Confession: Julian Schnabel is not an artist whose work I particularly admire. To me, his stuff almost always seems uninspired, phoned in, and, well, just plain ugly. I do not think that I am alone in that opinion. Schnabel’s latest exhibit, New Plate Paintings, which is his first solo show at Pace Gallery since leaving Gagosian, is a collection of nearly-identical variations on a theme: paintings depicting pink roses on a bed of greenery, which is notable for being painted on a relief of broken dishes mounted on the canvas.
When we showed up outside the former Germania Bank Building at around 6:30 PM on Saturday, May 16th, fully expecting to be admitted to Vito Schnabel’s First Show Last Show one-night-only art event taking place inside this mysterious landmark, we found the sidewalks adjacent to the corner of Bowery and Spring clogged with disappointed scenesters who already knew what we were yet to be told: that the much hyped-up-the-ass event had been cancelled.
Fortunately, we had been at Frieze all day and were too exhausted to give much of a shit. Plus, there were other things going on — this being New York City — and we ended up having a pretty fun night on our own.
The following Monday, I read online that those wishing to view the exhibit could email Schnabel’s office and request an appointment for the hours of Noon to 6 PM, Monday through Friday, with Monday May 25th being closed for the holiday. Pretty non-user-friendly hours for anyone with a day job, but I sent off my request for “5 PM on Friday May 22nd” and then promptly forgot all about it, until I saw an email in my box at 10 PM on Thursday, saying that I had an appointment for 2:15 PM the next day. Let’s just say, I made it work. And Geoffrey came along with me, because a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this really needs to be shared.
For those of you who don’t live in NYC, and therefore don’t know the legend of this iconic building, 190 Bowery was originally built in 1898 to house Germania Bank. The century old building is known for its neo-Renaissance detailing, such as the arched windows and ornate outer facade, which, for as long as I can remember, has been covered in graffiti and street art.
Art By City Kitty
This is, I think, the main reason that everyone who has walked past it assumed that the building was long abandoned. Who imagined that this was once NYC’s largest private residence?
Photographer Jay Maisel bought the building in the mid 1960s and has lived in it with his family ever since. In the decades that I’ve lived in NYC, the building has appeared lifeless and was perpetually shuttered, shrouded in deep mystery — until Masiel sold the place last year to real estate developer Aby Rosen, and it suddenly started making the local news. Rosen’s plans to lease it out as office space or turn it into Condos has made everyone who aches for the preservation of old New York a bit sick to their stomachs. It was Rosen, along with Julian Schnabel’s son, Vito who hosted the show.
Here’s what we saw once we got inside.
This large room was used by the Maisel family as a basketball court, hence the yellow and black tape on the floor.
The hoop formerly hung above the door, but has now been taken down. The floor is a mix of natural polished wood and its original ceramic tile mosaic. The wood “court surface,” I imagine, was added to facilitate game play, but maybe not. The largest pieces of art in the show were in this room.
The above painting was installed at the top of a small fight of stairs that lead, well, nowhere, really.
But doesn’t this look like some kind of vault? I think so.
The interior’s original finishes and fixtures look like they haven’t been updated in fifty years: like the owners moved in and lived in the building “as is.” That tells such a rich story right there.
Post Continues After The Jump!
Julian Schnabel’s paintings don’t do a lot for me, but if they give you a little stiffy then you should head over to the cavernous Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea to check out the exhibit entitled View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989–1990, featuring HUGE (and by huge I mean very large in size) Schnabel paintings that are being shown for the first time in 25 years.
Like I said, Schnabel’s paintings (which take up most of the gallery space) were kind of a yawnfest for me, but I was quite charmed by this group of colorful Sculptures displayed in a front room of the gallery, which are by the artist Franz West. They remind me of papier-mâché cartoon ducks.
This one looks like it’s waving Hello.
Franz West’s Sculptures will be on Exhibit through May 31st, 2014 at Gagosian Gallery, Located at 555 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.
Holy Cow, am I ever excited to tell you about a new art show that is must-see caliber material! The Jonathan Levine Gallery is currently hosting what may just be the coolest art exhibit in Manhattan! Michael Leavitt’s Art Army Royalty is a mind blowing collection of 11-inch ‘action figure’ sculptures based on some of the world’s most popular contemporary artists, as interpreted through their particular distinctive art medium. The detail in these miniature sculptures is just amazing. I had fun examining each one and trying to guess, based on all of the meticulous details, who it was, before looking at the name – most of the time it was easy, but not always!
According to the exhibit’s Press Release, each figure is sculpted from scratch in polymer clay, surface-finished and texturized with acrylic paint and mixed media. Leavitt engineers the miniature sculptures with articulating joints, assembling moving body parts with elastic cord so that the figures can be posed. Leavitt’s Art Army is a satire on consumer culture, reducing the collector compulsion of two markets —art and product — into a miniature scale. Using the vinyl toy industry as a vehicle to convey the phenomenon of idolization and celebrity status in contemporary art and culture, Leavitt transforms the subjects into caricatures, along with the work they are best known for. Examples include portrayals of Damien Hirst as a bisected shark, Jeff Koons as a balloon animal, and Kara Walker with a paper-thin silhouette.
While Levine does not have Leavitt’s full collection on display (Ron English was conspicuously absent), you can preview what’s in store for you when you do visit the gallery at This Link. Definitely, this was the most fun I have had at an exhibit in a long time! Don’t miss it!
Michael Leavitt’s Art Army Royalty Runs through October 8, 2011 at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor (West of 10th Avenue) in New York. Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM.