Okay, kids, tell daddy to take the rubber band off the bankroll, it's time to go shopping. There's only a few days left to spend down the budget allocation for 1999.
Let's start with the biggest artwork of the season, Richard Serra's Switch at Larry Gagosian's new gallery on West 24th Street in New York's Chelsea district. This macho masterpiece -- an exemplar of the industrial sublime, which Jerry Saltz says is the 60-year-old Serra's best work ever -- consists of an open-cornered triangular configuration of three pairs of curving steel walls, each about 37 feet long and over 14 feet tall.
Switch weighs 28 tons and was made in Germany. Some of the passages get quite narrow and even precipitous. Shadow of the millennium, indeed. It can be yours for $2.8 million.
I think it's supposed to be sited inside, so the massiveness of those great rusty walls can be set off by the architectural confines (and protected from graffitists and pishers). Me, I would put Switch in a birch woods, so it would look like a beautiful ruin of 20th-century industrial capitalism. The rust on the sculpture's surface, so evocative of Claude Monet's great water lily paintings, is a manifestation of nature, after all.
A bit more high-tech -- and more infantile at the same time -- are the new Jeff Koons mirrors at Sonnabend. These serenely tinted concoctions of Pop, Minimalist and Biomorphic form -- four layers of crystal, colored plastic, mirror and steel backing -- were made by an Italian glass artisan in Phoenix with further fabrication done in L.A. (it does feel somewhat aerospace).
The mirrors have the outlines of heads from a coloring-book zoo. There's a sheep, a cow, a giraffe, an elephant, walrus, bear, goat, hippo and two donkeys. I don't think it would be forward to suggest that the inspiration here is Koons' transcendent love for his young son.
Each mirror is about 80 inches tall, and exists in an edition of four. Two are available here, with the other pair off to Europe for exhibition at Max Hetzler in Berlin and who knows where else, perhaps at d'Offay in London. The price? $100,000 each.
While the men move from the atelier to the factory -- in this migration include Frank Stella, who showed his huge slag sculptures at the same time at Sperone Westwater -- Kiki Smith is in transit from the studio to the kitchen-table quilting bee. This is not strictly speaking true, since Smith makes great use of fabricators, particularly in glass. But the stars of her recent show at Pace Wildenstein in SoHo were the figure sculptures made of … papiér mâche.
In one section of the gallery were two little girls on an invisible perch on the wall. One cradles a kitten, the other wears a dress patterned with delicate roses. A third sculpture is of a wolf girl in a red riding hood, with glass eyes and real hair sprouting from her face. All the figures have a quaint Colonial-era or fairy-tale folksiness, another route to the Holy Grail of contemporary art -- authenticity.
As to their price, I confess I forgot to ask, but can report that similar works were on offer at Art Cologne earlier this fall for about $75,000.
While the big American galleries do industry, aerospace and folk tales, this fall some smaller New York galleries hosted something of a British invasion. Sarah Morris at Friedrich Petzel, Michael Craig-Martin at Peter Blum, Peter Doig at Gavin Brown's Enterprise. Okay, Morris and Craig-Martin aren't utterly British, they just live there. And Craig-Martin's installation throughout the first floor of the Museum of Modern Art is hardly a "smaller gallery." As always, don't confuse me with the facts.
Morris' pictures are particularly beautiful, and all sold at prices ranging from $20,000 to $27,000. Who would think that the geometries of the high-rise could translate into such pictorial delight, once again.
As for Craig-Martin's brightly hued MoMA mural of objects from the museum collection, everything from Duchamp's bicycle wheel to a light bulb, it is a tour de force that must raise his stock in New York considerably. We can forgive him, I suppose, for leaving his native U.S. to teach our tricks to the yBa's at Goldsmith's in London. I suppose.
But for the truly contemporary, the very up-to-the-moment, let's turn to Jane Kaplowitz, the New York artist whose recent show at Rupert Goldsworthy in Chelsea featured three wall-sized paintings of "aggressively posing tycoon rappers," as Rupert put it. These works, and several smaller ones in the back room, appropriate their images from ads for new CDs by gangster musicians. And as "icons of luxurious machismo" -- priced at a bargain range between $1,500 and $7,500 -- they take a richly complicated position in relationship to bohemia and the art market.
Across the hall is AC Project Room, where Anne Chu installed her latest New York show of sculptures and watercolors based on Chinese art, notably Tang dynasty funerary ceramics and the Chinese landscape painting tradition. The smaller watercolors, whose clear hues reminded me of the Cézanne show uptown at Acquavella, are a special bargain at $1,400 (they're 24 x 31 in., which isn't that small). Bigger watercolors, measuring 48 x 50 in., are $3,000.
Chu's large wood carvings -- grimacing busts of Chinese figures made with a chain saw and brightly tinted with water paint (Anne, watch out for your fingers!) -- are a steal at $9,000, considering that everyone who's anyone loves her work. On view as well is a multi-part piece of cast ceramic and bronze that was produced in an edition of three by Donald Young Gallery in Chicago. Called House with Bamboo Trees and Court Lady (1995), it is priced at $35,000.
Everyone was also raving about Thomas Woodruff's double show of paintings and drawings at P.P.O.W. in SoHo and Debs & Co. in Chelsea. Woodruff's overdetermined allegories deliver pageantry and poesy like no other. One picture shows a crew of half a dozen black-leather-clad skunk-men posed in a landscape -- modeled by Woodruff himself and dealer Nick Debs, among others. Another painting shows a nude, half-submerged boy dressed up to resemble a swan. It's quite an imaginative costume! Collectively titled "All Systems Go," the works address "the fears and inevitability of going to a different place," Woodruff says, "particularly pressing for those suffering from cancers and HIV infection."
The exquisitely detailed drawings, with titles like French Garlic Stew and Lachrymose Onion, are moving fast at $2,500. Paintings are a bit more dear, ranging up to $20,000 for major works.
Around the corner from P.P.O.W., Spencer Brownstone has organized "Bundled," a show of smaller drawings, paintings, prints and photographs by gallery artists. I liked the bold line and simple shapes of Jonathan Tinker's Charcoal Dog, priced at $300. I also liked Olivier Mosset's silkscreened Exit Signs, for $600 each (edition of 40). You can buy red and white ones at the hardware store; these are either white on white, black on black, purple on lavender or blue on light blue.
The sepia-toned platinum palladium photographs by Skip Arnold, priced at $550 each, show the always attractive artist in the buff doing the titular Ring around the Rosie. It's a great subject, with reference to the Black Death, Muybridge motion studies and Matisse's Dance. Of course, when it comes to Skip, who is skinny as a rail, I always think of the fictional detective Nero Wolfe, who claimed not to trust skinny people because their fat-free condition shows they have no appetite for life. I don't think Nero had met Skip!
New works by Barbara Stork are on view at Trans Hudson Gallery on West 13th Street. This time around -- she has showed there three times before -- Stork is focusing on recycling, making things like a briefcase out of Hershey's chocolate milk containers. At $2,400, "it's cheaper than Louis Vuitton," she said. I offered her some of my garbage, but she said no thanks. "It's all I can do to use up my own."
Collectors are snapping up Stork's colorful, cast-aluminum flowers, whose threaded metal stems hang on eyehooks screwed into the wall. These apocalyptic blooms, inscribed variously with slogans relating to themes like "Healing: Science v. Nature" and "Power of Women and the Quiet Backlash," are bargain-priced at $60 each, $90 with a leaf.
I can't stop shopping without mentioning Janine Gordon's fabulous calendar, Boyz 2000, on sale for $10 at Cynthia Broan Gallery on West 14th Street. Janine used to labor for the New York Board of Education. Now she makes yummy black-and-white pin-up photos of hunky guys. One is for sale in the benefit online auction The Thing is having at http://auction.thing.net, with an estimated price of $250. I would buy it if I were you.
Another great work in the Thing auction is Laura Emrick's sculpture of multicolored fluorescent Plexiglas called Cubic Highrise. Last summer Emrick had a dynamite sculpture show -- works she said were designed to be installed on Mars -- at Greene Naftali in Chelsea. Cubic Highrise has an estimated value of $1,200, but a smart shopper could probably snag it for less, since the poor Thing auction isn't garnering many bids! We know how that feels! This one comes with a definite "buy" recommendation from your own little, non-SEC-licensed Rosetta.
Odds and ends: Is eArtGroup.com, a new online art-consignment site, going to partner with Art & Auction magazine for content? Of course we welcome the competition …. What's Bernard Arnault going to do with Phillips auction house, which he bought a few months back? No official word yet, but one thing's for sure. With arch-rival Francois Pinault's Christie's ensconced in Rock Center, Arnault won't be satisfied to leave Phillips in a converted garage on East 79th Street….SoHo stalwart Jack Tilton is looking to open a gallery space in Los Angeles with Bennet Roberts…. Art publisher supreme Jean Stein is taking Grand Street online in an effort to reach more people. Jean! Don't sell your content too cheaply!
Feminist artist Judy Chicago, not seen in New York since her 1980 Brooklyn Museum show of ceramic vagina plates was savaged by the critics, comes back next May for an exhibition at the American Craft Museum with adages and proverbs done by a team of 20 needleworkers. … Getting ready for the new millennium? Try "010101" at the San Francisco MoMA, a show of art in our technological times by 10-15 artists, opening … when? In about a year? Some people are already living in the future….