The art world is a funny place. New York’s fall season is barely under way, and the show that everyone loves to hate is Dan Colen’s "Poetry" at Gagosian Gallery on West 24th Street in Chelsea. And yet, despite the bad reviews, the exhibition is certain to be a success. The Jackson Pollock-like paintings made with fruity-scented, candy-colored chewing gum, for instance, are so utterly awful that they are doomed to have historical importance.
Revealed in a New York Times profile to be what you might call a "natural talent," the excessively tall, 31-year-old reformed "bad boy" presents a scant selection of works at Gagosian, most notably a 50,000-pound brick wall that is 13 feet tall, 23 feet long and over eight feet thick. The recommended droll comment when asked about the show, courtesy New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, is a simple "nice wall."
Curiously, the gallery has "authorized" only a single "full frontal" photo of the sculpture, which casts as a flat "picture plane" (a surface for graffiti, presumably) a work whose obvious claim to esthetic importance is as a monumental found object. It literally, if not figuratively, dwarfs Marcel Duchamp’s urinal. Word is that the price is around $450,000, and a couple of museums are interested.
Meanwhile, what else is going on? Hot shows of the first week in Manhattan include Pipilotti Rist’s "Heroes of Birth" at Luhring Augustine, which features an ethereal projection of images of running sheep onto a kind of scrim labyrinth. Essentially, it turns Robert Rauschenberg’s "Hoarfrost" series into an immersive environment.
The smaller, darkened back gallery holds only a glowing chandelier that turns out to have been made from the symmetrically draped, largely white underwear of the women in Rist’s own family -- giving the ordinarily sexualized image a frisson of feminism, not to say incest. For a double thrill, stand in the middle and look up inside.
In the gallery’s entrance space is kind of a welcoming altar, a low shelf holding a vase of yellow mums and a water cooler and cups, should a gallery visitor want a drink. Also on view is a small video triptych with a kaleidoscopic image that bears close inspection (a hint: the image was manufactured by hands moving a penis like a marionette on an invisible filament).
Another must-see is a ribaldly expressive series of 16 collaborative works by Louise Bourgeois, who made gouache drawings of male and female torsos in profile, and Tracey Emin, who added images of fetuses, dangling familiars and her own mournful texts. Published as dye-on-cloth in an edition of 18 sets with six proofs (and signed with Bourgeois’ trademark embroidered monogram), the collaboration, titled "Do Not Abandon Me," is on view at the Carolina Nitsch Project Room. The introductory price -- which will no doubt go up! -- is $12,000 each, or $125,000 for a suite of all 16.
Over at its 21st Street space, Gagosian has assembled "Transport," an estimable collection of works by Australian design star Marc Newson that have to do with getting from point A to B -- a subspace orbiter, a personal jet plane, a lime green Ford mini, a carbon-fiber bike, a pair of surfer sneaks. Most hearthrobingly desirable is the Nickel Surfboard of 2006, which looks like the Silver Surfer’s ride come to life. Sadly, that’s not available, though Newson’s new Aquariva speedboat, done in an edition of 22, can be had from the gallery for $1.5 million.
So there’s speed, and then there’s sex. Down in SoHo, Team Gallery is offering the New York premiere of Santiago Sierra’s challenging Los Penetrados (2008), a ca. 50-minute-long video of squads of couples coupling -- in the ass. It’s the ultimate taboo. Done in an edition of three, the vid can be had for €80,000.
Intercourse is in the air on Madison Avenue as well, where the ultra-exclusive Luxembourg & Dayan gallery at 64 East 77th Street is revisiting, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its first showing, Jeff Koons’ scandalous "Made in Heaven" series of color screenprints-on-canvas of himself and then-wife Cicciolina in heavenly congress, opening Oct. 5, 2010. No word on the prices -- the auction record is $937,000, set in 2007 -- but suffice it to say that these are among the artist’s most challenging works.
Out in Los Angeles, the legendary Ferus Gallery has been reborn -- with the implicit approval, if not the active participation, of pioneering dealer Irving Blum, who owns the name -- at its original location at 723 North LaCienega Boulevard, a space occupied by a tailor shop in the intervening decades. The current exhibition, "Tabula Incognita," presents new artworks by Sheila Berger, a New Yorker who records her global travels in over-the-top journals, usually filled with all manner of richly elaborated memories but here presented more like untrammeled snow.
Fred Maechler’s Paris-based skate-fashion company, Mekanism, which has produced skateboards by Olafur Eliasson, Katharina Grosse, Josh Smith and other art stars, has most recently given carte blanche to German artist Anselm Reyle, who has made a series of glossy lacquered boards combining Ab-Ex gestures in mudstone colors against a neon pink background. The 50 unique works, plus ten artist’s proofs, are all signed by the artist, and go for €5,500 apiece.
Across the Atlantic, the Pierre-Marie Giraud Gallery makes its home in the historic Sablon district of Brussels, where next month it debuts a new series of colorful ceramics by the Los Angeles artist Sterling Ruby, the much-celebrated auteur of the abject who shows in New York with Pace Gallery. The new works -- all titled Ashtray -- are signed and dated on their base, and somehow capture in their richly colored glazes the harrowing psychological depth of the smoking experience today. It's enough to make you want to quit.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.