Hello, class, today's theme is "where's Damien?" Damien Hirst was certainly not at the Christie's London contemporary auction, where some Stuckists were roughed up while protesting his "artistic plagiarism." And he was not at the Frieze Art Fair, where Gagosian Gallery was displaying his big cabinet of Viagra -- it's tough being a man! -- and White Cube had a giant display of pickled fish. The former was priced at about $6 million, and the latter sold to an Asian collector for $5 million or so.
No, Damien was spotted in New York City, helping superdealer Robert Mnuchin unload a shipment of Hirst’s medicine cabinet sculptures from a truck on East 78th Street, getting ready for a show that opens at L&M Arts on Oct. 28. Word is that the artist is too busy to stay for his own vernissage. Needless to say, any reports of the demise of Damien's market have been rather premature.
Otherwise, what was hot at Frieze in 2010? That’s easy -- the iPad! Every dealer seemed to have one, so clients could finger their potential purchases in that only-on-an-iPad way. It added a whole new tactile element to the normally hands-off art experience.
At Frieze, practically the first thing you saw was a table of porno mags like Razzle and Lez Lovers at the booth of Hauser & Wirth. The provocative artwork, titled Consumed by Desire, is by art provocateur Christoph Büchel. "It’s incredibly precise," said a gallery salesman, who declined to reveal the work’s price. The best galleries, they can sell art that way.
Otherwise, how’s business? The word of the day was "subdued," though plenty of booths were "sold out on the first day" -- Oliver Laric at Seventeen Gallery, for instance, and some collector snagged all six of Daniel Silver’s sculptures on the fair lawn for £65,000.
At Rio de Janiero’s A Gentil Carioca was a large British flag woven out of pound notes by Lourival Cuquinha, which had been sold during the VIP opening by Christie’s auctioneer Hugh Edmeades for £17,000 as a sort of performance. Now that’s patriotism.
Prizes, prizes. Sadie Coles HQ won the official Frieze "booth prize" -- our colleague Jerry Saltz was on the jury -- no doubt thanks to Ugo Rondinone’s large fireplace installation, which gave the booth a nice homey feel.
Polish 20-something Anna Molska (she was in "Younger than Jesus") takes our own "best artist" prize, for her video at the Broadway 1602 gallery booth, which reveals the artist herself, sitting bare-breasted, with a harp and some chirping birds -- a "dream space" of everything she finds distasteful, apparently. It’s an art maxim: Find what makes you uncomfortable, and go there. The work is 6,000, in an edition of three.
Speaking of videotapes, easily the best show of the new art season in New York City is Community Action Center, a 69-minute-long lesbian sex tape by A.L. Steiner and A.K. Burns that has been unspooling daily at Taxter & Spengemann’s new quarters on West 18th Street in Chelsea. The vid is for sale for $15,000 in an edition of five -- buy it, and you might be the first.
Meanwhile, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art on West 57th Street in Manhattan recently opened a blow-out exhibition of paintings from the 1940s by Gordon Onslow Ford (1912-2003), the young Paris-based Surrealist who brought the movement to the New York City art scene as a refugee in 1940. This exhibition, which includes a hardcover catalogue with an essay by art historian Martica Sawin, is the artist’s first in town since 1946.
One observer ventured that the paintings, what you might call 3D abstractions in an Atomic Era style, suggested works by the contemporary painter Carroll Dunham -- even down to the younger artist’s outrageous, trademark asshole imagery -- some 60 years avant la lettre. "The room’s got plenty of assholes, alright," said the Naumann, a famous Duchampian. Was that a joke?
The largest paintings are insured for $1 million, and earmarked for museums, according to the artist’s family. The Guggenheim supposedly has four, purchased from that 1946 show, but the Museum of Modern Art has none. Can I borrow your Chase Sapphire credit card?
ROSETTA STONE is currently in London.