The Thursday after Labor Day is traditionally the start of the art world’s school year, with the mega-galleries unveiling their primo shows to collectors who have finally come home from Southampton or Ibiza or wherever. The big openings usually get spread out between Thursdays throughout the month to avoid head-to-head competition, but it seems like this year’s offerings were front-loaded—the number of shows was staggering. Let’s do a quick run-through.
There were breakfast and lunch previews for critics and friends, populated by those motivated by the desire to Instagram new artworks hours before the galleries’ 6 p.m. public commencements. Anton Kern had a preview for his gallery’s show of new work by Jonas Wood, “Portraits,” that includes loving renderings of friends, family, and “figures who are paramount to him.” A highlight: the massive painting of the late San Antonio Spurs center Dwayne Schintzius, with his mullet flowing in the wind.
And then there was a lunch for Rashid Johnson’s new show at Hauser & Wirth, “Fly Away.” (Another reason to go to that preview, apart from the coveted early Instagram, might have been the catering from Murray’s Cheese Shop. “I’ll keep it short, because I know that there are sandwiches waiting,” Johnson said at one point during a tour of the work. “I know about the sandwich situation.”) The show is an extension of his tile series, but gone electric—with splashes of tropical color infused into the usual black-soap-on-white-tile aesthetic—as well as a new grid structure stuffed, books, TV sets playing Johnson’s videos, numerous house plants, and a piano, at which sat the pianist Antoine Baldwin, who tickled the ivories with impressionistic jazz flourishes.
Asked about his longtime use of black soap as paint, Johnson joked, “If everything goes to hell, if there’s a zombie apocalypse, you can clean yourself with my paintings.”
There was a quick stop by Team Gallery to see “Dolores,” a group show curated by director Todd von Ammon, which was gleefully loopy—there’s a tank of eels by Max Hooper Schneider next to a taxidermy mountain lion that’s part of a work by Anicka Yi. Less gleeful: the fact that the former Team space on Wooster Street is now a boutique called Buscemi, and according to a press release I received for some reason, it had its grand opening last night. Attendees included Keeping Up With the Kardashians star Scott Disick and someone called “DJ PJ.”
And then the Chelsea openings. One of the bigger draws of the evening was at Barbara Gladstone Gallery—”Matthew Barney: Facility of DECLINE,” which restaged works from Barney’s canonical first Gladstone show in 1992. The show included DRILL TEAM: screw BOLUS, the massive installation that included that classic Barney staple, dumbbells smothered in petroleum jelly. Barney himself was on hand to take in the crowds—there was a long line down West 24th Street to get in—and chat with, among others, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach.
Down on 18th Street, Petzel Gallery had on view “Blockchain Future States,” a show of new work from the New Zealand-born artist Simon Denny. It’s an expansive exploration into the cryptocurrancy bitcoin, and its use as a global legal tender is expressed through a giant version of the board game Risk.
Despite the somewhat dire tone of the show, Denny was in especially good spirits—perhaps because, as we heard, many of the large-scale works had been successfully sold—and the dinner at Bottino after the opening lured like-minded artists such as Jordan Wolfson and Timur Si-Qin. It went late, but not too late. There were more openings to come, tomorrow, the next day, and next week.