A few moments ago I walked back into our flat after taking Hudson for a walk. Sara was just getting off the phone with John Fekner. John called her to tell her some news. She looked at me with a face that I didn’t know if the news was good or bad. Finally she grabbed my shoulders and said…
“Marc. You are not going to fucking believe this. Roberta Smith just picked Wooster on Spring as one of her six “most memorable moments of 2006”. It just hit the web.”
I had to laugh because of the irony of the whole thing. On Friday, Roberta had come to the space on her own without letting us know in advance . Sara, trying to be as democratic as possible all weekend, had actually turned her away the first time knowing that people had waited hours and hours to get in. Sara respected her as a critic, but also knew that others had wanted to get in as well. She told her that she couldn’t let her in today and that she should perhaps come back tomorrow if she wanted to.
And the next day Roberta did came back. I noticed that she was with Jerry Saltz and went over to them. Sara wanted to turn them away but I said no.
Knowing how important this was for the artists and their careers, I personally gave both Roberta and Jerry a quick tour of the building. It was a crazy moment because just as we walked into the foyer our security guard, who was absolutely exhausted, completely lost it as he tried to kick one of the guys who had cut in line out of the building. As I walked with Roberta and Jerry past this screaming match, I said to myself - “Oh fuck, this isn’t going to be good.”
But for the next 20 minutes or so I walked them past each piece and talked to them about what each one meant and the evolution that graffiti and urban art has taken since the early ‘80s when it was limited to the spray can. I told them the stories of each work and some information about the artists.
When we finished the short tour, we walked outside and over to the cars across the street to get some fresh air. As I said goodbye to them, Roberta looked at me and said….
“This is one of the best collections of work on walls that I’ve ever seen.”
I smiled. It was one of many incredible moments that made the weekend so special for me.
Until now, I have only told this story to some of the artists.
So, here’s the story that Roberta has written for her Year in Review for The New York Times. I’m assuming that it will be in tomorrow’s paper….
The Met Got Up-to-Date, Grafitti Said Goodbye
By ROBERTA SMITH
SOME memorable moments from 2006: AUCTION HOUSE AS MUSEUM For five weeks last spring, Christie’s auction preview of Donald Judd’s work turned a stripped-down floor high up in Rockefeller Center into a breathtaking one-artist museum. The pristine display was a reminder of how much the city lost when the Dia Center for the Arts — a huge supporter of Mr. Judd — moved its collections to Beacon, N.Y. This was underscored in October when Dia canceled plans to build a museum along the High Line.
ARCHITECT TO THE RESCUE Amid a rash of museum expansions in 2006, Renzo Piano’s airy glass box at the Morgan Library stands out as a superior solution, doing away with a previous carbuncular effort to join its three buildings. Not so wonderful: the name change — to Morgan Library & Museum — and making a suggested $12 admission mandatory.
A REMINDER “Freeing the Line,” an exceptionally beautiful summer exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery organized by Catherine de Zegher, the director of the Drawing Center in SoHo, made one acutely aware of the center’s need for a larger, more gracious and more flexible space. Its trustees, who wisely abandoned an attempt to relocate to ground zero and unwisely forced Ms. de Zegher to resign, are believed to be weighing another ill-conceived site, at the South Street Seaport.
ATONEMENT? For an exhibition they designed at the Museum of Modern Art over the summer, the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron filled galleries with artworks visible only through narrow slots — a kind of closed open storage. As a mirror of the crowding problem in the new MoMA building, the show made one sad that Herzog & de Meuron lost that commission to Yoshio Taniguchi. But now the firm is designing a new home for the Miami Museum of Art, where Terence Riley, formerly director of MoMA’s department of architecture and design, is the new director. Is Mr. Riley trying to say he’s sorry, or “I told you so”?
NEW GIRL ON THE BLOCK While crowds flocked to the Neue Galerie to see Gustav Klimt’s portrait of the aristocratic Adele Bloch-Bauer (bought for $134 million), viewers at the Met stopped in their tracks when encountering the season’s real portrait surprise: Otto Dix’s unkempt “Lady With Mink and Veil” (1920). His ferocious portrayal of an aging prostitute — part of the Met’s extraordinary “Glitter and Doom” show of early German modernists — was discovered in a private collection in 1992.
STAGING AN INTERVENTION A new extreme in self-reference was achieved when the four-day Frieze Art Fair in London commissioned the British artist Mike Nelson to create a large (and largely hidden) short-term installation amid a row of booths. He created a photographer’s labyrinthine darkroom/lair, strung with photographs of the Frieze fair site — an enormous tent in Regent’s Park — being built.
SIGN OF HOPE AT MOMA In addition to the informative Dada survey and Brice Marden’s stately retrospective, a small gallery was devoted to a dozen sculptures by the ceramic genius Ken Price in “Against the Grain: Contemporary Art From the Edward R. Broida Collection.” It’s gratifying that MoMA now owns this balanced selection of Mr. Price’s work; let’s hope it will be exhibited again soon.
SIGN OF HOPE AT THE MET If the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s forays into contemporary art are often uneasy, “Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge” — in which this always adventurous artist combined her own work with selections from the collection — orchestrated a riveting meditation on the history of American race relations. It gained unexpected resonance because of Hurricane Katrina.
GRAFFITI COMES IN FROM THE SEMI-COLD One of the best shows of the season flamed past just before Christmas: a weekendlong display of graffiti created by artists from around the world at, and in honor of, 11 Spring Street. The building, a five-story former stable on SoHo’s eastern reach, is slated for conversion to condominiums, but during years of standing empty its exterior had been the recipient of much attention from graffiti artists and aficionados. At the new owners’ invitation, artists covered the interior walls with their latest, most ambitious efforts, transforming a casual auld-lang-syne get-together into a state-of-the-art statement that ranged from classic tagging to new adventures in papering, printing, varnishing, installation and, in one impressive instance, crayon. There were lines around the block.
More importantly, listen to Roberta’s audio tour on the New York Times website. Her last line is something to the effect of - “My hope is that more museum curators saw this show.”
We hope so too.
(As a side note - Reading and listening to Roberta’s report, it occurs to Sara and I that a better definition is needed for this movement - now more then ever. We never considered this exhibition to be about pure graffiti. Where Roberta calls the show about graffiti art- we view it as much broader than that. We’re starting to like Blek Le Rat’s term “urban art” a lot better than street art. The truth is that we’ve never been a fan of the phrase “street art”. Its likely that over time, the phrase will turn more people away from the movement than towards it. Maybe we should change the site to read - “A Celebration of Urban Art” or “A Celebration of the Post-Graffiti Movement”. Or as was suggested by Tim simply state- “A Celebration of Art” In the end, that’s all it is - art…..)