Yoo-hoo everyone, it's me, Rosetta. I'm back from my trip to Europe! First I went to Berlin, and then to Paris. My excuse was to cover the art fairs, but you know I just went for gossip!
There's so much good art over here. The contemporary art is fresh and energetic (especially in Berlin), and makes New York seem hidebound. And the museums are so grand, made by kings over centuries. What we have in America is merely the piddling plunder of a few tycoons.
Would you like to see my pictures? I have a few! Here they are:
First, Berlin. I know you know this guy! It's Gary Oldman. His picture is all over town in lightboxes, advertising a department store, I think. Honestly, he's the patron saint of bohemian style in Germany. In the U.S. we have pretty boys like Leo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson. The Germans must prefer the scruffy look. Nobody in Berlin wears sneakers! They've got that crepe sole thing goin' on.
Young German artists seem to be a fun-loving bunch -- descendents of Polke rather than Richter or Beuys. No more politics, no more neo-expressionism. At least that's the way it is in the Berlin Biennial, the city-funded, hip young show of about 70 artists spread out between three different derelict sites in the bustling Mitte, or former Eastern half of the city. This picture says it all about the insouciant young German sensibility. It's Wolfgang Tillmans, Rat Disappearing, 1995. It was printed on giant scale, courtesy Kodak, or Canon, or someone, according to the wall label.
Here's another view of the Berlin Biennale. It's at the Kunst-Werke Berlin, a four-story gallery whose ongoing renovation already boasts a fancy, asymmetrical glass café designed by Dan Graham. This covered spiral slide, called Valerio I (1998), is designed by Carsten Höller. The section on the right goes out the window on the second floor and back into a window on the ground floor. On the wall is a little drawing, that shows a pair of skyscrapers with these slides running from one to the other.
In the atrium of the Postfuhrampt, a former post office building, was a motley group of a dozen fancy flower pots on stands, each with a different bouquet of flowers. They were by Tobias Rehberger, who's showed in New York at Friedrich Petzel. Labels on the wall gave each pot the name of a hip young contemporary artist, but I couldn't tell who was who! I think these two are supposed to be Elizabeth Peyton and Tillmans. Sorry about the blurry image, I don't know what happened.
I also went to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the former cast-iron-and-glass railway station that's now a contemporary art museum. It's pretty impressive! And very orderly! Here's a picture of the space -- you can see in the distance a huge shelf of books by Anselm Kiefer and a glass igloo by Mario Merz.
"Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection" had just opened at the museum, and I couldn't resist taking this portrait of Damien Hirst's preserved shark. Hi, fishie! Someone told me they saw it being installed, and the art handlers were wearing bio-hazard suits. The funny thing is, the show is sensational! All scandal -- what else can you say!
Here's my picture of the Katharina Sieverding installation at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. Looks pretty good, no? That's New York dealer Bill Maynes there, in the gallery. Somebody said the show perfectly demonstrated the Gugg's curatorial imperative: gotta show something, might as well be this! But I must say, that Katharina was doing the self-portrait thing well before Cindy Sherman.
Near the Charlottenberg Palace, Paris dealer Heinz Berggruen has gotten himself a rather elegant small museum for his fantastic Picasso collection (he's also got some Cézannes and a cat by Giacometti and some other things). There's three floors, a spiraling stair and a beautiful skylight. Very nice! Did you know that he is the father of California dealer John Berggruen?
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this one. It's called Tazende Silene (1934) in German, and shows that fabulous drunkard Silenus partying with his gang. Has a fat man's stomach ever been portrayed better?
Across the way, in a kind of matching pendant building, is the Egypt Museum. That's where Queen Nefertiti is. She's missing an eye. Here's her picture.
I took this one outside of Christie's Berlin, which just happened to be across the street from a place I went for breakfast. Christie's doesn't do actual auctions in Germany -- the VAT is way too high -- but Andres Serrano was scheduled to give a lecture there on his "History of Sex" photo series the very next night. It turns out that Christie's was giving Andres a little junket around Europe to give his talk in London, Amsterdam and Brussels, too.
Then, on a gray Sunday, I went to the museum island, which was mostly under construction, thank goodness, so I didn't have to go to too many museums! Here's a view inside the Pergamon, which has an incredible Greek and Assyrian collection, as I'm sure you know. Those 19th-century Germans did the archeology thing big-time. I tried to take the picture so it would look like a Thomas Struth. Now I understand how he gets that milky bright light, after a week of cloudy German skies.
At the art fair -- it's called the Berlin Art Forum -- I took some pictures of people. Here's Marian Goodman wearing her blue glasses. They were color-coordinated with the fair catalogue and logo!
I also saw Knight Landesman, one of Artforum's brain trust. Here's a picture of Knight plotting his strategy at the fair! Ha ha, just joking!
And this is Paul Maenz, who used to be a dealer but now just collects, occasionally. He was at a press conference announcing the opening of a new museum in Weimar to house his collection of contemporary art. He said it was because Weimar was so German, which seemed important after reunification, while the focus of his generation had been to make Germany "international."
Oh, I have to show you this one. It's a photo by Aura Rosenberg, a New York artist who had been living in Berlin. Aura asks artists to paint their kid's faces and then photographs them -- this one is by the New York realist painter Dennis Kardon. It's so cute! Usually the art world likes hardcore, not cute. Congratulations to the people at the Tanit Gallery in Munich for liking cute, too. You know how much it costs? 4,500 DM, about $3,000.
These sculptures were at the booth of London dealer Robert Prime. They're by Isa Genzken, who's a wizard with concrete. Some New Yorkers may remember Isa being all wacked out here, living in a Times Square hotel and borrowing money from everyone (she owes me $5!). Now she's okay, they told me. The sculptures have radio antennae! They only cost between 2,500 and 3,500 DM.
Then it was off to Paris. No sooner did I land at Charles de Gaule airport than it starts raining, and my taxi gets stuck in a traffic jam on the highway into the city. Turns out there's a bus. But when I finally got to my hotel, and looked out my fifth-floor window, I gotta say, I felt like Matisse! Oh those shutters.
Now, about the French. They are so vain, they give tours of their sewers! But it's hard to harbor ill will when you're sitting in a café drinking their delicious coffee!
The first thing I did was wander over to the Hôtel Druout in the 9th arrondissement to look at the Paris auction showrooms. From the outside, the building is a fantastic 1980s neo-Art Deco monster that can hardly be taken seriously. Here's a picture of the building.
Inside, two floors of rooms are loaded with -- stuff. It looks like rummage! People tell me that once Sotheby's and Christie's gear up their operations in the city, the old Paris auctioneers are doomed -- with a few exceptions, Tajan and Piasa among them.
So I wandered by Sotheby's and Christie's to take a look. Here's a picture of Sotheby's new Paris outpost, which is already opened, mounting a show of paintings from its fall New York sales (works from the Reader's Digest and morton G. Neumann collections). Housed in the gleaming buff building that was the former Galerie Charpentier, Sotheby's Paris is located on Rue Faubourg du Honoré, just across the street from the Presidential Palace in a high-end shopping neighborhood of art galleries and fashion boutiques.
And here you can see the future home of Christie's Paris, not 500 yards away on the Rue. Now under construction, the Christie's townhouse has four imposing faux-Corinthian columns and previously housed the Art Curiel gallery. Right across the road is Maurice Garnier, the gallery that handles the popular Parisian painter Bernard Buffet.
And this is my prize Paris picture. Since it was raining, I took my lithe self out to the eastern section of the city to take a look at the now-closed American Center in Paris. Doesn't its Paris-yellow-stone look quaint, even though it was designed by Frank Gehry? The American Center's board, led by Bohen Foundation chief Fred Henry, couldn't raise enough money to operate the place, so they shamelessly spent the rest of the institution's $5 million endowment and just shut the center down in February 1996. Can you imagine?
Later I went to FIAC, the art fair. It was so crowded. This in spite of the fact that the venue -- Espace Eiffel-Branly -- isn't much more than a glorified bigtop. The fair used to be in the Grand Palais, for goodness sake. I really think they could do better!
Here's my favorite picture -- people sitting on the floor in the café! There obviously weren't enough benches or places to rest. You know, you can actually earn money with your food service at these things.
Herve Di Rosa Robot contre dragon 1996
This is a picture by Herve Di Rosa, the champion of "figuration libre" and France's answer to Kenny Scharf. It's called Robot contre dragon (1996) and was at the booth of Galerie Louis Carré & Cie at FIAC. Di Rosa made seven trips to Vietnam between 1996 and '98 and with a team of 10-20 workers made 73 of these high-gloss things out of mother-of-pearl and laquer. Over 80 percent were sold at prices ranging from 22,000F to 150,000F. What curiosities!
Finally, I liked very much the recent paintings by Allen Jones. His vision of woman rather reminds me of myself, in my younger years! Ha, ha! This picture is taken off a brochure for his current show at Galerie Patrice Trigano.
Well, that's about it for now. See you back in New York!
ROSETTA STONE lives in New York.
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