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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

David Ross


Maria Martins

A facsimile of Maria's Amazon map.

Maria Martin
The Eighth Veil

The Eighth Veil

Maria Martin
Don't Forget I Come From the Tropics

Isabelle Adjani

Isabella Rossellini

David Bowie

The New Museum bookstore

Doris Salcedo
Unland: irreversible witness

Bonakdar Jancou

Nurit Newman

The New Examiner, $4.95

Diane Sawyer

Little wheel, spin and spin.
        -- Buffy Sainte Marie

He may be physically in San Francisco, but ex-Whitney Museum chief (si bella!!) David "Wangdoodle" Ross was spinnin' tip top in Manhattan last week, phoning all his art world buddies that "San Francisco MoMA bid $500,000 for me -- top dollar," like he was Donald Trump, instead of a goofy deposé.

Knowing what things cost in the Embarcadero, we'd cut that figure in half for a real estimate of Ross' whole package.

Meanwhile, the auction claque around San Diego Contemporary Art Museum honcho Hugh Davies, desperately leaking on his behalf, tells the Flush: "Hugh turned down the Whitney job in 1991, you know, and even though he was a finalist for the SF MoMA post, when he heard that Ross was going to get the job, he deftly removed his name, so he could be Whitney chief."

As if. Sez here that Davies is backing up the track.

No one is telling the truth, not Kathleen Willey, not Julie Steele, maybe not Bill Clinton.
        -- George "NightTrain" Stephanopoulous on ABC's This Week

Tap-dancing down the beaches of Rio, longtime erotomane Francis Naumann observed, "Nine out of 10 people here are absolutely beautiful."

Naumann's mission -- to resurrect Marcel Duchamp's beautiful sculptress paramour Maria Martins, still celebrated by Brazilians solely as "Maria."

A look-alike for Hollywood temptress Merle Oberon (whose body temperature, at a constant 101 degrees Fahrenheit, could melt any penis), Maria inspired, indeed modeled for, Duchamp's seminal masterpiece, Etant Donnés.

Naumann's own kiss of the spiderwoman is now on view at Andre Emmerich. What hits you first are the violent lime green walls and blood red lettering of Maria's name disappearing into a scarlet, wall-sized drawing of the Amazon. Emmerich boss Jeffrey Deitch's sign painter is a great artist.

"The green was Maria's color, and she used just the one name, like Cher," curator Naumann commented.

Deitch added, "The post-war period in Surrealist art, based in New York, was one of the richest in history, if currently underappreciated."

And this show demonstrates why, as Maria's serpentine bronzes evoke the vagina dentata (or snappin' gyro). Front and center is a life-sized, bold, bronze female nude, thighs spread invitingly, except for the vicious gunshot wound to the poor woman's head, redolent of Ed Kienholz.

In counterpoint to some smaller Medusan bronzes, Maria's blood-soaked poems drip from the walls.

In one, she verbally disembowels her chubby diplomat-husband's carcass, consigning it to the depths of hell, where I'm sure a 101-degree body temperature is most amenable.

Bewitched by the ghost of this dark, dangerous beauty, Deitch and Naumann invoked her shade to an opening crowd of wealthy, attractive Brazilians.

Deitch remarked: "15 years ago, the Yale University Art Gallery deaccessioned a large sculpture of Maria's for $3,000 -- they didn't know what they had," and Francis added, "A 650-pound sculpture is missing, as well -- it's supposedly stamped 'Boston Museum'."

Surrounded by a sea of bronze tentacles, one didn't immediately feel like disputing the wisdom of the market.

However, based on documentation vitrined for the show, what's on view is only an experimental segment of Maria's work. She apparently did realistic busts on commission, which, reproduced in a few magazine photographs, appear to be of interest. One suspects that there's more down the Amazon than is seen in this show, but its historical interest in undeniable.

Naumann, who was technical adviser to the Merchant-Ivory soap Surviving Picasso, wants some tinseltown producer to do Maria. "My personal choice for Maria is Isabelle Adjani," Francis mused, "but my wife Terry votes for Isabella Rossellini."

"For Duchamp, Jeremy Irons, although David Bowie wants to play the part and, of course, he was perfect as Andy Warhol."

When the Brazilians applauded the Bowie alternative, Naumann riposted, "I own three Duchamps. I told David, when he has more Marcels than me, he can play him!"

It seems to me that society was right the first time about artists. They really are a neurotic and shady crew.
        -- Peter Schjeldahl on ArtNet

Sources clued into the Hollywood buzz tell the Flush that Tinseltown's most respected screenwriter, William Goldman, Oscar-winner for the French Connection and other films, completely rewrote Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning script for Good Will Hunting, without taking any credit. Goldman has long lamented the lack of young screenwriting talent in L.A. and has taken matters into his own hands.

Trust the New Museum to refertilize years of negativity, and pollute the vibe at its well-attended re-opening. Marcia Tucker, who had just resigned, was nowhere to be found.

Other staffers appeared too frazzled to circulate their resumes. The bookstore doesn't have many books, but the sofas are large, plush and first-rate -- I guess Franz West made that politically correct.

Like a baboonette, regally exposing her candy-colored fundament, Roberta Smith ululated in the New York Times over Doris Salcedo's minimal installation, titled "Unland."

Trust us, there's no there there. We'd have called it "Ann Hamilton without the Grant" or "Separate Tables."

Rounding out the old/new bric-a-brac: lesbian videos, films of fleas, a wall of business cards and $250 champagne bottles signed by Ross Bleckner. None of it by Doris Salcedo, of course, but the way they dump stuff around this "museum," who can tell?

Looking for a haunt to visit next Halloween? Try the new Bonakdar Jancou space on dark West 21st Street, a castle with foreboding, high black stairs, morgue-like rooms and Tanya Bonakdar as Morticia Addams, in the long black dress she wore to an empty opening at her new tomb last Saturday night.

When a bushy, grey-haired fellow walked into Silverstein Gallery to see Israeli beauty Nurit Newman's narcissistic video installation, he rapped with wet-behind-the-ears proprietor Dan Silverstein for almost an hour.

Heck, the guy signed the book, even left his address: "Joseph Heller."

"Who's that?" asked Dan the Dim afterwards. Catch-22, Silverado!

Even though he didn't recognize the famous American author, Silverstein did realize that the new Flash Art USA editor, and ArtNet contributor Franklin Sirmans was in Danno's class at New Rochelle High School.

Hi Ho Silverstein immediately arranged for Sirmans to sermonize a lecture, two weeks ago, at his Broome Street place. Now, Danny, how about asking Joe Heller to do a reading?

The artist, like the God of Creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
        -- James Joyce

How amusing to watch the useful idiots at The New Art Examiner discover the benefits of entrepreneurial capitalism in its current special issue on collectors.

Putting aside the rag's usual Leninist ravings re the bourgeoisie, talent-challenging editor Kathryn Hixson laments that President Clinton didn't mention art or culture in his recent State of the Union address, and then seriously wonders why art doesn't get the attention of Monica Lewinsky.

Perhaps because the art world only blows itself!

Echoing Newt Gingrich, Hixson remarks that the arts can "no longer use government as a sugar daddy."

Instead Hixson embraces "the individual collector who values and appreciates art for reasons more personal than public, more intuitive than calculating."

Sounds like a typical bourgeois sheep ready for slaughter to us, Katie!

"Can the free market succeed in furthering quality in the visual arts? Is rampant entrepreneurial capitalism the answer to cultural advancement?," Gingrich, oops, Hixson, asks gushily.

Yes, yes, yes, Hixson the hypocrite concludes, "this desire has historically resulted in a lot of quality product."

Can't we do for her what we did for Shelia Lawrence?         -- Margin note by Bill Clinton in one of Kathleen Willey's letters, released last week by the White House. Both women were appointed to U.S. delegations, with ambassadorial rank.

Few directors understand human behavior, or portray it so authentically, as Mike Nichols, whose current effort, Primary Colors, surpasses Nichols' previous masterpieces, The Graduate, Working Girl and the film version of Catch-22.

As with Vince Foster's death, The Clintons/Stantons of Primary Colors cross a moral rubicon with the suicide of a principled close aide, played with scenery-scarfing giddiness by the estimable Kathy Bates.

When Emma Thompson, as Hillary, flings her keys in her husband's face, or slaps him keenly, or collapses in silent paroxysms, we feel someone's pain -- and it's not Bill Clinton's.

Kudos to longtime Nichols amanuensis Elaine May for a tight script that Nora Ephron must envy.

Did you know? Like Andy Warhol and JFK assassination figure David Ferrie (played by Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone's flick), Nichols lost all his body hair at a young age, due to a virus.

Those in the know have enjoyed watching Nichols accessorize with various blonde wigs and false eyebrows for the four decades that he's been an American star.

Yet he still turns on hubba hubba wifey Diane Sawyer -- you go, guy!!

For more on Mike Nichols' early champagne days, see Edmund Wilson's diary The Sixties, with many fascinating entries about the great critic's autumnal friendship with Nichols and May.

Just asking: what recently transplanted London dealer tried to sell an allegedly fake Cindy Sherman "Untitled Film Still" to a close friend?

And what New York auction honcho converted to Judaism when he married his lovely bride, even going so far as to undergo circumcision? Now that the marriage is on the rocks, he's thinking of suing for genital mutilation as part of the divorce proceedings.

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