With a perfect storm of foundation money, loving press attention and student volunteers, the Bruce High Quality Foundation's Brucennial is poised to eclipse this year's Whitney Biennial as the event of the spring art season. One major reason for this upheaval is the BHQF's contribution to the Whitfest itself: the Art Rescue Vehicle, a souped-up ambulance full of trompe l'oeil art supplies which advance word suggests might be the best piece at the Whitney.
The second reason is the emergence of a new It Girl among the Bruce instructors, MoMA employee and UC Berkeley alumna Haley Mellin, described by one of her students as having "the poise and stamina of an Olympic swimmer." Reason number three is the avuncular presence of longtime Cooper Union sculpture studio czar David Karlin, mentor to the late dealer/innovator Colin DeLand and the revered Cooper Union collective Art Club 2000, one of whose founders, artist Danny McDonald, is also a star of the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Indeed, when another Art Club 2000 veteran, CUNY professor Patterson Beckwith, recently dropped in at BHQF headquarters, he was mobbed like a rock star.
One of the Brucies confided last week to his students that "we are taking the Bruce on the road," meaning that the BHQF has been invited this spring to lecture and conduct seminars at Yale and the Rhode Island School of Design. Cooper Union is so proud of its Bruce connection that it has directed the entire Cooper freshman class to visit the Bruce next week, and Creative Time czarina Anne Pasternak, a major BHQF backer, has been so inspired by the Bruce's tutorial example that she excitedly told BHQF apparatchiks at its Recess space last week that she is returning to school to get a PhD in government relations.
Nevertheless, with the Brucennial ready to debut at a mammoth 350 Broadway ground floor space (formerly a discount fashion outlet) two days after the opening of the Whitney Biennial, which it has effectively seized control of, success and buzz may be the BHQF's biggest headache. Already, one of the Bruce's leading lights, Mark Beasley, has departed, reportedly under group pressure. Will BHQF splinter like a Roman candle, the way its predecessor Art Club 2000 also diffused? In the ego-driven world of art, where attention must be paid to every "star," the answer is probably "Yes."
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).