Longtime enablers of this space will recognize that the Pace Gallery operation drives me bonkers. When Pace is good it is very, very good and when it is bad, it is awful, and when I report such awfulness, Pace lets me know of its regal dissatisfaction with me.
Part of the problem is the far-flung disjointedness of Pace’s many New York gallery spaces, the illogic of which recalls the late Julian Pretto, a 1970s dealer and dabbler in real estate, who, by 1989, had acquired seven storefronts and office spaces, which he turned into galleries before his whole operation collapsed.
Another part of the problem is that Pace lacks a centered curatorial vision (in contrast to the cunning control of Ealan Wingate and John Good at Gagosian), tending to be all over the place with everything. Both weaknesses were evident in spades last Thursday night at Pace’s three awkward Chelsea spaces on West 25th Street.
Crowds of art-trippers bought lobster rolls and gourmet ice cream from street vendors on a cool night, right outside Pace’s dubious effort at hipness, a parking lot turned into a pulsing boombox of a globe by artist, musician and Cindy Sherman ex David Byrne. The picture of the piece on the card (Pace mails out a lot of cards and posters and other unnecessary ephemera), as is often the case with Pace, looked better than the show, an ugly take on Alighiero Boetti, Byrning in an irritating rhythm of nothing sound. Byrne it!
Pace’s other two shows were worse: an insipid, chaotically installed exhibition about social media, proving once and for all that such media belong on your iPhone and not in a gallery, and the ultimate misfire, Agnes Martin’s gray grids from the 1980s. Only Pace could fuck up Agnes Martin, but low lighting and close hanging will do that, casting a funereal air on work that must have vibrated in the desert air of her studio and could, frankly, use a little fading in the sunlight to escape Pace’s deadening corporatism.
My own escape was the Lennon Weinberg Gallery, in between Paces, where Holly Solomon Gallery veteran Melissa Meyer was debuting shimmering canvases full of colorful hieroglyphical squares with a minor charm all their own. Something that at least, unlike anything Pacey, seemed to actually have been touched by human hands. Now that I have said my piece, perhaps Pace will surprise me with a knockout show in some place it has yet to convert to a gallery. In the meantime, and I really hate to write this, go to Gagosian.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).