Frieze New York 2018 News

‘My Ears Are Still Ringing’: Canada’s Phil Grauer on His Two Frieze Booths and His Art Rock Supergroup

George Grosz’s Weiblicher Halbakt (Female Nude), 1922.


For this year’s edition of the Frieze New York fair, which is having its private preview today and runs through Sunday on Randalls Island, the Lower East Side gallery Canada has not one but two booths on display. One features a giant drawing presentation curated by the artist Jason Fox featuring around 100 artists, and the other has a two-person painting show with the aforementioned Fox and Daniel Hesidence. The latter is part of a larger program at Frieze curated by Matthew Higgs, the director of White Columns, that celebrates the legacy of the late dealer Hudson, who was the proprietor of the legendary Chicago and New York–based gallery Feature Inc.

“It’s just killing us,” Canada’s Phil Grauer told me. “Matt Higgs called us up and wanted us to help with this Hudson memorial show and so we put out for it, and here we are with two damn booths.

“Not enough people, but enough art,” Grauer said, gesturing to the many drawings in front of him, which are hung densely and by everyone from Tom of Finland to Nicole Eisenman to Richard Prince.

This marks the third year in a row that Canada is running an artist-curated booth. The first two were taken on by Katherine Bernhardt and Marc Hundley. “The Carol Rama’s are really expensive and making me nervous,” Grauer said. “Strangely enough, this George Grosz is only like $18,000 and it’s from 1922 and I don’t understand it because it’s such an important artist.”  Was the drawing perhaps the best deal of the entire fair? “I think it’s the deal of the fair. In my mind I can’t make sense of that,” he said.

Talk quickly turned to the Grauer’s band The Honey Badgers, which is an art world rock supergroup of sorts. The gallerist broke down the most recent lineup: Grauer is on organ; the painter Tyson Reeder plays rhythm guitar and is “kind of the Brian Wilson” of the band; longtime Canada artist Michael Mahalchick holds it down on the bass; the painter Steve DiBenedetto plays drums (Grauer: “Apparently he used to play for Bongwater but maybe that’s just a lie, I don’t know, but that’s why we hired him.); the gallerist Jack Hanley handles lead guitar duties.

I asked Grauer about rumors I’ve heard over the years regarding Hanley’s musical role in The Grateful Dead—some have said that when Jerry was too strung out to play, Hanley, a former guitar tech for the band, handled guitar duties off stage. “A lot of those shows are actually Jack,” Grauer confirmed. “It is a bit of a dark secret.”

A recent Honey Badgers show went down at a mall under the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The painter Joe Bradley sat in for some guitar and his wife Valentina Akerman handled vocal duties. “She is ear piercing. Like, oh my god. So, she’s just great,” Grauer said. His review of the show as a whole? “It was noisy, my ears are still ringing and it was two weeks ago. So I’ve probably done damage.”

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