It was a pretty weak weekend, if you know what I mean. Your correspondent made it out to exactly zero galleries on Saturday, despite preparing a star-studded list of the hot shows for November. Damien Hirst "Medicine Cabinets" at L&M Arts, "In Giacometti’s Studio" at Eykyn MacLean, Joe Coleman’s "Auto-Portrait" at Dickinson, Francesco Clemente at Mary Boone Gallery. And that’s just uptown.
I get depressed just thinking about it. Hirst made his first medicine cabinet, it turns out, in 1988, using pill bottles taken from his grandmother’s own bathroom. That’s about when pharmaceuticals gained a newly expressive dimension for a lot of us, in the midst of the AIDS crisis. I remember noticing for the first time, too, the motif of the bedside table filled with prescription pill bottles in the Ron Howard Fountain of Youth fantasy, Cocoon (1985).
Hirst’s medicines seem more institutional than personal, though -- like Nurse Jackie, but who knows if she would purloin any of these pills in order to get high. Is it about recreation, or cancer? Is it about something that is happening in the world right now, or is it about forgetting?
On Sunday, not expecting much, I went to MoMA PS1 to see what was happening with "MOVE!" A two-day-long performance fest that teamed up artists and fashion designers, the event turned out to be a lot of fun. Viewers could wander through all three floors of PS1 and see random dance routines and performances, without committing to an entire show. It was just like looking at artworks in a gallery.
It was Halloween, and a Brooklyn-based collaborative named CHERYL was giving visitors "the makeover you never knew you wanted" with wigs, paint and glitter, to the accompaniment of music and dancing. Rashaad Newsome presented one of his signature compositions, a kind of woman’s chorus of nonverbal expressions, that was very well received.
In another gallery it was a scene out of A Chorus Line, as a dancer taught members of the audience an elaborate stage routine. And Rob Pruitt had an installation where you strutted down a blue-screen catwalk, with your image digitally superimposed on a projection of a real fashion show in the next gallery.
Most animated was the collaboration between designer Cynthia Rowley and artist Olaf Breuning -- a perfect pairing of two irrepressible personalities. The work unfolded within a stretched-out U-shaped space. On one side was a corridor filled with a long rack of denim jumpers and dresses. Next was a designer’s workshop, with a model being fitted with one of the outfits.
In the center was the paint room, where Breuning would climb a ladder and dump paint on the head of the hapless models, decorating the dress in the meantime, in a performance that brought to mind everything from Hermann Nitsch and his Orgien Mysterien Theater to Nickelodeon’s Double Dare kids’ game show. What women will let men do to them, it never ceases to amaze.
But that’s fashion. The finished but still wet outfits were displayed on racks in the final hall. A few of the outfits are available on CynthiaRowley.com; a dress is $600.
So that was that, except this morning I wandered down to the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street to take a look at the new midtown headquarters of Phillips de Pury & Company, which holds its first auction in one week, on Nov. 8, 2010 (first in the suite of contemporary art auctions coming up at the city’s three big houses).
Among some of the more interesting lots are a Louise Lawler photo from 1986, which carries a presale estimate of $80,000-$120,000, and a 4 x 3 ft. Raymond Pettibon drawing that’s estimated at $100,000-$150,000. Go for it, guys.
Also hot: One of Dan Colen’s graffitied dolmens, covered with faux pigeon droppings -- quite artfully done, by the way (est. $150,000-$200,000) -- and Martin Creed’s Half the Air in a Given Space, which is a room half-filled with black balloons ($80,000-$120,000).
Also back are Frank and Jamie, Maurizio Cattelan’s two grinning policemen mannequins, positioned upside down, which in their first exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery in 2002 prompted our critic Charlie Finch to see an unhappy reference to 9/11. Unofficially priced at $350,000 then, the sculpture now carries a presale estimate of $1,000,000-$1,500,000. Not that great of a return?
By the way, cater-corner from Phillips on Park Avenue, next to the Ritz Hotel, is the new quarters of Hammer Galleries, which opens today, Nov. 1, 2010, with an exhibition of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Hard to believe so many of these things can be found in one place.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.