NPT VP of Development Daniel Tidwell hopped up to NYC last weekend to visit the art fairs and came back with this report:
In addition to my duties at NPT, I’m an artist with an insatiable appetite for looking at contemporary art, so when I saw a $109 round-trip fare to NYC this past weekend I jumped at the chance to attend the whirlwind of art fairs that turn New York into the epicenter of the artworld each February. The Armory Show held on the west side piers has exploded into a gathering of dealers from around the world and interest among New Yorkers and/or art tourists is apparently at a fever pitch judging from the long lines up the West side highway on Saturday and Sunday. I recall attending this show over twelve years ago when it was held on a couple of floors at the old Gramercy Park Hotel—there you wandered through the hallways into hotel rooms where dealers had propped up paintings, drawings and photographs on beds, dressers and toilets. Today the show has come a long way from these boho beginnings and its big business with collectors clamoring for choice works. Mirroring the state of the current art world, which for the past few years has been obsessed with youth, the crowd at the show was for the most part young and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many strollers filled with toddlers at an art event ever—apparently there is a baby boom in NYC among hip early thirty somethings. One highlight of the fair was Blum & Poe’s booth which exhibited a series of creepy photos of pilgrims and native Americans by Sam Durant and video artist Julian Hoeber’s delicately rendered series of drawings referencing horror films. Other favorites included Folkert de Jong’s monstrously cartoonish sculptures at James Cohan’s booth. Although I’ve not seem much of this Dutch artist’s work the sensibility and facility with materials always surprises me. I searched in vain for some works by another favorite of mine, LA artist Karl Haendel—according to the New York Times, Harris Lieberman Gallery had some of his work, but I missed it.
On Saturday I also hit the galleries in Chelsea and saw a great show of large scale paintings on paper by Toba Khedori at David Zwirner. The heroic scale, the poetic subject matter and the improbable physicality of the drawings evoked, in the words of the gallery’s press release “a surrender to time and memory”. And in Cohan and Leslie’s backroom I stumbled upon a suite of small paintings by Todd Norsten which depict archetypical images in a painterly and offhandedly humorous way which remind me of the early paintings by New York artist Glenn Goldberg who for years painted small images in vast fields of luscious white paint. All in all over the weekend I saw a tremendous amount of interesting art—and the heady excitement that the art fairs generated could be felt in the streets—for one weekend at least it seemed that everyone wanted to be a part of the art world. But the piece that has stuck most in my mind isn’t something that I saw at the fairs or in the galleries, rather it was a lone piece by Robert Gober at MOMA from 1992, which was easy to miss as it’s tucked around a corner in the contemporary galleries. In Prison Window Gober has transformed the space of the museum into a virtual prison—as one stands in the gallery and looks up, a blue sky with wispy clouds is visible from behind a barred window. The brilliance of the piece lies not just in its iconic reductivism, but in its ability to function conceptually on many different levels—as a critique of the gallery and by extension the museum, a critique of minimalism, and if you really want to push it, the piece also references the prison-like confines of the artists’ studio and the obsessive nature of the entire art making enterprise. It reminded me why Gober is probably my favorite artist today and also made me forgive his exceedingly weak current showing at Matthew Marks Gallery. Back in Nashville I’ll be heading out to our own art fair this coming weekend as there is another round of monthly openings along 5th Avenue and the Arcade—if you’re into art and live in Nashville it’s the place to be on Saturday night. And while you’re planning for the weekend’s art events check out NPT Arts Connection and stream some of our recent Arts Break episodes. It’s a weekly window into Nashville’s vibrant visual and performing arts scene.