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Venice 2011

by Jerry Saltz
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Everyone talks of the high life, money, carousing, and non-stop parties of Venice. I love touching antennas with the art tribe. But by now I find that my last antennae touch happens around 9:45 pm. Now, as I head back to my hotel and I run into scores of people I know on their way to some other event. They always stop and gush, “I’ve just been at the party from Hell.” I so enjoy how the art world loves Hell.

The entire time I was in Venice I was astonished by stories I’d hear and pictures I’d see on blogs the next day. The gigantic parties, celebrities I didn’t even know were there, art stars with oligarchs, young artists ferried about on collectors private water-taxis, the art world packed into Palazzos and fancy hotels, always screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard over whatever “important DJ” had been flown in first-class. But that is what these shin dig sleep overs are. And it’s all good -- even if I miss the good stuff and end up writing in my hotel room, which is good in its own way, as well.

Of all of stories I heard and read about bad parties, seating disasters, failed social connections, bouncers at bars, and woeful tales of no wifi, the most old-fashioned pirate high-Bohemian and sweet of them is New York art-dealer extraordinaire, Michele Maccarone’s.

On the first night of this blow-out, as I was heading home, I ran into Maccarone -- who was obviously on her way to somewhere else. I asked this walking energy-generator quote-machine why she was wearing such dark sunglasses this late.

She looked at me for a silent second, burst out laughing, and said, “Okay; you really want to know?” I said “Yes. I won’t tell anyone.” (She later graciously gave me permission to take a pic and tell.) She took off her sunglasses. The bridge of her nose was bashed in. She then told me what happened. A week before she was there helping her artists install their works. (Basically she was being Shirley MacLlaine in Terms of Endearment, screaming for help for her artists. I assure you you’d give her a hammer if you heard how Maccarone asked.)

But long story short: Around 3:30 am one night, tipsy and tired, she was walking back from who-knows-where. She was far from her apartment and had to pee. So she squatted down facing forward over the ledge to go in the canal. And she fell in and broke her nose. As she told me how two Carbonari eventually came, found her on the ledge, helped her pull up her underpants, and take her to a hospital, she roared. So did I.

JERRY SALTZ is art critic for New York magazine, where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at