James Salomon is only 35, bit it feels as if he has been around the New York art scene forever. For years, Salomon was the best looking and smoothest of the Armani-clad male mafia working for Mary Boone and James, with his special combination of cunning and humility, was the most adept assistant at smoothing over Madame's often ruffled feathers.
But Salomon also has his eye on the main chance. Growing up in a distinguished East End family, James befriended some of the stars of that scene and they have been extremely loyal to him. When James opened a project space on Plank Road somewhere in the Hamptons (while he was still employed by Mary Boone), Eric Fischl and Donald Sultan consigned him some work. The collector Beth Rudin DeWoody curated a show with Salomon and remains a steady buyer from him, and the painting butterfly Billy Sullivan lent Salomon many of his photographs of the Warhol days in Montauk.
You can see those photos, including a 1976 snap of a bare-chested Klaus Kertess, in Salomon's new Chelsea gallery space, Salomon Contemorary, in the cavernous 526 West 26th Street gallery building. James has a sunlit double cube right off the elevator on floor five, and his current group show, called "Plank Road," reprises all the artists whom he exhibited on the East End. John Gruen told us how to work the Hamptons art scene in his long out-of-print book The Party's Over Now and James Salomon must have absorbed every page.
Above his desk is a stunning Billy Sullivan painting of Salomon's five-year-old son Matthias playing with a toy airplane. Around the corner is a recent purple Fischl gouache of a naked beach bunny and piled up on a table are photos of new Alexis Rockman paintings, which Salomon will exhibit in a November solo show. "I am not representing artists right away," James tells me with a sly grin, "but I am negotiating with a major installation artist," whose name he swore me not to reveal, other than to say that is a very short name (hint). As for the work in the show, you can take a gander at some of it to the left of this column.
But more importantly, stop by Salomon's back room for a chat with the man himself, a true survivor. Out in the Hamptons, they call him "The Breeze."
"Plank Road," Sept. 15-Oct. 30, 2010, at Salomon Contemporary, 526 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).