Art! Who goes there? We do, now. In the latest installment of our fortnightly art column, Kesley Keith handicaps who's going to be running New York's gallery scene, now that Jeffrey Deitch is going to LA. Bets: on the table!
Welp, we've been digesting the Jeffrey-Deitch-meets-MOCA news for a good fortnight, and now, it's high time to make some predictions. Who's going to pick up the bedazzled mantle left empty when New York's seminal Deitch Projects closes shop this June? Will any curator or gallerist be able to fill Deitch's Italian loafers, or will the absence of the annual drag parade slow our art roll permanently? The breakdown:
Gavin Brown: 2-1
PROS: The Brit ex-pat dealer specializes in "attitude and art fair shenanigans" much like ringleader Jeffrey Deitch, and he's known for hand-picking rising art stars: Elizabeth Peyton, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili, Cecily Brown, Rirkrit Tiravanija (Peyton's ex-husband), and Urs Fischer. Brown embraces the motto "go big or go home": even if you know squat about New York gallery openings you've probably caught wind of the time that some crazy German artist dug up the floor of a West Village gallery space. He's originally from Croydon, a working-class suburb outside of London; you know who else is from Croydon? Kate Fucking Moss. He's mouthy, beefing with megawatt gallerist Larry Gagosian in the pages of Time Out New York: "Larry Gagosian. I'd get him drunk, slip him a roofie, fuck his brains out, and put him on a one-way flight back to Mount Ararat." He barbecues with the common folk and Rachel Feinstein.
CONS: He's already aligned with a museum, in this case, the East Coast equivalent of MOCA Los Angeles. The pet gallerist of bitch-on-wheels director Lisa Phillips, Brown has placed two of his artists (Peyton and Fischer) in solo shows at the New Museum. The current Fischer show — the one with the wagging tongue, quel apropos — put the art press in a tizzy, owing to the insider-y trifecta of Brown, Phillips, and trustee Dakis Joannou, a major collector of Fischer's work. Brown's Enterprise was entirely absent from the last two Art Basel Miami Beach fairs; although the gloomy 2008 iteration was one to miss, abstaining completely from America's answer to the art fair clusterfuck is not the gung-ho community spirit embodied by Sir Jeffrey.
James Fuentes: 5-1
PROS: He's got the ear of Jedi Master Deitch, with a former director title at Deitch Projects and a producer credit on Deitch's Art Star reality show. Fuentes's first gallery space on Broome was previously occupied by none other than Gavin Brown's Enterprise. He's got friends in the biz: downtown darlings Rita Ackermann, Nate Lowman, Ryan McGinley, a Yeah Yeah Yeah or two, and Dash Snow, who died four days before Fuentes's wedding to Andrea Rosen Gallery director Branwen Jones last summer. Two of the artists on his gallery roster, Agathe Snow and Lizzi Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance, snagged placement in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. He's a native son: raised in the Vladecks projects on the Lower East Side and the South Bronx; Ecuadorian immigrant dad is an MTA bus supervisor; Sean "Puffy/P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Diddy/Sean Combs" Combs attended his high school.
CONS: Fuentes went to upstate hippie-fried liberal arts college Bard upstate, does not have MBA.The polar opposite of the grinning showboat Jeffrey Deitch, Fuentes is typically described as "low-key and unassuming." An artist friend of his went to jail for forging Basquiat. His eponymous gallery, a former social club on a dreary stretch of Little Italy/Chinatown near the former Five Points, opened in early 2007. Give this one time to percolate.
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn: 12-1
PROS: Dealer and gallerist with rich person clout, Rohatyn once toured Beyonce around Art Basel Miami Beach and was more recently tapped to judge artist wannabes as part of Sarah Jessica Parker's cheeseball "reality" series "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." Her looks and dress fit the requirement dictated by Deitch's snappy, immaculate suits and creative-type glasses—Rohatyn has been described as "formidable," "smart-looking," "chichi," and "a respected private collector in her own right." She's got the pedigree (mom's an art historian, dad's an art dealer, Vassar degree, financier husband, French ambassador father-in-law, Carnegie Hill townhouse) and taste (her Freeman's Alley space was tricked out by architect Rafael Viñoly, and she was an early backer of contemporary artist Julie Mehretu, who's now commanding big bucks for her layered, geometric abstractions).
CONS: Her influence doesn't always impress: Rohatyn once advised client Dan Loeb on the purchase of a Matthew Barney photo, which ended in a nasty power struggle with Barney's gallerist Barbara Gladstone, who either didn't want to sell to a hedge funder or was flexing her gallerist muscles for fun, take your pick. Rohatyn is relatively unknown outside a certain social set (Upper East Siders, Chelsea Prada-wearing gallerists, wealthy womyn authors). And unlike Deitch, whose art star had risen before the airing of his little-watched reality show, Rohatyn is a backstage mover/shaker being shoved in front of a camera on a show that will attract attention for its bold-faced name producer, not its street cred. Oh, and she's a woman.
Javier Peres: 20-1
PROS: Peres is a fairly new player on the gallery scene, a self-professed outsider whose creative ambition is more sketchily designed than the typical art history degree-to MBA-to Chelsea white cube trajectory. A half-Cuban, half-Sephardic Jew entertainment lawyer who specialized in refugee cases involving gay asylum-seekers, Peres's art aesthetic represents the Id of Jeffrey Deitch, the side that sponsors drag queen parades and organizes performance art revues in downtown warehouses. NSFW artist Terence Koh is one such Peres disciple (and former boy toy!), self-anointed, as were fellow artists-with-bodily-fluids Aurel Schmidt and Dash Snow. His baby, Peres Projects, straddles the überhipster environs of LA and Berlin, he's organized shows with powerhouse Mary Boone, he supports self-loathing neon art, and he produces a magazine called Daddy.
CONS: Peres backs some avant-garde (read: wacked-out) shit that's just plain inaccessible compared to even the weirdest Deitch Projects exhibition. He doesn't live in New York. (Yet.)
Jeffrey Deitch is (was?) a gallerist with unbounded energy and enthusiasm. The way he legitimized provocative, pop-laced up-and-comers (Kehinde Wiley's equestrian portrait of Michael Jackson — commissioned by the King of Pop himself — sold for $160K with Deitch's help at Art Basel Miami Beach this year) and made old fogies collectible (Basquiat, Haring, Francesco Clemente) is nothing short of inspired, and basically impossible to replicate. Too bad the gallery's only closing condolences will come in the form of a Shepard "Everyman" Fairey exhibition. Seriously: blech, bored already.
So. As the Deitch juggernaut is laid to rest, who's primed for a Hail Mary pass to our most illustrious New York gallery scene? Though all four contestants in today's bid have their merits, we're going with maybe no one, potentially James Fuentes, and probably Gavin Brown. Here's hoping Brown has the cajones to pull off big sales, bold scandals, batshit crazy art, and some (dear God!) new trends in 2010 and beyond.