The Upper East Side
Twelve feet tall and entirely naked except for his top hat, a cast-fiberglass Pink Panther stands in the front room of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. He has bloodshot eyes, dirt on his lips and fingers, bandages on his forearm and wrist, and a thickly impastoed rainbow smeared all over his back like shit. Despite his size, he retains the proportions of a small plastic toy, but the emaciation that makes his elbows and knees so pointy also lends him a seedy, spendthrift glamour, highlighting his archetypal core by burning away the inessential. Swimming around the green and brown walls, their projecting black fins like silhouettes of his own nose or churning omens of the black hole beneath the infinitely solipsistic monotony of his addiction, are a dozen or so cartoon sharks. With a jaunty panache inseparable from self-destruction, he carefully cocks one pink pinky over his blue glass meth pipe.
It’s possible that the Upper East Side changed the night last September when the fire department broke up the disco party at 980 Madison. The building houses, among other businesses, a luxury spa and Gagosian Gallery. Soon it will have a Gagosian-owned “neighborhood restaurant,” as Larry Gagosian described it in a recent interview with Peter Brant. There will be chili. And waffles.
On the third floor of 980 Madison is Venus Over Manhattan, an art space opened last year by Adam Lindemann, a contributor to this paper and the disco party’s host. The crowd had gathered to celebrate a show by the artist Peter Coffin. Young women carried trays of tequila shots. Around 8 p.m., the festivities moved down the hall to a room dimly lit with red lights. From the street, you could hear DJ Harvey playing records. Professional roller skaters skated around on glowing LED wheels. A cluster of young men and women nonchalantly smoked near the entrance.
When the fire trucks came, part of the crowd decamped across Madison Avenue to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle, where a pianist played selections from the Great American Songbook and the martinis cost $21.
THE UPPER EAST SIDE ART SCENE sure is getting wild. Long the preserve of the staid and genteel (old masters, modern masters and the like), the neighborhood has recently been seeing more adventurous fare. Three gallery shows that exemplify the trend—and a fourth farther uptown—are of work by artists who share elements of the same profile: the bad-boy avant-gardist with machismo to spare, rebelling against aesthetic conventions, social norms or both.
Bjarne Melgaard will soon take over the Luxembourg & Dayan townhouse on East 77th Street with his show “A New Novel,” which coincides with the publication of, yes, his latest novel, but promises to fairly dramatically transform the space.
The whole town is abuzz right now with talk of “Ideal Pole,” the show that Norwegian strongman Bjarne Melgaard curated at the Lower East Side gallery Ramiken Crucible. Why? Because there are two young white tigers, Sonia and Tanya, there for the next few days. They’re very cute—and a little bit scary. The Read More
In recent years, dead animals have been everywhere in art: David Shrigley’s taxidermy cat, Adel Abdessemed’s various grotesqueries, Damien Hirst’s butchered menagerie. Lately, though, live beasts have been mounting a comeback, thanks in large part to artist Darren Bader. He deposited a goat at Andrew Kreps last year, cats and an iguana at his MoMA PS1 show that opened in January: good, adorable sculptures.
Now the Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard has raised the bar. On Friday, there were two young white tigers lounging in a metal pen at Ramiken Crucible gallery on the Lower East Side, where Mr. Melgaard has organized a group show with the curious title “Ideal Pole.” The animals are there to serve as model for collars and capes by the Brooklyn–based designer Ms. Fitz. (Click here for an interview with Ms. Fitz and photographs of the collars.)
MONDAY, MAY 14
Screening: Andy Warhol’s Paul Swan at Light Industry
Light Industry will screen Andy Warhol’s 1965 two-reel film of dancer Paul Swan, who was 82 at the time and still performing at weekly salons. The film will be introduced by art historian Douglas Crimp. –Michael H. Miller
Light Industry, 155 Freeman, Brooklyn, 7 p.m., $7
Armory Show 2012
MONDAY, APRIL 23
Screening: Bjarne Melgaard Interviews Leo Bersani, at the Kitchen
The indefatigable Norwegian painter Bjarne Melgaard recorded this interview about homosexuality and politics with cultural critic Leo Bersani for his appearance at the 2011 Venice Biennale. What starts out as a “Charlie Rose–like encounter”—to borrow John Kelsey’s description of the piece in Artforum—involves “Melgaard… making digital cocks sprout out of his and Bersani’s on-screen bodies, splattering the video with lewd, orgasmic cybergraffiti, and interrupting the conversation with lowbrow bursts of dated MTV…” And that’s just the start of it. This is the film’s U.S. debut. —Andrew Russeth
The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York, 7 p.m.
When Gallerist walked through Pier 94 on Sunday night to see the Armory Show’s newly redesigned layout, just about every rectangular booth appeared similarly sterile: white walls, grey ground, no art. One booth, though, had a different look: its floor was covered with loud red carpeting.
Often, you just can’t put a book down, because you can’t escape the cheap thrill of wanting to know what happens next. As you plunge into Alarma! BOYFRIENDS, the Norwegian artist/author/polemicist Bjarne Melgaard’s fantasy novella of gore, sex, death and dismemberment, you will likely purse your lips in disgust, but, at the same time, catch yourself laughing inside: laughing at the insanity and the perverse pleasure of it all. When finished with the book, you’ll finally be able to put it down, at which point you’ll glance around to make sure no one’s looking, then shove the dirty little volume under a pile of legitimate literature. Or perhaps you’ll dump it where it belongs, in the trash. It’s worse than porn; it’s the kind of thing no one should catch you thoroughly enjoying.