In 1971, when the Kitchen was founded in the Mercer Arts Center on Broadway and Third Street, John Cale had already made a couple of immortal albums with the Velvet Underground and had moved on to producing classics for the Stooges and Nico and making solo records. In 1971, Lawrence Weiner had already become a critical figure in the birth of conceptual art, and was preparing work for Documenta 5.
In 1971, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem was a few months old, in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, but there he was Monday night at the Kitchen’s annual gala honoring both Cale and Weiner, taking the stage as the newest addition to the arts organization’s board of trustees.
As he was introducing Cale to the audience of artists, dealers, and benefactors, Murphy said, “John Cale is one of the constellations in my musical and cultural sky,” which, if you’ve ever listened to LCD Soundsystem, is probably an understatement.
Cale, who has performed at the Kitchen countless times, was wearing Vans and had a prominent goatee when he arrived at the Hammerstein Ballroom for the proceedings.
“It’s an honor,” Cale said when buttonholed. “I’m just a Welsh kid from the valleys, and to suddenly be honored by one of the biggest art communities in New York, it’s amazing. And the Kitchen, it’s still going! I had no idea it was still going so good.”
Then, a handler brought him over to have a photo op with Murphy, whom he has known since 2007, when Cale covered the LCD song “All My Friends.” (It’s a fine cover, though it’s no “Hallelujah.”) A face-to-face meet-up was facilitated at the time by The Guardian, which interviewed them both in Gagosian Gallery’s Beverly Hills outpost.
The festivities continued with a performance by Jonathan Richman—who got Cale to produce the first album by his band, the Modern Lovers, in 1972—and an appearance by Laurie Anderson, the widow of Cale’s bandmate, Lou Reed. At the end of the evening, Joan Jonas came out to introduce Weiner, who also has a long association with the Kitchen. It produced his 1976 film Do You Believe in Water, and lent him space at its Wooster Street headquarters in SoHo to stage its action.
“I don’t know why I’m here—no, I know what I do, I understand it, I just don’t know how it got out to the world,” Weiner said to the crowd. “I don’t know why we got here, but I’m damn well pleased.”