"The Best Art In The World"
The Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, Park Avenue & 67th Street, Feb. 22-26, 2007
Organized by the Art Dealers Association of America - By Claudia Schwalb for whitehot magazine of contemporary art, New York
Upon entering the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street I was confronted by portraits of Northern Generals in their dark blue uniforms which were partying against curtains of Warholesque mylar balloons. The labyrinth of booths revealed an unexpected change of genre back to the lost and almost forgotten art of the past. I was stunned by a majority of paintings and sculptures by artists who had been overshadowed by all of the hype that had become the establishment art world of the present. There was a surprising renewal of the 20th century greats along with a token smattering of the latest art. Thankfully, those of the cutting edge chosen were multi-cultural and not from New York. Seventy of the most prestigious American galleries mobilized into a collective which brought big ticket art back into focus.
Anthony Meier Fine Arts, a San Francisco gallery had a colorful sculpture of mangled car parts by John Chamberlain. A large later period Wilhelm DeKooning painting at Marge Levin was being sold for three and a half million dollars. About ninety-five percent of the show dealt with American influences from the 1930's and up. Spanning the urban jazz age through grass roots American abstraction, the show was spiced up with more trendy art like “Mr. Pointy,” 2002-03 by Takashi Murakami (Greenberg Van Doren Gallery) or “Color Jar,” 2006 by Ai Weiwei (see photos copyright Randy White, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York).
The Luba Kifwebe Mask from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Punu Mask from Gabon at Pace Primitive seemed completely grounded in what we coined “modernism.” “Pub,” by Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), 1927, Watercolor and gouache on paper, 22" x 17 ½" was placed next to “Sharpeville,” by Sue Coe (British, born 1951). Both paintings were disturbing reminders of our excessives.
Artists like Joan Mitchell, Hans Hofmann and Lee Bontecou were revisited as if they were the latest young artists. The effect was a feeling of provenance and renewal of faith. The most intriguing of the women artists shown are currently in the forefront of the art world. Kiki Smith whose work was displayed by Barbara Krakow Gallery of Boston had a small sculpture which alluded to the prehistorical Venus of Willendorf. Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama also followed that theme.
Danese Gallery in Booth A25 had work by Arshile Gorky, John Chamberlain, and David Smith. A Philip Guston was on display at the McKee Gallery booth along with sculptures by David Smith and William Tucker.
One absorbed in all of this great art and felt a sense of compassion toward the art establishment for the first time in many years. Art dealer, Joan Washburn sat in her dark wool coat and manned her own booth. On view behind her were paintings by Leon Polk Smith, Jackson Pollack and Franz Kline. After so many decades she worried about the resonance of her abstract painters when the viewers were seeing this work online.
Would the response be the same to a smaller unknown painting by Mark Rothko as it was in the past when having a tactile relationship? How committed would art collectors be during this period of globalization when the quintessential paintings by each artist could be purchased in quality reproductions at more grandiose dimensions?
Claudia Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974. She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's. She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977. Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction). She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight. Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year. firstname.lastname@example.org