It wouldn’t be fair to say that Gavin Brown’s Halloween party last night in Harlem was a swinging, raucous affair. Chelsea, the center of the New York art world, had just taken a major blow from Hurricane Sandy and it was all anyone could talk about. They questioned each other about what it could mean. If New York’s big industries are media, finance and art, why had God chosen to level four-foot waves at the one that probably does the least amount of harm to anybody?
But if Downtown is, post-storm, dark and spooky, at least it had that in common with the party. You entered through a candlelit foyer where an attendant offered you gin with ice from a knight’s helmet as a man in a tuxedo played eerie synth songs on a keyboard (Laura Palmer’s theme, Michael Myers’s Theme and so forth). The host wore a tuxedo himself, and pantyhose on his head like a burglar, completely robbing him of his recognizable mane, while Christie’s Amy Cappellazzo had additional mane, a blonde fright wig that she sold by eyeing people as Warhol might have, like it was they who were weird. “Do you speak German?” asked a pair of girls, with excellent English, as they shared a cigarette through their transparent doll masks. I said no, and away they nattered in German.
The centerpiece was an installation presented by Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz (a mummy and invisible man, respectively) of black, haunted dollhouses in the dealer’s gallery-like ground floor. The houses were, on their back side, packed with references to contemporary art. One had a little Damien Hirst skull cut-away and a tiny Jackson Pollock. One had a signature Pruitt stuffed panda with a button that simply read, “Haim Steinbach.” “It’s because the bear likes Haim Steinbach,” someone averred.
The piece was based on a house the two had bought in the Catskills in 2001, when they’d only known each other for seven months, and painted black as a sort of wry commentary in the vein of “Here comes the gay artist couple, there goes the mountain range!” If anything, though, it made them more popular. People came every day to photograph the black house. “It was more a play on how we worried we would be perceived,” Mr. Horowitz said, “more than anything we actually felt.”
Downstairs–in the dungeon, if you will–there was a mild dance floor, courtesy of Matthew Higgs, who deejayed in a standing position over the home speaker system. Downstairs a guy who seemed to be dressed in a Roman toga described his costume as, “I’m the guy who’s here to buy everything.” An Asian man wore a B&H Photo uniform, complete with yarmulke. Spencer Sweeney seemed to mainly be dressed as Spencer Sweeney, but with a hat.