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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Roy Lichtenstein

Man Ray
at Emmerich

Jeffery Deitch

Sean Kelly

Jonathan Napack

Charles Ledray
Milk and Honey

Nancy Spector

Julian Schnabel
   A close friend of Roy Lichtenstein claims that the artist's death may have been completely unnecessary, the result of allegedly inadequate medical care, reminiscent of the death of Andy Warhol.

"Over the summer," says our source, "Roy felt run down. He had asthma, watched his weight and what he ate, but just felt out of sorts. When Lichtenstein checked into Southampton Hospital the doctors [allegedly] told him that he had walking pneumonia and began treatment."

A second source, a prominent art journalist, tells Royal Flush, "The allegations are that Lichtenstein was either given the wrong medicine, or an inadequate dose of the right medicine."

Our first source continues, "A specialist from New York University Medical Center happened to be visiting dealer James Goodman for the weekend in the Hamptons. When he saw Lichtenstein, the specialist immediately ordered him transferred to NYU Medical Center, where Lichtenstein's condition worsened. When I went to visit him there, Roy couldn't recognize me, or anyone else."

Jeffrey Deitch's spectacular museum-quality Man Ray show kicked off at Andre Emmerich on Nov. 6, a week or so before Sotheby's modern art auctions. In addition to Francis Naumann's speed-of-sound curation (Deitch gave him three weeks) containing every classic Man Ray image, visitors found five Man Ray pieces in the back room from the Andrew Crispo collection!!

Deitch said he had plans to sell four of them immediately. But the pièce de resistance is the painting Dance, expected to break $500,000 at Sotheby's. To quote Deitch, "They couldn't put Crispo away for murder and he went crazy." Deitch's collector-interlocutor replied, "He was always saying, `Why are you competing with me?' He was paranoid." "So they got him for taxes," Deitch said.

Give Whitney Museum director David Ross credit, he threw one of the great parties of the `90s, in concupiscence with the Warhol crowd at the Whitney on Nov. 6 for "The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion" (to Jan. 18, 1998).

Security by Ross' goons, wearing bogus Secret Service-style lapel pins, kept the entrance tight, but once inside, va-va-va-voom.

When babe after babe in their best drop-dead evening gowns eyeball you on the Whit's plush white sofas, one instantly warms to Ross's Hugh Hefner image.

In a word, he delivers.

Among the cheese: Terry McFarland, playfully dry-humping Ross Bleckner for R.F.'s delectation. Donald Baechler just back from the dry cleaners in his crispest suit. Grace Jones with a Carmen Miranda thingie on her head. Andre Balazs, in Armani, gliding around the room like Fred Astaire.

Above it all, circulating like a pacifist Caligula, Ross enjoyed his triumph!!

Hot, hot rumor on the street: Spencer Brownstone is courting Mary Boone employee Tate Williamson to be his new director. Fat chance.

When the artist's brush goes dry, when the writer ceases to write, one can always just live.
   -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Marina Abramovic stunned the super-jaded art world with her extraordinary "Spirit House" performance at Sean Kelly on Oct. 30.

The endurance-artist nonpareil turned the gallery into a kind of church, postmodern yet somehow classic, with a video of self-flagellation as prayer; a solo tango video as the sermon; a video confession box in which the artist slept with crystals on her face; and a mesmerizing Marina head in the narthex, as the holy spirit.

But all this was merely garnish when the crowd looked up at the altar and saw a live, buff, nude, 50-year-old Marina apparently balancing on a six-inch dowel jutting from the gallery wall, 10 feet above the floor.

Abramovic precariously swayed on her crotch for two hours, waving her limbs back and forth. After an hour, Marina grew listless, seeming to fade.

"She's got 40 minutes to go," Kelly commented coldly.

"Even Jesus got some vinegar," we pleaded.

"We don't do that around here," Kelly icily insisted.

One shudders to contemplate the future horrors Abramovic might attempt (scarification? drawing and quartering?). But the total effect added up to the gallery show of the year, so far.

There are two people you can lie to: the cops and your girlfriend.
   -- Jack Nicholson

To celebrate Halloween, we attended a bash for potty-mouthed Brit novelist Will Self, whose new-to-me Great Apes (Grove Press) tells of artist Simon Dykes, who wakes up after a night of debauchery to find that everyone else is a chimpanzee.

Gradually, to his horror, Simon discovers that he's one, too! This conceit is the occasion for many sniffing and screeching jokes, which hardly were duplicated at the bash.

Arties who bemoan gallery openings and museum fetes should cross over into Litland for a day, where everyone wears brown (not black!!) and listens to bad '60s soul music. Dullsville....

To look at young curators today is to weep for the future of contemporary art -- thank god the best minds of Gen X are working in the Net, multimedia and advertising, where real creative innovation happens.

As one Gen X spokesman, Jonathan Napack, told us from Hong Kong, "The people who would have read Art in America 30 years ago are reading Wired today.

The Guggenheim rolled out three of its best and bogus, curators Nancy Spector, Matthew Drutt and Clare Bell, for an uptown Goog slide show more numbing than Novocaine.

Drutt screened an excruciatingly dull video of Brit weirdo Steven Pippin turning some poor washing machine into a camera. Then Drutt compared out-of-focus paparazzi Uta Barth and Barbara Pollack. Yawn.

Spector, appropriately named and dressed in black like a spider with a black pageboy cut, managed to make Gabriel Orozco, an artist we used to like, seem trivial and, more trivially, Clare Bell demonstrated her fetish for the teeny weeny art of Charles Ledray, rivaling Roberta Smith's wordgasms over Lilliputian artist Tom Friedman.

Of course, when these Ding Dongs cream over micro art, they don't even mention the heroic Gen X code-writers and techies, whose labor-intensity inspires their fine-art inferiors.

All three Goog curators were as solemn as morticians and about as imaginative. Leaving the lecture, this reporter stopped reverently in front of Robert Rauschenberg's Carp flags and neon bicycles.

The effect was resurrecting -- like going from Alcatraz to Chartres -- Rauschenberg, for all his flaws, is a colossus, far more youthful at 72 than the Gen X mediocrities who show at Gavin Brown and Casey Kaplan, the two spaces most cited by the Guggenheim's curatorial zombies, spawn of top monster Tommy the Krens.

It's so sad.

Portraiture is in, viz. John Currin and Karen Kilimnik, so a big fat gnome jumped on their bandwagon -- Mr. Julian Schnabel, with big conservative likenesses in big off-white frames.

Schnab's gothics intrigued a gaggle of hipsters at PaceWildenstein downtown. Arne Glimcher showed up early in charcoal gray, a sign that Schnabber may be selling on the left coast again.

Ross Bleckner burned in a black, finely cut Hugo Boss number, with longtime squeeze Terry McFarland.

Artist Ron English told us that his Edward Hopper pastiche of the Seinfeld gang, featured in Entertainment Weekly's Seinfeld collector's issue, would be privately shown to Michael Richards, aka Kramer, at an L.A. gallery this week.

The price: A very reasonable $4,000!!!

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