A while back I promised Whitney curator Chrissie Iles that she could select a few discs from my record collection as a contribution to her celebrated vinyl archive, so, when I ran into her at a dinner in honor of the painter Ena Swansea, I suggested that Chrissie come right over to my apartment. She happily agreed, so, around midnight, we hopped a cab, and soon Chrissie was propped, belly down, on my East Village floor, sipping chamomile tea and going through my record collection. I told her she could select any five discs for her collection.
Now, Chrissie was born in 1968 and thus has a matchless hunger for the ‘60s era that preceded her arrival. Her cultural curiosity is unbounded, but, surprisingly, there is a lot, by virtue of her relative youth, that she doesn't know. She was astounded to finger Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl, an official American release by Capitol Records in 1977, exclaiming, "I never heard of this," so I let her keep it.
"You know, Charlie," Chrissie continued, "Yoko Ono wanted to fly me to London to see Abbey Road studios and its Beatles files, but I had a scheduling conflict and couldn't make it." Such is the bejeweled life of the international curator. Like a rainy day Santa, I started handing Chrissie some extra goodies, such as a bootleg of the early Rolling Stones film Charlie Is My Darling. "I haven't heard of this, either," Chrissie purred, "but I know Charlie Watts and I want to curate a show of his motel drawings." It turns out that the Stones' drummer has done drawings of every room he has stayed in while on tour over the years (as has "60 Minutes" curmudgeon Morley Safer, by the way!).
Listening to Chrissie, I marveled at the pleasures of jet-set curation and puzzled my brain at the active disjunction between the pampered privileges of the museoelites and the often difficult art with which they hammer the public. Think of that Paul McCarthy exhibition Chrissie organized at the Whitney a few years back, with doors slamming mechanically, in headache-inducing cacophony, all day long. "Those poor, poor museum guards," was my sole critical reaction, since I can't stand McCarthy, an artist who has devoted a career to the dubious proposition that simulating a drunken Irishman doing stupid, perverted things is somehow art.
Could it be that our curatorial class is a cult of sadomasochists bent on pleasuring themselves while beating down the rest of us? By 4 am, I didn't care, for Chrissie Iles, thoroughly charming, was leaving my apartment with a stack of my records under her arm, just like all my ex-girlfriends back in the ‘60s.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).