Hello, everybody, the art world has started up again, are you ready to do some shopping? The Democrats may be lagging but the art market seems "pretty solid," in the words of art advisor Kimball Higgs, who notes that the big New York art auctions in November already have good material. "I’m excited," said dealer Marianne Boesky, who now has two galleries, one in Chelsea and another on East 65th Street. She calls the market "very opportunistic," with buyers at the top level -- say, for works by one of her star artists, Yoshitomo Nara, currently the subject of a major retrospective at Asia Society in New York -- ready to buy "at the right price." (For Nara that would be in the mid-six figures for a nice-sized painting, according to Tomio Koyama, his Tokyo dealer.)
"As long as it costs more than a handbag," exclaimed Peter Miller of the Robert Miller Gallery, in a lamentation perhaps aimed at rising prices in all luxury markets. It just so happens that an artwork in the form of a lovely quilted handbag, complete with a modified Apple logo -- two bites are taken out of the fruit -- can be had in shiny, hand-welded stainless steel from artist Liao Yibai, who is exhibiting his work in a double show at Mike Weiss Gallery (which represents him) and at ATM Gallery down the street. The purse is only $20,000 in an edition of six, but the seven-foot-tall Rolls Philippe wristwatch, priced at $150,000, is already sold to a Dutch collector. Is "applied art" our theme, then? British art-genius Damien Hirst is way out in front, as usual, with his spin-art tire covers available from Other Criteria, his shop, for £900, or about $1,400, according to the Shopping Blog. Better yet is Robert Rauschenberg’s Angostura from the great, late Pop pioneer’s "Carnal Clock" series of 1969, six-foot-square contraptions that actually tell the time via light bulbs behind a "clock face" made of mirrored Plexi silkscreened with genitalia -- including those of his then-assistant, painter Brice Marden, according to Calvin Tomkins. Priced at a bargain $1.2 million, the clock is on view at the new Loretta Howard Gallery on West 26th Street (in dealer Sara Meltzer’s old space) in "Artists at Max’s Kansas City, 1965-1974," a show organized by Maurice Tuchman. This particular Rauschenberg is one of the first works consigned via Gagosian Gallery, which now represents the artist’s estate. Gagosian opens a 70-work survey of the artist’s long career at its West 21st Street space on Oct. 29, 2010, by the way, which should be the show of the season. How many works are in the estate? "A lot," said Christy MacLear, the former head of the Philip Johnson Glass House and now executive director of the Rauschenberg Foundation. That Fluxus fascination with art-making machines is echoed on West 23rd Street at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, where the Brooklyn artist and animator Mac Premo has installed Totally Look Inside This Hole, an apparatus on the gallery’s back wall that allows visitors to select a square of painted plywood -- mine was stamped with an orange image of raindrops falling from a cloud -- fit it into a slot and then stick their heads through an opening to watch an automated drill press drill a hole right through the wood square. Drilling, it is a special kind of esthetic experience, believe you me, and the viewer gets to keep the resulting artwork. "I don't want this," a small child was heard to complain at the opening. "It has a hole in it." Speaking of holes, another fall-season must-see are the Time Tubes of German artist Andreas Hofer -- who has changed his name to the all-star American moniker Andy Hope 1930 on the occasion of this show -- at Metro Pictures. These whimsical sculptures literally frame, with a picture frame, an empty pitch-black space (contained within an attached wooden box, natch). They’re a painter’s idea of sculpture, to be sure, and only $65,000. A ceramist’s idea of sculpture can be had at Jack Shainman Gallery on West 21st Street, where Arlene Shechet has installed strange and lovely new potteries, her best yet, beautifully glazed and seated on special bases as if by the spirit of Constantin Brancusi. Collectors seem especially enamored of the clumsy heaps of ill-mannered clay coils, barely balancing, like Jackson Pollock in 3D, which go for about $26,000. The show is called "The Sound of It," Shechet says, because the original name for the Freudian unconscious was not the "id" but the "it." Collectors also like the paintings by Buenos Aires-based artist Manuel Esnoz in his show, "Farewell Mon Pasticheur" at Kravets/Wehby Gallery, where four of the six major works have already sold in the $14,000-$22,000 range. We know the art world is smart but is it funny? Chelsea dealer Jim Kempner thinks so, and next month launches a second season of The Madness of Art, his funny web-video series starring himself, his gallery director Dru Arstark, fellow dealer Glenn Dranoff and a guest cast of artists and others. Meanwhile, in your more serious moments, perhaps you should look at a book once in a while? Uptown dealer John Good calls Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, his new tome on the financial crisis, "required reading."
ROSETTA STONE is a New York writer.