Oh my god. The dotty old Museum of Modern Art has cleared out its permanent collection galleries, lock, stock and Picasso. All those suites of pictures, a perfectly tuned concert of modernist treasures -- gone, gone, gone. It's a tragedy.
And in their place, "Modern Starts: People," a conglomeration of 200-plus nudes, portraits, statues and figure scenes. Next is "Places," on Oct. 28, and then "Things." Say I'm old fashioned, but it sounds like pre-school to me!
The curatorial alibi is new "juxtapositions." At the entryway, Aristide Maillol's sexy The River (1938-43) is posed just so in front of Barnett Newman's Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51). I don't believe the Newman actually portrays any people, but it makes a good backdrop! Arrayed in a row on a long wall are Henri Matisse's The Piano Lesson (1916), Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) and a Cubist arabesque by Francis Picabia called I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie (1914).
Two other galleries are full of snapshots by everyone from Cartier-Bresson and Jacques-Henri Lartigue to Robert Frank and Tina Barney. Another big hall -- it used to hold a sublime group of paintings by Matisse, I think -- is titled "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" and is dotted with a collection of sculpture, including that RodinBalzac that used to be in the garden. I tell you, it seems like it was dragged inside to get it out of the rain -- the old guy looks like he's wrapped in a blanket to get warm!
Worst of all, MoMA's painted its pristine white walls. Grey, Avocado, even . . . brown. Roll over, Alfred Barr.
We like to encourage our curators to try new things, and anything MoMA does is okay by me, but aren't we pitching this stuff a little . . . low, even for the new millennium? The wags at MoMA are already calling it "False Starts."
Meanwhile, up at the Guggenheim Museum, the avant-garde love of kink is out in full force with the retrospective of the orifice-obssessed celebrity Casanova, Francesco Clemente. One of the last surviving '80s superstars (at least among the men), Clemente is super-chic, more popular even than handsome Ross Bleckner or bigfoot Julian Schnabel. The Guggenheim's opening party went till 2 a.m., with Spanish techno from a d.j. friend of Clemente's wife Alba.
As for the art, it's kinky, like I said. One picture shows a penis at the top of a giant canvas, dripping out white fluid that puddles into an entire menagerie. Another shows three nude girls who use scissors to cut out each other's vaginas, which then metamorphose into butterflies. Can't decide which I like best!
What else, what else. Downtown are Jenny Saville's fantastic nude self-portraits at Gagosian. Great swaths of paint circumscribing gargantuan females that barely fit inside their mural-sized perimeter. Welcome to the giantess zone! How much are they? $80,000, $100,000, $120,000? It keeps going up! Of course, New York Times critic Roberta Smith thinks they're not only old fashioned but emotionally empty. Sorry, what she thinks don't count!
What else. At Deitch Projects is SoHo's very own Indian Expressionist Brad Kahlhamer, a Native American who was raised by German adoptive parents in Michigan. He's a dear, with his twin braids, cowboy hat and Western music. He filled the front of the gallery with little Kachina dolls, complete with feathers. Oh, it's Gucci, said a visitor from Santa Fe.
In the back were his big paintings, washy swirls of color à la Helen Frankenthaler dotted with Krazy Kat-style self-portrait line drawings. Isn't there something funny about mixing Abstract Expressionist stylings with American Indian content? A few energetic tachiste swipes of green paint, and you've got a seguaro cactus.
Jeffrey Deitch himself was working the crowd, busily handing out invites for the after-party at Casamir on Avenue B to every young woman in the room. Reminded me of Spencer Tunick trying to get volunteers for one of his nudie photog events. Gotta hand it to Jeffrey. Of late his program has been dedicated to hip, young American artists (while all his colleagues seem to be in the import business) like Kahlhamer, Margaret Kilgallen, Lane Twitchell, Barry McGee, Beth B and Brooklyn's own Laura Parnes.
Hello cutie-pie! Those of you who are paying attention know that SoHo galleries are all of a sudden filled with paintings of kids. At CRG there's the Rotterdam artist Kiki Lamers, whose soft-focus, duo-chromatic portraits of her own two kids and their friends seem very post-Gerhard Richter. At Bronwyn Keenan, there's the Brit Simon Henwood, whose large gouaches on paper of grimacing boys and girls are priced at $3,500 and moving fast. And at P.P.O.W. there's Jerry Kearns, whose pictures of adolescents are meticulously rendered on bright pastel monochromes.
What could explain it? I'm not taking any bets, but I think it's an appeal to the baby boom among critics who occasionally write for Artnet Magazine. For instance, Paper magazine editor Carlo McCormick has a new son, named Tristan, courtesy his wife, photog Tessa Hughes-Freeland. New-York Historical Society flack Grady T. Turner welcomes Harlan Isabelle to the clan, now numbering five in all. Word is that mother Kate Gutwillig did most of the work. Similar cheer goes to Jane Juno Adams, who makes a trio of the art-critical team of Brooks Adams and Lisa Liebmann.
Oh yes, one more thing. What yenta could resist a few remarks about the opening of Chris Ofili at Gavin Brown's Enterprise on West 15th Street in Chelsea? The crowd was buzzing with news that all five paintings, very folk-artish and lovely in a '60s hippie way, were already sold at $45,000. And despite his affection for the scabrous, word has it that Ofili is a "gentle spirit" (as opposed to a Mau-Mau?). One African American skeptic insisted that no contemporary African uses the notorious elephant dung in religious rituals, as has been suggested. In any case, Ofili himself, who is a rather large person, had no comment for the press, a retreat into silence that is disappointing if predictible.
Odds and ends … East Village painter Martin Wong's memorial celebration is set for 6:30 on Nov. 1 at the Museum of the City of New York …. James Cohan Gallery opens at 41 West 57th Street with a show of works from the '70s by Gilbert & George. Coming up are new paintings by Richard Patterson. Gallery director is downtown gallery diva Alissa Friedman …. Gorney Bravin + Lee opens on Oct. 29 with an 82-foot-long mural by Fabian Marcaccio at its new digs at 534 West 26th St. … Where's art critic David Rimanelli, so beloved of Artforum magazine letter-column disputes? Somewhere out in California, where he's been named art critic in residence at Otis Art Institute … Get well wishes to Columbia University art historian and October magazine scribe Rosalind Krauss, who suffered an aneurism in late September.