Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Signings, Opening Events and Early Reviews

A sincere thank you to all of the friends and supporters who came out over the past two weeks for book signings of Art on the Block. With open-to-the public venues on the Upper East Side, the Lower East Side, Chelsea and Bushwick, I was delighted to meet for the first time a number of readers who had discovered the book on-line or heard about it through their networks.

The Corner Bookstore on the Upper East Side on publication day, September 17th, 2013.
Signing at The Corner Bookstore.
Photo by Efrain Gonzalez whose Transgender Girls Working on West Street in Greenwich Village, 1986 is included in the plates.
At McKenzie Fine Art on the the Lower East Side.
Photo by Kianga Ellis.
The author hosted by McKenzie Fine Art on the Lower East Side
Photo by Meryl Meisler whose Cars on Palmeto Street, Bushwick, 1985/2013, 2013 is included in the plates.

Several dear friends also hosted private signings in their homes and it was there that I met the independent book sellers Harriet and Bob. Both long time professionals in the publishing world, Booked by Harriet is a husband and wife team that provides on site book sale services to smaller events where a local bookstore is not involved. Working from your RSVP list, Harriet arrives at your venue with just the right number of copies, sets them up attractively and takes care of sales – whether cash or credit card. The author is free to chat with readers and discuss inscriptions, and the hosts simply enjoy the event. Booked by Harriet does all the rest.
Art on the Block from Booked by Harriet.
Photo by Efrain Gonzalez.

Reviews – ranging from White Hot Magazine and Flavorwire to The New Criterion – began appearing even before the book was released. To read what's been written so far, listen to my interview on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show or have some fun with the surprise visit from YouTube's James Kalm, see the News & Reviews tab on my web site at:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Twelve Years Ago and Five Years On: Things Fall Apart

As another anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks looms, I find myself reflecting – amidst a thousand other mixed emotions – on the reactions of New York's art world as it watched in horror as the Towers fell that day. Needless to say, the impact of the atrocity, and the feelings of stunned incomprehension and utter paralysis that beset the arts community for months to follow, is inextricably woven into the art history of that era.

Here Is New York: Remembering 9/11 An exhibition of photographs and artifacts at the New-York Historical Society in 2007.

Out of respect for the artists who were struggling to re-find their creative voice during the months after the attacks, I chose not to include in the book imagery of work produced during that difficult time. Much of it was deeply personal, reflective, fundamentally cathartic and never intended to leave the privacy of the studio.

This is not to say that other tragedies, cataclysmic events and life-changing crises befalling New York City across the five decades covered in the book were not put on record by its artists. Of the 40 color plates at the book's center, several depict not just the places and people who made up the era's history, but also the social, political or economic phenomena that informed – and as often as not infected – the zeitgeist.    

At this mid-September moment, another anniversary of sorts comes back to haunt us. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal posted a chilling little Timeline on its digital edition, with slide show and videos of the months to either side of the Lehmann Brothers collapse on September 14, 2007.

Chapter 13 of Art on the Block – "After the Fall: 2007 to 2010" – examines the effects of the 'Crash of '08' on the arts community – not just working artists, but galleries, museums, collectors and the art world press. Opening with New York Magazine's ever-provocative Jerry Saltz's maxim that "Recessions are hard on people but they are not hard on art" – the dots are connected to earlier art world times of famine in the mid-1970s and early '90s.

Andy Yoder, All Your Eggs, 2009, 23 carat gold, clay, wood, excelsior, and shredded U.S. currency
Courtesy of Andy Yoder and Winkleman Gallery, NY

I share here some of the art that was made in reaction to the bursting art bubble of 2008. Acerbic, resigned, bewildered or just plain modestly scaled-back in the face of the new reality, these beautiful but trenchant works were very much a product of their time.

Susan Graham, Vessel for Safekeeping (Survivalism), 2009, hand glazed porcelain, and pewter
Courtesy of Susan Graham and Schroeder Romero Gallery, NY.

Tellingly, all three of the pieces shown here were produced as collaborative projects – either between artists or between galleries – nimbly adjusting to the new reality with affordable limited editions. The Schroeder Romero story and the history of the Winkleman Gallery are covered in the book and here they joined forces in a market-sensitive effort called Compound Editions. The artists materials of choice – whether Andy Yoder's shredded US currency, Susan Graham's ironic use of porcelain, or William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton's watercolor-benign but wickedly targeted boxed sets of condolence cards – all speak to the resilience of art in the face of ever-repeating cycles of economic adversity.

William Powhida & Jennifer Dalton, Our Condolences, Volume 1 (Original Card #5, All Good Things . . )
atercolor and pencil
Courtesy of William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton, Schroeder Romero Gallery and Winkleman Gallery, NY

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Season's Opening Sunday.

I am very much looking forward to (one of) the season's openers this coming Sunday. I will be wandering the exhibition openings on the Lower East Side with the advance copy of Art on the Block tucked under my arm and hoping to run into many of the people who participated in it. 

The gallerists of this newest of art neighborhoods – and the last chapter of the fourteen in the book – were especially enthusiastic about telling their stories. While I was not able to get to everyone as my deadline loomed and some fascinating backgrounds and bios did not make it in under my word count limits – I'm thrilled to have been able to add some of our youngest and brightest new art world rain makers to the art history timeline. 

Below, a listing of many of the galleries that will be kicking off the 2013-14 season on Sunday.

I'm also delighted to say that many of the names here are new to me, having opened after I wrapped up my research last Fall. Now that the book is done and my time is (reasonably) my own again – back to my regular rounds, seeing what goodies you have all got.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

To Brooklyn, From Brooklyn, With Love.

As the one year anniversary of Brooklyn's big, brash Barclays Center approaches, this week's New York Times gave some 'Bravo Brooklyn' coverage to the installation of Ursula von Rydingsvard's 19-foot-high, cast bronze sculpture Ona, currently being installed directly under the Center's distinctive oculus overhang.

While much play was made in the article of the German-born sculptor's 35 year tenancy of "a vast studio in Williamsburg", now 71 years old and at the height of both her creative powers and international fame, artists of Ms von Rydingsvard's stature are about the only ones still able to keep studios there.

Eric Heist, Ex (72 Berry), 2008, graphite on paper
Courtesy Eric Heist and Schroeder Romero Gallery, NY

Art on the Block gives two full chapters to Williamsburg and charts the course of its rise and demise as an incubator of artistic energies and a staunch defender of its own, home grown talent. In the earliest 1950s and '60s days of clandestine living in illegally occupied industrial buildings little in the way of community existed, fearful of discovery and eviction, artists even hid from each other. 
James Cathcart,  South 3rd St. and Hewes Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1988, gelatin silver print
Courtesy James Cathcart and Causey Contemporary Gallery, NY

By the 1980s there was some fusion of a loosely knit community and by the 1990s enough raw likeminded energy to fuel multi-media extravaganzas like Cat's Head 1 and 11 in the waterfront's Old Dutch Mustard Factory. Impromptu and fiercely independent exhibition spaces like Four Walls proliferated, opening and closing as their purposes were fulfilled and the artists running them turned to other projects.
By the turn of the new century, however, the Manhattan spot light was beaming down on the outer borough as galleries proliferated and critics and collectors alike made the Williamsburg scene their darlings. Poaching of talent by Manhattan dealers and what were seen as traitorous defections by Williamsburg galleries decamping across the river left the scene depleted and interest waning. The era of Williamsburg as prime ground for artist-unaffordable condominiums and beyond-the-budget boutiques was inevitably underway.

Erik Benson, Brownnfield (site), 2010, acrylic on canvas over panel
Courtesy Erik Benson and Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, NY

And local artists working in Brooklyn put it all down in their work. Documenting the dereliction of the pre-hipster landscape, mourning the evictions and the co-op conversions but moving on once again to other enclaves – in Bushwick and beyond.

Deborah Brown, Dick Chicken #1, 2010, oil on canvas
Courtesy Deborah Brown and Lesley Heller Workspace, NY


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Currently on the Calendar: Truly a Full Service Bookstore

As Art on the Block's release date of September 17th approaches, my calendar is filling up with invitations to read and sign copies of the book. I am particularly thrilled that my first event on the evening of publication is at The Corner Book Store on Madison Avenue and 93rd Street.

The Corner Bookstore
Palgrave Macmillan
request the pleasure of your
company for a reading by
Ann Fensterstock
author of

Art on the Block
Tracking the New York Art World
from Soho to the Bowery,
Bushwick and Beyond
Art on the Block Cover
Tuesday, September 17th · 6:00 p.m. 
Wine and Cheese Reception & Book Signing Will Follow the Reading

The terrific staff there – whose impressive literary backgrounds are worth checking out on their website at – are all very old friends. As a twenty year resident of the Upper East Side this was my local independent bookstore from 1986 until 2006.

Throughout the 1980s Nick, Chris, Danielle and their colleagues kept my husband Lee and I supplied with the armfuls of good reading that is the luxury of couples-before-children.

The late '80s saw my purchasing profile change for copies of Good Night Moon and The Big Red Barn for our then-little girls Kate and Jane. Into the early 1990s we journeyed onwards to chapter books and high school reading lists.

In the mid '90s the staff calmly took my orders for such works as Painted Love: The Art of Prostitution in Nineteenth Century France – with no questions asked. My return to graduate school and an M.A. in Art History was, in fact, the answer.

Through the late '90s they remained equally discreet over Gothic: Transmutations of Horror in Twentieth Century Art and Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. It was at this point (for fear of a call to Social Services – Department of Unfit Motherhood) that I felt compelled to explain my Thesis on the art of the twentieth century fin-de-siecle.

When Art on the Block was first announced by Palgrave Macmillan in their spring catalogue, The Corner Book Store picked it up immediately and asked to be the first to offer it to my many good friends and old neighbors. Like a good marriage – things change but the perfect partner just keeps right up there with you.

Support your local indie bookstore!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Every Picture Has a Story: Art on the Block's Imagery

The news this week of the Getty Museum's "Open Content Program" and its hopes "to share freely, and without restriction, as many of the Getty's digital resources as possible" was heartening at many levels –  and for a variety of different art world professionals.

Before writing a book of my own, I had often mused about the choices art historians made over their illustrations. Wouldn't a work by this artist have better served their point? Wasn't a different piece by that artist an altogether stronger work? Why not have more gorgeous color plates instead of the diminutive black and white so-called 'figs'?

As I approached the end of my writing and headed into the exciting prospect of illustrating 'Art on the Block', my very wise editors at Palgrave Macmillan cautioned me to set aside a good degree of time and a hefty piece of budget as I set about the image permissions process. They were right!

From the earliest stages of the book proposal, my vision had been to curate a small exhibition between its pages, using not simply documentary photography of the neighborhoods and players, but attributable works of art that had been created in response to the places, the people and the issues of the time. (I am sharing here a few of my particular favorites that made it into print.)

Anton Van Dalen, Evangelical Christian Church, 1983, oil on canvas.
Courtesy of Anton Van Dalen and Adam Baumgold Gallery, NY.

With a Masters Degree in Art History and twenty-five years of looking at contemporary work around the galleries and museums, surely the choices would be dazzling and the process simple. I knew what I wanted. Getting it, however, was an all together different challenge and it is in this context that the Getty's move will be music to the ears of many a struggling arts writer.

Copyrights to works of art belong to the artist– and justly so. A painting, sculpure or film is the fruit of creative process, is intellectual property and and should be paid for as such. Even when an artist is no longer living their permissions process is often managed by their Estate. 'The Estate' more often than not is a small group of devotees working hard to protect the artist's legacy. Routinely staff- and budget-stretched, these estates often hand the cumbersome work of permissions granting over to agencies like the Artists Rights Society (ARS) or VAGA. Procedures must be gone through to satisfy these agents that the artist's work will be used appropriately and fees are charged for the service they provide.

Rick Prol, Soil, 1982-3, mixed media on broken window.
Courtesy of Rick Prol.

Even when a living artist is enthusiastic about a project and generously allows use of their work without charging copyright, images must still be supplied. A work might already be in a private collection or is currently in storage. An emerging artist is often hard pressed to pay for a quality photo shoot. High resolution, big file digitals often require paying for a YOUSENDIT or Dropbox account. Commercial image banks exist but their prices can run to many hundreds of dollars per image and make the use of a choice visual (or ten of them) way beynd the means of an author and their publisher. As we have seen this week, even museums usually charge for images of works they own.

While the Getty's move has its limitations to works in the public domain or in its own collections, it is  a step in the right direction. Let's hope that other arts institutions find ways to forgo this undeniably lucrative income stream, find that money elsewhere, and free up arts researchers and writers to get the works of art of their choice out into the world.

In the meantime I thank with utmost sincerity everyone involved in my ultimately getting (almost) everything I wanted in the centrefold of the book. To the artists who carted their paintings or drawings across town to get a digital shot, to the galleries who absorbed the copyright charges, to the archives and Estates who reduced their usual fee or were flexible on the wording of their contracts to allow me both print and electronic distribution rights. I am very grateful.

Elisabeth Kley, Jack Smith, Ethyl Eichelberger & Candy Darling, 2006, pencil, ink and gouache on Japanese paper.
Courtesy Elisabeth Kley and Momenta Art, NY

Friday, August 9, 2013

In the Press and "On the Block"

It was very gratifying this week to see well-deserved press attention for two of the artists who generously granted me copyrights to use their work in the color plates centerfold of Art on the Block.

Congratulations to both Loren Munk for the dynamite double spread of his work The East Village Scene up through September 7th at Freight + Volume and exuberantly reviewed by Jerry Saltz in New York Magazine:

And to Charlie Ahearn for the New York Times coverage of his new documentary Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer:

Both Loren and Charlie responded enthusiastically to my research and have been generous donors to the final Art on the Block end result. Truth be told, each of them have both the personal experience and the background knowledge to have written this book themselves.

Loren Munk, (also known as James Kalm – his nom de plume as a long time contributor to the Brooklyn Rail), is quoted at several points in my Williamsburg chapters. On the scene, around the shows and always with a point of view, Kalm's archives already afford valuable historical material on the Brooklyn scene throughout both its infancy and its heyday.

Munk's activities as 'The Guy on the Bike" are also covered and his bushwhacking role as a videographer of gallery opening nights long before he could upload his footage to YouTube are described.

Always generous in making his work available to curators of group shows, I've studied Munk's work (literally, up close with note book in hand) in a variety of exhibitions. For this stunner below I have Loren and Lesley Heller Workspace to thank. Lesley's history as a dealer is documented up through her arrival in the Orchard Street cluster in 2010 and so I thought it fitting to choose The Bowery and the Lower East Side from amongst the many possibilities Loren's encyclopedic range affords. 

Charlie Ahearn is, of course, a legend in his own right and has been revered amongst filmmakers since his still-riveting-to-watch Wild Style of 1983. Although Wild Style was based around the street art and music scene in the South Bronx in the early 1980s, Ahearn's footage includes some breathtakingly good shots of the City's subway trains that graffiti writers like Fab Five Freddy, Dondi and Zephyr had bombed and which, once tagged with their brash urban iconography, would travel across the five boroughs of New York City. Charlie gave me two images for Art on the Block – Campbell Soup Train, 1980 – painting by Fab Five Freddy and photograph by Ahearn – 

And Heroin Kills, 1981 by Dondi Zephyr Charlie A.

Wild Style can be downloaded easily and includes footage of many of the players that I describe in my East Village sections of the book – including Fab Five Freddy himself and the Fun Gallery's fabulously glam Patti Astor.

Listen to Ahearn describe the art world/ street vibe overlap back in those dark days of New York City's economic and social low point at:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lovely Light on the Last of the High Line

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to join a small group from the New Museum, hosted by Cecilia Alemani, the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Curator and Director of High Line Art. In glorious, early evening, summer sunlight – but cautioned that we must complete our visit before dark – we walked the last remaining, untamed section of the High Line.

Entering through a locked gate access on 34th Street just off Twelfth Avenue, our small, sensibly shod group picked our way along the tracks and the railroad ties, stepping over the grasses, wildflowers and other miraculously thriving flora 30 feet up on the trestle above the train yards.

We walked south until we ran out of track, as the last remaining un-developed stretch of the abandoned rail line met the northern most point of the wildly popular elevated park that now stretches from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West Twenty-Eighth in Chelsea.

Along the way we stopped to hear Alemani speak, eloquently and with visible passion (not to mention a delicious Italian accent) about Caterpillar, the multi-part Carol Bove sculptural work installed amongst the weedy overgrowth.

As the High Line's press describes it:

Installed along a 300-yard stretch of the untouched terrain of the High Line, Bove’s sculptures reveal themselves among the unruly vegetation, like mysteriously pristine ruins of a lost civilization or a contemporary version of a Zen garden. Abstract shapes and enigmatic forms are carefully placed . . .  creating a unique viewing experience surrounded by the wilderness of the High Line and the stunning views of the Hudson River.

And as you can see –

 – they are absolutely right.

While this was a privately organized visit and I doubt that Alemani conducts every tour, the experience is available to the public. Again – from the web site.

On view for one year beginning Thursday, May 16, 2013, Bove’s commission is the last opportunity to see this section of the elevated railway in its natural state before it opens as public parkland in 2014. The commission will be viewable during public walks on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until May 2014. Admission is free and advance reservations are required.

A detailed account of the history of the High Line – opened in 1934, shut down in 1980 and narrowly escaping demolition in the late 1990s – is set out in Art on the Block's section "High Liners and Starchitechts." It's an incredible story about an incredible structure that has not only survived but regenerated itself in the heart of the city.

Catch it while you can.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Art on the Block's Dance Card Starts to Fill

With just two months left before the September 17th release of Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond, things are hotting up in Palgrave Macmillan's Marketing and Publicity department.

I'm delighted to be able to report that two very well regarded book stores (one on the Upper East Side and one in Brooklyn), have already reserved dates for evening events. Additionally, three gallery owners – all of them key contributors to my research – are working with us on signings in Chelsea, the Lower East Side and Bushwick.

Once details are nailed down, I will be posting on my own Twitter and Facebook links but will also be watching in grateful awe as each of my generous hosts gets the word out to their much more impressive number of social network followers!

More soon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Publishers Weekly Picks Up Art on the Block

The industry insider guide Publishers Weekly today picked up "Art on the Block" and gave it what I consider to be a word perfect review:

Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from Soho to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond
Ann Fensterstock. Palgrave MacMillan, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-137-27849-4
New York is indisputably a city of neighborhoods and art historian and collector Fensterstock’s mission in this lively and expansive cultural history is to reveal the impact of shifting real-estate markets, economic cycles, political movements, art-world producers, and consumers on contemporary art’s evolution. Rejecting any one explanation for the art world’s geographical, commercial, and aesthetic restlessness, Fensterstock instead presents “variables” to consider as she adeptly guides readers through the decades, from the decline of late-1960s Midtown modernism to 2010’s Lower East Side revival. Structured chronologically and by neighborhood, the book weaves a lucid narrative of how rising real-estate costs in the early 1970s made edgy Soho galleries cautious and increasingly commercial, prompting young artists attuned to punk and new wave to embrace the East Village scene, which remained influential until the late 1980s, when Chelsea and Williamsburg replaced it as epicenters of the art world in the 1990s and 2000s. Fensterstock concludes by arguing that the one constant here is change. Based on more than 150 interviews with artists and gallery directors, as well as news and criticism in popular art publications, the book is a highly readable introduction to the New York art world. 24 pages of color inserts. Agent: William Clark, W.M. Clark Associates.

I'm thrilled that the folks over there completely captured what I set out to do in the book. 
My thanks to my agent William Clark for seeing the potential in this story from the outset and all of the professionals over at Palgrave Macmillan who helped me to craft it into a readable text.

Here's hoping that this augers well for wider press coverage and a whole host of readers who will know more at the end than they did at the outset. Call it old fashioned – but still my notion of why one reads! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Another Opportunity to Catch Up on the 'Other' 1980s

For those of you who weren't there – or for those of us who were, but recollections are now a little fuzzy – there is another New York museum show of note currently up in the city which looks at how it supposedly was 'back in the day'.

In March on this blog I recommended the New Museum of Contemporary Art's very thorough summation of an era in NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Trash, and No Star. In April I highlighted Claes Oldenburgs's The Store and The Street, a narrower but important exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art presenting a tight selection of early work by the great Pop master. May brought us Punk: Chaos to Couture from the Metropolitan Museum's much revered – if weakly reviewed – Costume Institute. These last two shows can still be seen.

The Whitney Museum of American Art also offers us I, YOU, WE. Open since late April but up through September 1, Karen Rosenberg reviewed the show this morning in the New York Times.

Rosenberg helpfully proposes the Whitney's show as a prequel to the '90s era investigation offered by the New Museum's 1993 focus; it also serves as a crucial counterpoint to the all too easily citable image of the 1980s art world as all flash and cash as the good times rolled in the Big Apple. "Instead" she writes, "we see . . . artists reacting to AIDS, Reagan-era social policies, urban blight and gentrification, and a stock market boom and bust."

Very much as Art on the Block's high '80s chapter "Building Empires and Crowning Kings" gives way to the late decade years of "Rising Crescendos and Dying Chords", curator David Kiehl reminds us that against a backdrop peopled by art stars like Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Jean-Michel Basquiat, were artists working in an all together darker vein. The work of Robert Gober, Glenn Ligon and Kiki Smith are all included at the Whitney as is Nan Goldin's slide compilation The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

The work of all of these artists is also described and contextualized in Art on the Block and several examples are included in the color plates. The estate of Peter Hujar generously granted me permission to use a study of David Wojnarowicz David Lighting Up Manhattan Night (1) from 1985. Both artists are now tragically lost to AIDS.

And painter Anton Van Dalen, whose 1986 work Luxury City is in Kiehl's line up, permitted me his harrowing street scape Evangelical Christian Church of 1983, a testimony to the devastating human costs of the crack cocaine epidemic and the ravaged inner city terrain that housed it.

For those of you awaiting the book's release on September 17, the Whitney exhibition offers another opportunity to experience some of the poignantly timely art created during the period I document in Art on the Block. It might also be a moment to take one of the last looks at the Whitney Museum before it takes its art to another block in the Meatpacking District.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

ILevel Interviews the Author of Art on the Block

I'm sharing here a concise – but happily accurate – piece that ILevel Art Placement and Installation posted yesterday.

A nice promotion, for which I thank them, and I'm happy to promote right back!

David Kassel and his professionals at ILevel have taken care of the installation and regular re-hanging of my own art for years. They are responsive, reliable and – given that most of his team are working artists – always bring a good critical eye to installation decisions.

(I should perhaps add that the antler installation that ILevel are rocking at right of their post belongs to a collector more adventuresome than I!)



Ann Fensterstock Shares Her Top Spots for Art in New York

In the art world, Ann Fensterstock’s opinion is a respected one. Among her credentials: She holds an M.A. in contemporary art from NYU, she spent ten years on the acquisitions committee at the Museum of Modern Art, and she currently serves as as a member of the museum’s Contemporary Arts Council. Most recently, she authored the upcoming book “ART ON THE BLOCK: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond,” the purpose of which is to “take the reader on a journey through the neighborhoods that shape, and are shaped by, New York’s ever-evolving art world” and to “explore the genesis, expansion, maturation and ultimate restless migration of the New York art world from one initially undiscovered neighborhood to the next.”
Ann Fensterstock book
So who better to ask about the top spots for art in New York and beyond? We got a chance to talk to Fensterstock (also an ILevel client) about her favorite galleries, museums, artists and the (enviable) collection she has in her own home. Here’s what she had to say.
Ann fen
You’re an authority on art in New York City.
I don’t really consider myself ‘an authority’ or an ‘expert’ as that tends to suggest that contemporary art is a lofty or impenetrable thing. I just go to a lot of museums and galleries and look hard.
What are your favorite:
Places to discover new artists?
The studios of Bushwick, the newer galleries of the Lower East Side and the not-for-profit spaces who can show riskier, groundbreaking work without worrying about its current commercial viability.
Art museums large and small?
I’m very involved with MoMA so I obviously have to wave that flag. The Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue is a gem as are all of the Dia Foundation sites. Smaller regional galleries like the Norton in West Palm Beach or the Ogden in New Orleans push me to look at things beyond the contemporary work we collect. Looking at venetian glass, art deco furniture or early photography keeps your eye sharp and your mind open.”
Too many to mention but writing my book forced me to make choices about which one’s I consider to be the most important and which dealers the most visionary. You’re going to have to read it!
New York City artists?
Well New York City has tens of thousands of artists – natives and from elsewhere – so that really covers every name you see on gallery schedules throughout the city.
What’s hanging  on your walls?
Our library wall is installed with Modern prints from Picasso, Matisse, Dubuffet, Miro, Max Beckman and Emile Nolde but our bedroom is currently all figurative and contemporary portraiture – Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, Elizabeth Peyton, Mickalene Thomes and Lucien Freud. We have been collecting a lot of photography lately. Yossi Milo, Yancey Richardson and Brian Clamp at ClampArt have found us wonderful pieces. We re-hang quite often.
Do you have a favorite piece of art in your personal collection? What is it?
I tend to be a little fickle about loving our latest acquisition. Currently that is an 84 inch wide Michael Waugh drawing of swarming locusts made up of the words from President Obama’s American Jobs Act.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Newly Published Books and a Chelsea Exhibition

• Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas by Eric Fischl

Eric Fischl's memoir  is now available, I'm a good half way through it and enjoying it for its candor and clarity.

Courageously honest about his difficult childhood and the impact it had on his art, Fischl is also clear-eyed and even-handed about his career ups and downs throughout the over-heated art markets of the 1980s. Other art stars of the era such as Julian Schnabel, David Salle and Ross Bleckner – most of whom Fischl locked horns with at various points across the years – contribute passages.

Fischl was picked up and championed by the kingmaker dealer Mary Boone (featured with Fischl below) in 1984 and his work, along with that of Schnabel, Salle and Bleckner, took on trophy like status. Selling out shows before they opened, vetting and screening collectors before she would grant them access to her stable and replacing the discreet red dot with the emblazoned name of the grateful purchaser, Boone revolutionized art marketing tactics in a way that left the art world aghast.

The Gallerist's writer Andrew Russeth did a nice piece on a conversation with Fischl a few weeks before publication –

– and Phoebe Hoban (author of Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art) also published an interview in the Wall Street Journal –

• Scene by Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Jeanette Montgomery Barron's book Scene is now available from powerHouse Books.

Capturing the art world scenes that spawned around such venues as Warhol's Factory and TriBeCa's Odeon restaurant, Montgomery Barron shows us the faces of the fabulous and the famous who swarmed around art stars like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, Cindy Sherman and Keith Haring.

I'm delighted to report that powerHouse books, a highly-regarded independent book store and publisher in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, will be hosting a book signing of Art on the Block in September.

NYC c. 1985  at ClampArt Gallery

In conjunction with the publication of Scene, Brian Clamp at Chelsea's ClampArt Gallery is including this 'right time, right place' photographer's portraits of the 1980s downtown demi-monde in a show called NYC c. 1985. Works by Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus's daughter Amy will also be on view.

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

Also on my bedside table is this new collections of essays by Janet Malcolm. 

In all probability I'll skim this one, picking out the names that interest me but with Artforum's editor Ingrid Sischy, the German photographer Thomas Struth (who generously granted me permission to use one of his stunning black and white studies of 1970s SoHo in Art on the Block) and – yet again – artist David Salle in her table of contents, it should be worth the purchase price.

Art on the Block's chapter "Decade of Decadence" considers the work of all of these artists, the dealers who vied to market their talents and the places they frequented as SoHo became a fusion of art, money, fashion and power.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Third Great Show and a Second Great Tour

For readers anxious to experience in the flesh as much of what I write about in Art on the Block before the book launches on September 17, a third exciting exhibition is about to open in New York.

From May 9 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, British-born curator Andrew Bolton's "Punk: Chaos to Couture" will explore the evolution of the Punk movement of the mid- to late-1970s and its effects – not just on music, but on fashion, art and attitude.

I recommend the exhibition less for its promise of showing the output of visual artists of the era (this is a Costume Institute affair) but more for capturing the zeitgeist, or spirit, of those turbulent times. The Punk backdrop is very much a part of the broader sociological context in my sections "The Roots of Restlessness", "East of Eden" and "The East Village Scene". Richard Hell, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, Debbie Harry of Blondie and Anya Phillips (below) are all featured in the book as they made and changed history at downtown clubs like CBGB.

For those of you who missed it, there were two, different takes on the upcoming show in the New York Times over the weekend – one from Jon Caramanica and the other from Melena Ryzik. Both help flesh out the origins of Punk and give it context beyond its British origins and garage band music roots:

Don't forget to add the New Museum's 1993 exhibit and MoMA's Claes Oldenburg's The Store and The Street to your itineraries. Details of those two exhibitions are posted below in earlier blogs.

And from Artview –

Due to overwhelming demand, (Artview likes to keep things big enough for a group dynamic but small enough for discussion), a second date has been opened up for the 'SoHo of the 70's' tour.
Wednesday, May 15 is now fully subscribed but we will repeat the tour the following day.

If you would like to join us from 11am until 1pm on Thursday, May 16 for a return to the cradle of the New York contemporary art scene, please connect with Lacy Doyle at or register at the link below:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Judd Foundation Acknowledges the Upside of Money

With what should be a stunning new addition to SoHo's cultural landscape, the Judd Foundation has begun to share images of the lovingly (and painstakingly) restored interior of the great Minimalist sculptor's live/work loft at 101 Spring Street.

Purchased in 1968 as SoHo was first taking hold as a burgeoning art center, and used until Judd's death in 1994, the five story building will open to the public in June as a museum of art, ephemera and creative ambiance. Striving to retain what they describe as the "ineffable meditative quality" of the space, it's interesting to hear Judd's daughter Rainer acknowledge nevertheless the power of modern technology, architectural know-how and the financing that both demand. Running counter to the usual knee-jerk demonization of all things gentrifying, Rainer Judd reconciles the realities saying:    

“After ‘84, ‘85 [the neighborhood] changed, and I don’t track the changes so much since then,” she said. “It’s been more people and more money and variations of that, but there’s an upside to people with money coming in that’s also true in spaces of nature: It means it gets taken care of.” "

To read more and see an excellent 22 image slide show go to:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Last Week and Next Month

Last Thursday I was delighted to spend the morning with art world educator, curator and former gallerist Amy Smith-Stewart addressing her students at one of the Sotheby's Institute of Art 'Short Courses.' Titled 'The Gallery Business: A Practical Guide'I helped Amy kick off her three-day program with a very tightly packaged overview of the history of New York's art galleries. Fifty years in 90 minutes is quite the challenge so to anyone interested in attending this annual offering next year, I strongly recommend you read the book!

On Wednesday May 15th, from 11 am until 1pm, I will be working again with my long-time friend and colleague Lacy Doyle at Artview offering an architectural history and gallery tour of SoHo.
Working from the early chapters of Art on the Block we will go back to the late 1960s cradle of the downtown art world and revisit some of the original haunts where pioneers like Paula Cooper, Ivan Karp, Leo Castelli and Mary Boone first began. We will also be looking in on some of the galleries and not-for-profits that have chosen to stay in SoHo all of these years and a number of newer enterprises that have succumbed to it's lingering charms. Register for the tour below.

When I'm Asked "Where Next? . . .

Having just written a 50 year history of the ever-migrating art districts of New York City, it's understandable that I am regularly asked where I think the next one will be – and whether it will even be in New York.

Over the course of the 150 some interviews that I did for Art on the Block, the final question I always put to interviewees – to dealers, non-profit directors, artists – was "What do you think? Where else might the art world go?" Responses ranged from the Upper East Side to back to SoHo, Dubai to back to Paris. This week art kicked off a three part series looking at Los Angeles as a well-chewed-over possibility

Their initial discussion is well balanced I think.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Marking Spaces: New York City's Landmark HIstoric Districts" at the Queens Museum of Art.

The recently formed NYC Landmarks50 Advisory Committee is wisely giving itself two full years to lead into the celebration of the Landmarks Preservation Commission formed in 1965.

As Art on the Block  describes, the Landmarks Commission was formed in the very late stages of Robert F. Wagner's third and final term as mayor. It was up to the incoming Lindsay administration, however, to put the law to work and to move into the next decade avoiding the kind of rash architectural destruction that led to the tear down of the historic McKim Mead and White Pennsylvania Station.

The Queens Museum of Art opens its "Marking Spaces: New York City landmark Historic Districts" on April 14th with a nice dust off of Robert Moses legendary Panorama. Designed in 1964 by Wagner's appropriately tagged "Master Builder,' the Panorama shows every building in the five boroughs constructed before 1992.

The exhibition's timing seems ironic in view of the debate raging around the Museum of Modern Art's decision to demolish the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's Folk Art Museum, hardly a relic at 12 years old.

Read more:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The End of An Era – The Start of the Next?

There was news this week of changes ahead for three of the galleries who's histories are covered in Art on the Block.  The veteran dealer Nicole Klagsbrun, who started out in partnership with respected curator Clarissa Dalrymple at the Cable Gallery in SoHo in 1983, has decided to close her Chelsea space.

Another Chelsea departure – Schroeder Romero Gallery will take its operations back across the river to Brooklyn and focus on e-commerce delivery of limited edition prints and multiples. Schroeder Romero started its days in Williamsburg but migrated to Chelsea in the early 2000's.

Alun Williams' Parkers Box on Grand Street in Brooklyn is making his 100th exhibition his last in the Williamsburg gallery. Williams press release was upbeat about new enterprises to come and we will wait to see what he does next and where.

Claes Oldenburg:The Street and The Store at the Museum of Modern Art

Opening on April 14th and up through August 5th at MoMA, Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store promises an excellent opportunity to see some of the seminal early work of one of the great masters of Pop. A nice little slide show from the Huffington Post gives a taste of what is, literally, in store.

Producing in a different vein to Lichtenstein, Rosenquist or Warhol whose irony-laden riffs on packaged goods and magazine gloss were pristinely executed, Oldenburg initially worked sloppier. Humble materials such as cardboard and papier-mache were mixed, matched and molded to create surprisingly arresting objects. These early pieces (The Street, 1960 and The Store 1961-4) are smaller in scale than the gargantuan creations he would later be known for but throughout he gorges – like his Pop counterparts – on the delights of the late '50s and early '60s consumer goods market.

The opening slide from Huffington shows the artist outside the legendary Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles but Art on the Block picks him up during his early years in New York on the Lower East Side.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star" at the New Museum of Contemporary Art

I recommend the New Museum of Contemporary Art's current exhibition to anyone now anticipating my book. Pinpointing the year 1993 as it's pivotal moment "NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star" brings out many of the seminal works of that early '90s era, a number of which were featured in that year's (controversial as always) Whitney Biennial.

The fourth floor is spine tinglingly good with a Rudolf Stingel carpet, a Felix Gonzalez-Torres light bulb hang, some haunting Zoe Leonard studies of bygone era anatomical models and a Robert Gober prison window, installed eerily out of reach in a corner. Kristen Oppenheim's audio piece, staged at 303 Gallery, was one I missed at the time.

The curators hit all of the important co-ordinates as I remember the period, both in terms of the art being created and the intrepid galleries showing it.

Through May 26, 2013.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond

Launching my blog today on Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond. Join me here.