Socialite and controversial photography collector (he has been involved in one kerfluffle after another over the origins and showing of his groundbreaking African photography collection) Jean (aka "Johnny") Pigozzi first burst on the New York scene in the 1980s as a backer of the arch, witty Spy magazine, as a guy with a come-on line for every woman, whose chubby mug popped Zelig-like into every party pic imaginable.
Now he has turned the tables and filled Gagosian’s uptown space with hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of his own black-and-white party photographs of every celebrity imaginable, just in time to fulfill your holiday shopping needs. The small ones are priced at $2,500 each, framed, in a risibly high edition of 30, the big ones (not so big) are $3,700, edition of 15. I would say take off that last 0, and maybe even the 5, to establish their true value, except that some of the candids of people like Michael Douglas and Mick Jagger (yawn) are almost fascinating.
Pigozzi’s overall theme is that celebrities can be as ugly and zonked out as the rest of us, minus the rich-and-famous part. There’s an awful snap of a drooping Salma Hayek and the many shots of Jack Nicholson highlight hundreds of sags, wrinkles and boredom lines. But there’s some magic, too: a beautiful Muhammad Ali enigmatically smiling in a limousine, Catherine Zeta-Jones very deliberately posing for the camera while hubby Michael Douglas drapes himself over her, as if to advertise, "She’s all mine."
The Pigozzillettos that those who can afford them are really going to want to stuff their diamond-studded stockings with are, fah dah, candids of Larry Gagosian, whose general air in these pictures is that of the bad boy caught with his fingers in the Bosco (chocolate sauce, for you young ’uns). Here’s Larry grinning like Bacchus, as he stares up at a male mannequin, its hairy package with penis inches from GoGo’s mouth.
Then there’s Gagosian in surfing trunks ready for a dive with Leo Castelli stripped down to an bizzarro coal black bathing suit. And there a number of snaps of Larry in party mode, grinning as if to say, "Look at me with all these stars. I may be the bus boy, but I’m still here." You know $2,500, edition of 30, is actually a bargain for the Larry photos. What makes me think that they may not be for sale?
Jean Pigozzi, "Johnny STOP!" Nov. 7-Dec. 23, 2010, at Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10075
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).