings on Saturday nights, at the age of 70, is a marvel!!

"African American collectors don't really partipate."
  -- Artist Renée Cox to WABC-TV's Art McFarland

Writer Carlos Fuentes told the International Herald Tribune that, at a Martha's Vineyard dinner last summer, President Bill Clinton entertained Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and William Styron by quoting long passages, verbatim, from William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom.

When the Prez split, Fuentes alleges, the writers dug up a copy of the book in Styron's library -- Clinton's recitation had been perfect!!

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