Exclusive: Paul Laster's Armory Week Dispatch [Photo Gallery]



The past two days passed by like two hours. We arrived at Pier 94 for the contemporary wing of the Armory Show at 4 p.m. Wednesday, in advance of the opening. Before we could actually see much art we starting seeing out-of-towners, such as Beyeler Fondation director Sam Keller, who used to direct Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach.

We cruised the first few aisles, where galleries like Deitch Projects and Victoria Miro held court, while taking pictures of New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer, and others. We snagged artist Maurizio Catalan and New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni for an amusing photo at Lombard-Freid Projects booth and then headed over to the VIP lounge for a coffee break.

There we ran into artists Brad McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry, Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, and Richard Dupont, whose installation of doll-like, rubbery nude figures, cast in the artist’s likeness, and strewn across a platform held center stage. Someone insensitively referred to it later as the holocaust piece.

Strolling deeper into the fair, we caught Kenny Scharf at Paul Kasmin Gallery, taking a well-needed break from painting giant canvases outside the fair entrance. Scarf had installed Kasmin’s booth with paintings mounted on silkscreened walls, which made the space pop. Christine Hill was holding down her Armory Apothecary installation at Ronald Feldman Fine Art, dispensing remedies for contemporary ailments.

We finally got to see what Bob van Osrouw brought to the fair: a new suite of canvases by Anton Henning that were titled the Pink Period paintings. Lisson Gallery had three fantastic Anish Kapoor sculptures and nearby Kukje Gallery had another dynamic, reflective piece by the artist. Meanwhile Mickalene Thomas was well represented with paintings at Rhona Hoffman and Susanne Veilmetter and sculptures at Cerealart.

After a buffet meal, a few glasses of champagne, and more conversation in the VIP lounge, we jumped on the shuttle bus for the after-party at MoMA (Flavorpill was a partner!), where we carried on until near midnight, listening to Gang Gang Dance and DJs. Forgetting that we had to rise early for viewings PULSE and VOLTA, we got lost in the moment.

Throwing in the towel on getting out the door early on Thursday morning we got some work done before heading midtown for a party in honor of Ewan Gibbs, who the Armory Show commissioned to create the visual identity for the 2009 fair, at the residence of the British consul-general. The views from the penthouse apartment were spectacular, as was some of the art and antiques that filled the rooms. We spoke with Judd Foundation director Barbara Hunt McLanahan about baby talk and British food and ran into independent curator Sally Wu, who said that she was a friend of the previous consul-general and that his taste in furniture had been more contemporary.

We had to dash before hearing Gibbs speak about making the work, which Armory Show director Katelijne De Backer later said was very moving. We jumped downtown to a cocktail party for Laurie Anderson at Location One and then to check out the REGIFT show that John Miller curated for the Swiss Institute, which was worth seeing for the Sophie Calle display case full of birthday gifts alone.

The last stop of the night turned out to be the place where we spent the most time: the Tribeca Grand Hotel, which was hosting the VOLTA after-party, a project by Noam Gonick & Luis Jacob, and a screening of films about imaginative architecture. While the party around the bar was as busy as Grand Central Station during rush hour, the Gonick & Jacobs installation, Wildflowers of Manitoba — a geodesic dome with a dread-locked performer resting on a mattress while burning incense and playing records was absolutely peaceful, an oasis from the furor of the fairs.