Not Your Average Thursday Night

Elena Soboleva tried to conquer New York Gallery Week last weekend:

The second incarnation of New York Gallery Week, or rather three-day gallery event, took place last weekend, featuring 60 galleries and non-for-profit spaces and spanning from Uptown, through to Chelsea and the Lower East Side art districts of the city.  Founded by a committee of dealers including Casey Kaplan and David Zwirner, with aims of drawing attention to the exhibition programs and inciting sales, the timing fell congruently between the Impressionist-Modern and Contemporary spring auction sales.  As someone who works in Chelsea and makes it out to many of the openings, my goal of the Gallery Week was to see that which I could not find on a regular Thursday night.  The predominant trend however, seemed to differ and there were many for whom this was an opportunity – even challenge – to dash around the city with the passport-sized booklet in an attempt to visit every show.

Friday promised extended gallery hours and opening receptions for artists in Chelsea and Uptown.  The reality was that Chelsea galleries were divided in this matter and Thursday night still seemed to be the real draw, with a private preview of Donald Judd at David Zwirner and the opening of John Chamberlain show at Gagosian, who was conspicuously absent from Gallery Week roster.  Friday’s ‘public’ receptions and extended hours proved less busy – but Saturday’s eager gallery goers and many tour groups made up for any shortfalls. The real strength of the Gallery Week was the vast amount of free performances, special programs and artist talks which comprised the packed schedule and left many trying to rush cross-town in an attempt to see it all.  The artist-lecture at James Cohan by performer and storyteller Susanne Bocanegra was a definite highlight; enigmatically titled When a Priest Marries a Witch and performed alongside Paul Lazar it wove a tale of cultural history, religion and wizardry.  Kara Walker’s walk-through of her show at Sikkema Jenkins on Sunday was another unique opportunity for the public, who got to interact with the acclaimed artist. Walker’s graphite drawings on paper were presented jointly with Lehmann Maupin in a two-gallery show, and were a departure from her iconic cutouts but remained equally poignant on the issues of African-American identity and the probing of modern day racial relations. 

The Donald Judd show at David Zwirner was the first since the estate’s representation was announced by the gallery and brought together nine large pieces from Judd’s 1989 Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden exhibit.   The works spanned both of the gallery’s 19th Street spaces, which effortlessly provided the ideal viewing conditions for this series of work. The exhibition comprised anodized aluminum boxes with variations of color which radiated from within. Accompanying the exhibition, on Sunday there was a special presentation of Marfa Voices (2010), a short documentary film by Rainer Judd, the late artist’s daughter and president of the Judd Foundation.  Judd’s son Flavin, who is the vice president of the foundation was also around last week, speaking with Rima Suqi in a T Mag interview (lhttp://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/asked-answered-flavin-judd/), lecturing at the gallery and overseeing the installation.

Another highlight of the week was the private event at the Whitney Museum, which brought the participating gallerists together Saturday evening to toast the occasion and in a benefit for the museum. Audiences were treated to a private viewing of Glenn Ligon’s America – a brilliant mid-career retrospective and easily the must-see show this season. In the downstairs lobby with the patio open for inter-gallery mingling, a DJ session was followed by a fantastic all-female vocal performance, which seemed to keep everyone in the audience, including Mary Boone, quite enthralled.

Overall Gallery Week was successful in bringing new audiences to the galleries and giving regular visitors a full program of free events. The most apt praise came from Jerry Saltz who expressed his thoughts on Twitter writing that though, “People hate them for being ‘commercial.’ I say thank-you NYC art galleries for ‘New York Gallery Week.’ You are art-heroes!”