On Eve of Art Basel Miami Beach’s Booze-Soaked Bacchanal, Video Looks at Artist/Dealer/ARTnews Memoirist’s ‘Dry Years’

A screenshot from The Dry Years.


Nearly a year ago, art dealer and ARTnews memoirist Joel Mesler, the erstwhile proprietor of Lower East Side galleries Untitled and Feuer/Mesler, put down roots in East Hampton, New York, opening Rental Gallery in a space next to Harper’s Books on Newtown Lane.

Mesler is also an artist, and he has maintained his art practice. And so, in an unusual move, when NADA Miami opens next week at Ice Palace Studios, the Rental Gallery booth will be full of work that Mesler made himself.

Rather than issue a conventional press release, the artist and dealer has made a video to serve as preamble to the suite that will go up in Miami next week, and it’s a sequel of sorts to the clip he released when his gallery opened. That was a deadpan micro-documentary employing artist Rashid Johnson, art adviser Benjamin Godsill, and Gagosian Gallery director Adam Cohen as talking heads, as they gently ribbed Mesler on his choice to bail on Manhattan and move out east. Mesler’s three children are prominently featured.

This new video, called The Dry Years, is just as slickly produced and generous in spirit. It, too, features Johnson and Cohen, and once again brings into the frame Mesler’s adorable tykes, but it takes a slightly more serious turn by addressing his decision to embrace sobriety after years of heavy drinking. (It’s also a topic Mesler has touched on in his memoir columns for ARTnews.)

The video begins with Mesler sitting on a bench in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art, a setting that brings out a host of memories.

“I’m sorry, MoMA, because in 2011 I broke into your Garden Party,” Mesler begins, referring to the glitzy annual fund-raising gala that takes place right where he is sitting; he goes on to tell a rather picaresque story.

The film then examines his artistic practice. When NADA opens on December 7, Mesler’s work will no doubt bring a bit of dry perspective to the proceedings in Miami, land of a thousand cocktail parties.

Until then, you can watch the video below.


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