It may have been the smallest gallery in Chelsea, but Family Business was impossible to miss. Strolling down West 21st Street, one might find raspberry bushes growing inside the tiny space, an impromptu tea party spilling out onto the sidewalk, artists raising hell on homemade instruments or the latest exhibition getting set on fire or smashed to bits. Sadly, the oddball operation founded by “retired” artist Maurizio Cattelan and New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni, is on the move. The gallery “ended its current reincarnation and will be reborn some day on planet Earth again,” wrote Daria Irincheeva, the former director, in an email. It has, in fact, already cropped back up in Paris, where guest curator Nadja Argyropoulou is working on projects with Chalet Society and the Palais de Tokyo.
As the sun set on Saturday night, sending long shafts of light east down 21st Street, everything looked fairly normal at Family Business gallery. At least by its standards. An eclectic array of ceramic sculptures was sitting on shelves lining two walls of the shoe-box-sized space. Two scruffy DJs, architecture grad students from Columbia, were manning turntables squeezed into a corner. “Tribal” bowls, as described by Daria Irincheeva, the gallery’s director, (they were either African or Native American—no one was sure) were on loan from a private collection and hanging from the ceiling. A small crowd was gathered outside watching a Kate Gilmore performance piece consisting of four women holding heavy yellow pots for three hours. The only indication of the imminent destruction was the shards of clay littering the floor.
The previous week, for the opening of the show, “In Praise of Chance and Failure,” artists and viewers alike destroyed work deemed unsuccessful by the creators. For this second smashing party, the shelves had since been replenished, and a new batch of sculptures was about to meet the same fate. Each doomed work was marked with a sad face sticker.
On Thursday night Ari Marcopoulos, curator of the most recent show at the Family Business gallery in Chelsea, was making a Molotov cocktail in a Snapple bottle. Outside, about 50 people were gathered around a trashcan overflowing with Xeroxed photographs, drawings, receipts, business cards, pornography and other paper ephemera that were on the gallery walls less than an hour before. You can probably guess where this is going.
At 8:20 p.m. last night, artist Maurizio Cattelan was standing in line for a rum drink by the make-shift bar at Anna Kustera Gallery in Chelsea to which his own tiny storefront gallery, Family Business, is annexed. There was a pile of magazines next to him with bright blue covers, as it was the Vice magazine issue release party for the Holy Trinity Issue and Mr. Cattelan had designed the front cover, which features a picture of three objects—a stapler, a red plunger and a dildo, the last of which was covered with a black sticker that had the word “dildo” printed on it. We made to say hello to the skinny Italian artist as he left the bar, but the artist, who was wearing a dark sport jacket, black skinny jeans and modish white leather sneakers, was intercepted by a tall blonde woman. Around him in the small bright space, was a group exhibition mostly of photographic work. The crowd was dressed casually and seemed barely out of college.