EXPOSITION EN COURS
La Galerie Pixi a le plaisir de présenter
"Doomed and Famous ; Selections from the Adrian Dannatt Collection"
Il s'agit de la troisième exposition de ce type, après celles de NewYork et de Londres, et du lancement officiel en France du livre de Dannatt de ses nécrologies sélectionnées, également intitulé "Doomed and Famous" (Sequence Press).
Comme les expositions précédentes, celle-ci proposera une sélection soigneusement choisie parmi les œuvres d'art et les documents éphémères que Dannatt conserve dans cette ville spécifique, à la Bastille, et constitue donc une exposition entièrement nouvelle d'œuvres inédites.
Comme le livre lui-même, l'exposition sera riche en excentricité, en bizarrerie et en obscurité, un méli-mélo éclectique reflétant un goût très personnel, sans oublier une réticence à dépenser trop d'argent. Certains des personnages dont les nécrologies apparaissent dans le livre auront des œuvres dans l'exposition, comme Philippe Thomas et les sculptures de James Metcalf.
Dannatt s'intéresse à ce qui détermine l'acceptable et le rejetable dans le monde de l'art "contemporain" qui s'autodiscipline et il aime jouer avec ces hiérarchies ; ainsi, on peut trouver une cascade de Charlotte Napoléon Bonaparte de 1833 à côté d'une seule ligne conceptuelle de Douglas Huebler de 1971.
Il y aura des œuvres de la propre famille de Dannatt, que ce soit son père Trevor l'architecte moderniste, son oncle George l'artiste constructiviste, sa mère Joan la graveuse, ou son neveu Gabriel, parmi les plus jeunes artistes de l'exposition. Sans oublier une scène d'atelier parisienne de "notre cousin américain", l'éminent William Dannat (1853-1929).
Il y aura des révolutionnaires, un tableau sauvage de Jacqueline de Jong datant des années 1960, et des réactionnaires, un dessin de 1820 représentant un chien de chasse par le duc d'Orléans ; il y aura des noms célèbres, Picasso, Paul Thek, James Lee Byars, Josef Simá, et des outsiders, des merveilles de brocanteurs et des pièces trouvées dans le trottoir. Il y aura de grandes œuvres, comme une installation lumineuse d'Adam Barker-Mill, et de toutes petites, comme une cuillère en argent de Claude Lalanne.
Il y aura des cinéastes, Tony Kaye, Alastair Paton, Michael Lindsay-Hogg à côté d'acteurs, Roger Blin, Edith Scob, un musicien Daniel Humair à côté d'une designer Julie Hamisky, des écrivains comme Luc Dietrich et Jonathan Meades à côté d'animateurs comme Caroline Leaf et Delphine Burrus.
Une paire typique pourrait être un poignard néoclassique conçu par Jacques-Louis David pour l'École de Mars à côté d'un passeport pour fuir Paris signé par l'artiste la même année, en 1793.
L'esprit de l'exposition est peut-être évoqué par l'affiche de Jules Chéret de 1886 pour son Exposition des Arts Incohérents, qui pourrait presque servir de titre alternatif à celle-ci ; une parodie anarchique de l'art moderne qui, malgré tout, s'est avérée une innovation avant-gardiste iconoclaste.
Une liste sera disponible, à la galerie et en ligne, dans laquelle chaque œuvre sera accompagnée d'une brève explication de Dannatt détaillant comment il en est venu à l'acquérir et toutes ses multiples connexions anecdotiques.
L'œuvre la plus ancienne est une tête cycladique, la plus récente une mosaïque de street art installée illégalement pour le vernissage de l'exposition.
Certaines choses seront à vendre, à des prix allant
de 60 000 euros à 10 centimes.
Adrian Dannatt a travaillé, mais de manière très occasionnelle, en tant qu'acteur, écrivain, conservateur, éditeur et artiste. Décrit par Guy Debord comme "ce héros journaliste", il a également été qualifié de “irritating animated Brit twit” par Entertainment Weekly et, plus récemment, par Air Mail, d' "une de ces merveilleuses figures à la Zelig". Il a longtemps vécu entre NewYork, Londres et Paris.
" (...) Les objets assemblés dans sa « collection » sont comme des fragments de ces rencontres, et donc un vampirisme au second degré. De son vampirisme, aux prises avec la vie, il extrait des objets, relations avec des artistes sur lesquels il écrira, trouvés lors de promenades avec des personnes qui seront aussi des sujets d’écriture, voire même objets de fascination pour d’autres
– Patti Smith contemplant un portrait doublement familier...
Cette image vampirique qu’Adrian entreprend de se donner est, aussi, un peu une illusion de dandy. On ne peut s’empêcher de penser à Baudelaire, autre dandy, qui voyait dans le temps « cet obscur ennemi qui nous ronge le cœur / Et du sang que nous perdons croît et se fortifie ». C’est ainsi que Laurence Rickels a pu, parmi d’ autres, développer une théorie vampirique de l’ existence. Mais à examiner de près ce vampirisme, on se rend compte qu’il ne s’approche pas du tout d’Adrian – voire même qu’Adrian l’a en quelque sorte retourné, comme on retourne un vêtement, déjà usé par les vies, ainsi que ceux qu’il porte lui-même. (...) "
Donatien Grau est l’auteur de nombreux textes sur l’art, la littérature, et l’histoire
des représentations (dont, récemment, La mémoire numismatique de l’Empire romain).
Il est actuellement conseiller pour les programmes contemporains
de la Présidence du musée du Louvre.
DE TOUTES CES OEUVRES
Sam Samore (18)
A pair of photographs, portraits of AD, 2005
Samore, a conceptual photographer and filmmaker operates in the lush space between cinematic narrative and fashion industry codes of beauty, striking outtakes from some imaginary scenario. These black and white portraits are very close to those he made of Rudolf Stingel who then had them rendered as photorealist paintings in his series Untitled (After Sam) from 2005-07, which pleasingly sell for many millions - or did so until the downfall of Inigo Philbrick. I want to find the professional painter used by Stingel - he leaves it deliberately vague as to who actually painted these works - to have them create similar versions of my own portrait. Which might well sell for less. (Stingel’s seventh solo show, in 1991, was at the Paris gallery of my brilliant belle-mère, Claire Burrus, and my wife and I even stayed in his tiny studio-apartment on Desbrosses Street in Tribeca, so close to glory.)
Sunrise Venice Beach, oil on panel, 2010
Jonny Gent is a marvellous character, everything a smart artist should be, and having lived all over the world in singularly charismatic studios he cleverly developed, whilst in Dubai, his Cabin Studio concept of private clubs. This morphed into the dazzlingly successful Sessions Arts Club restaurant in Clerkenwell, London which has subsequently blossomed into Boath House a beautiful Highland creative retreat. And I love his actual work, rock’n’roll sexy, dirty and delicious, faux sloppy whilst so secretly refined.
Promotional art work for the film Ahead of Me I Saw a Six Feet Wall, signed crayon on poster, 1990
Star Glasgow architecture student, Paton abandoned a lucrative career as architect and production designer (as well as a celebrated Barbican apartment) to move to Paris with his library and Kawasaki ZXR750, to live in the ultra-modern towers of La Defense and make his first feature. This avant-garde urbanist escapade Ahead of Me I Saw a Six Feet Wall (also known as Walkman) redefined po-mo continental cinema for a new generation. Subsequently relocated to Montréal, Paton is hard at work on his big budget teen all-action adventure Napoleon Street (also known as 400 Boys and Star Belt Legend Begins), a Chinese-Canadian-Hungarian blockbuster of vast promise.
Figure with painting,
Clay and oil on canvas, 2020
An dynamic Caledonian-Québécois adventuress Lord-Paton ( so splendid a name itself) despite her notable youth has already travelled and lived in the widest range of exotic locales, from the Himalayas to wildest Mexican beaches, whilst never abandoning her fecund artistic practice. I know of very few other art works (maybe Shintaro Ohata) which combine the sculptural figure with an actual painting on canvas, a most pleasing conceit, as if carrying the burden of creativity itself.
Hugo Guinness (4)
Portrait of AD as ‘Il Dannato', watercolour on paper, 2022
Boudoir, oil on board, 2019
Salon, oil on board, 2019
The most belovèd Englishman in all of Brooklyn, Guinness is a highly successful screenwriter (most notably with Wes Anderson) as well as a talented movie voiceover artist, a celebrated flower-pot designer, ceramicist and printmaker. He has more recently branched -and blossomed - into painting itself, to utterly charming result. I was lucky enough to be on holiday with him in Northern California where he captured me as ‘Il Dannato’, my family name which means ‘the damned’ in Italian, our supposèd Sephardic Venetian ghetto-heritage.
Staton is a highly versatile artist perched - or swaying- between the conceptual and the decorative, between public art, urban intervention and the handmade home-made domestic gesture, the body politic and the pastel crèche. Her recent ceramics are a frisky delight that don’t give a damn m’dear, this piscine pottery not only reminiscent of Gustave Marchegay but also - with typical coincidental synchronicity - almost exactly the same shape as a fish already in my collection, as painted by Monsieur Batlle.
Jay Batlle (15)
Pickling in a Hot Bath,
oil on canvas, 2006
From the well-known ‘Minimalist’ series of paintings, named after the eponymous cooking columns of Mark Bittman in the New York Times, in which Batlle would transform the newsprint image and recipe into an entirely new sort of object; a sort of immortality jousting with the inherent ephemerality - and pleasure - of both cooking and journalism. A professional chef and inveterately generous host, Batlle is one of the few Californian conceptual artists to deal with food, though one might also ponder John Baldessari’s Mayonnaise or the oeuvre of Ben Kinmont.
As an active bon vivant based between Brooklyn and Occitania, Batlle became famous for his use of vintage illustration as a conceptual strategy but has of late sworn himself to full-scale heroic painting entirely free of irony.
‘Dannatt Family’, posted documentation from the Sshhh Project, as shown at the Whitney Biennale 2014
Kinmont’s interactive Sshhh project explores what it might mean to ethically introduce the private into the public space of the museum. The artist invited Biennial visitors to send him a note containing their name and the date—but not the content—of a conversation they have had at home. For the first hundred notes he received, he created two letterpress conversation sheets. I love that Kinmont is both conceptual artist and rare cookbook dealer, a bibliophile who makes a living in two equally rarefied and recherché domains. Clever-clogs Kinmont even terms his book selling project an art work, formally entitled Sometimes a nicer sculpture is to be able to provide a living for your family. He is also represented by Air de Paris, a gallery I have admired since the earliest days down in Monaco and Nice. Their founder Florence Bonnefous once flattered me by having seen my photograph on the wall at the French House in Soho, London, whist her co-founder Edouard Merino was a great friend of my friend feu Pierre Le Tan who amusingly claimed (entirely mischievously) in his book on collectors that Merino owned the dildo of Robert Brasillach.
Walter Robinson (13)
The Nurse Dilemma
Gouache on paper, 2018
Robinson is another key artist who shows with Air de Paris, an original 70s Manhattan punk who founded the seminal journal Art-Rite and coined the term ‘Zombie Formalism’. This soi disant ‘bad painter’ just keeps getting better and better, whether with his ‘Spin’ paintings which prefigured Damien Hirst or his saucy burger portraits. A close friend of my other feu friend Duncan Hannah (who died like Pierre Le Tan at only 69) they exhibited and gave up drinking together, swapped works, and did battle for contemporary figurative painting. Robinson’s naughty nurse series is especially beloved ( not least by Beirut’s greatest collector Tony Salamé) and he kindly gave me this classic work in exchange for my press release for his recent show at the much aforementioned Air de Paris.
Rest Is the New Sport, paperback book, 2017
Jef Geys is the third Air de Paris artist in my collection, and one whose obituary is included in my recent book Doomed and Famous for which this current exhibition has been convened. Geys was the most comic and cunning of ‘conceptualists’ who work played on the borderlands of fiction, fantasy and humour. He was particularly amused by the emergence in his last years of the ‘other’ Jef Geys, a sports physiotherapist and health coach based in Duabi, whose bestseller here exhibited has the pleasing subtitle ‘Decrease your biological cost’, whatever that may mean. Geys was far from a keep-fit fanatic himself but he was obsessed with bicycling - creating a remarkable work with his on tour photographs of the racer Eddy Merckx - so it seems significant that this ‘fake’ Geys publication should feature a bicycle so prominently on its cover. For curiously enough the ‘other’ Jef was actually a semi-pro cyclist in his youth. The real Geys (by now even I am getting confused) gamely signed this book for me, making it in some way a fraudulent and very conceptual work of his own.
A selection of publications, 1987-1994
Thomas also appears in my book, a memorial to his precocious death aged only 44 back in 1995, though as the most purely ‘conceptual’ (how one wishes to use some different word instead) artist I knew, one who refused his own identity, his non-existence seemed almost part of his practice. I knew Thomas though my redoubtable belle-mère Claire Burrus who acted as the gallerist conduit for his highly refined ‘fictionalism’, selling his name and ‘works’ to collectors through the agency of readymades belong to everyone@.
As much writer as visual artist Thomas’s books were inevitably central to his oeuvre, easily diffused and circulated and supposedly authored by those who had purchased his identity. A cerebral mélange of advertising agency strategy and literary confabulation worthy of Borges or Pessoa, the lure of Thomas’s work is strong for someone like myself who has always teetered on the brink of being an invented character.
Petite cuillère à café "escargot", spoon, silver,
Signé et porte la marque Artcurial, Edition Artcurial, 1991
Lalanne is another of the obituary-homages in my book and I relish the extreme contrast between her work and that of Philippe Thomas; the most decorative, if not borderline decadent, of designer elegance, the highly expensive and exclusive hallmarked objet set against the purely intellectual games, the absence of object hood, of Thomas.
I love the vast range of what can pass for ‘art’, from the most intangible, a whispered secret on a pier, to the most functional, a cocktail bar in the shape of a metal rhinoceros.
And I love that ‘art’ can be free, given to you at no cost, or can be just a $5 book and also can cost over $2 million like the sculptural apples of Madame Lalanne. The work of Les Lalanne is so naughty because it has always been condemned as ‘craft’ and ‘decoration’ yet fully infiltrated the contemporary art market, an irresistible virus of sheer pleasure. These were artists who associated with the likes of Brancusi, Max Ernst, Daniel Spoerri, Ed Ruscha, Suzy Gablik, Teeny and Marcel, all entirely acceptable, yet they also had such ‘forbidden’ close friends as the Rothschilds, Yves St Laurent, Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs, all anathema to the ‘serious’ art world. Claude gave me this spoon - a later version of the set she designed for Salvador Dalí - and I wear it in my lapel as a boutonnière in honour of having known so swell a dame.
Three sculptures, bronze, signed Paris 1956
James ‘Jimmy’ Metcalf is another artist in the exhibition also in my book, and is intimately connected to Claude Lalanne, whom he taught the art of ‘galvanoplastie’.
Metcalf was an extraordinary figure who I was lucky enough to visit in his later years in the town of Santa Clara del Cobre in the Michoacán which he had revived as a metal working co-operative, the practical embodiment of his Arts & Crafts beliefs much influenced by William Morris. Tremendously handsome and charismatic, oft mistaken for his friend Alain Delon with whom he caroused, Metcalf was a war hero who had lost some fingers at the Futa Pass and proved an equally heroic American presence in postwar Paris. A key resident of the Impasse Ronsin (on which I co-curated a recent show at the Museum Tinguely) Metcalf thus knew everyone from Brancusi and Duchamp to Yves Klein, and had a successful career as a classic modernist sculptor. This he renounced, in a pointedly political gesture against the star system and art-as-merchandise, instead exiling himself to Mexico to lead a collaborative, indigenous crafts movement. Perhaps partly thanks to my own enthusiasm the two New York dealers I count as close friends, Paul Kasmin and Miguel Abreu, have both mounted recent Metcalf exhibitions.
James Lee Byars
Man Ascending, graphite on paper, 1959
Byars is the fifth artist to appears in both my book and exhibition and one suitably obsessed with his own mortality, indeed my original newspaper obituary of Byars even became part of his 2014 exhibition, ‘I Cancel All My Works at Death’, an event mounted by those curatorial tricksters Triple Candie whose archival aesthetic is close to mine. I once spotted a wonderful Japanese-period early Byars ink drawing at a Sotheby’s Arcade sale in NY, back when they still sold things for nothing. It was the final lot, I was the only person left and then some damn young couple arrived panting at the very last minute, determined to buy it whatever the cost. An eternal regret, but made up for by the subsequent purchase of this ethereal and magical line, with the impeccable provenance of the Willard Gallery who gave Byars his first USA show back in 1961.
Raising of the Titanic
Gouache on newspaper, 1975
Alexander Iolas is the first essay in my book, though I did not really know him unlike most of the other subjects, only meeting him fleetingly once at the Robert Fraser Gallery, but Iolas is a fascinating figure on whom I have written and lectured, publishing a book on him with the aforementioned Paul Kasmin. As the ‘Gagosian of his day’ Iolas was a hugely influential and powerful dealer with galleries all over the world and a dazzlingly diverse roster of artists, from Magritte to Ruscha, and who notably gave Warhol his very first and last exhibition. Iolas was crucial to the career of Les Lalanne, having been introduced to their work by their friends at the Impasse Ronsin, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle, and he placed their work in the most important international collections. Thek was an equally central figure in the Iolas stable, who supported him throughout his most difficult years of European exile, and this image was used as a poster for Thek’s Paris show at Iolas in 1976. The funky wooden frame is the original as built by Thek himself, albeit recently restored and fitted with UV glass.
oil on wood panel, 1951
Crippa was also represented by Alexander Iolas and when I went to see the Iolas donation at the Thessaloniki museum I was delighted to discover a very similar Crippa painting from the same year. Crippa was an important postwar Milanese figure, who died at 49 in a plane crash, who knew everyone and participated in several radical political art movements including the Spazialismo manifestos. Indeed the recent exhibition on Jean-Jacques Lebel at the Museum Tinguely featured his Anti-Process, of which Crippa was one of the signatories and participants, along with the ubiquitous Jimmy Metcalf. When my father, a modernist architect, would go to the Milan Triennale in the early 50s his friend the designer Willie Landels would exclaim “I introduce you to CRIPPA!” which became a family catchphrase. Only much later did we realise who this ‘Crippa’ had actually been and happily I immediately recognised his name on this misidentified painting at a minor Manhattan auction house. Pleasingly, the resonant ‘CRIPPA!’ reappeared recently thanks to the leading Tate curator Eleanor Crippa, whom my father, then near 100, was intrigued to ponder as a possible relative, which she proved not to be.
Hydrocal epoxy after the stone original, 3,000BC -2016
I like to compare and contrast the oldest and newest, cheapest and the most expensive, the most doomed and most famous, and at the Met in NY I always visit the Cycladic objects, perhaps the very oldest things there.
Of course everyone loves Cycladic works, they are a proto-modernist trope in themselves much admired by many a leading 20th century sculptor, abstraction avant la lettre.
When in Thessaloniki for a conference on Iolas I could not resist this tourist head, as a gift for my artist mother, which is both the oldest item in this exhibition and one of the more recent. Museum shops are wonderful and often their reproduction works incredibly good, well worth collecting in themselves, throwing into question all those issues of originality, aura, fake and forgery, ‘the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.’
François-Xavier Lalanne (22)
lithographie, Nouvelles Images éditeurs, 1978
Though I knew ‘FX’ much less well than his partner Claude, only meeting him in his last years, I have the warmest memories of lunching with the two of them at their fabled country retreat of Ury, where his dry wit and classical references, a longtime connoisseur of Ancient Greek and Latin, made for most refined of company.
Unlike Claude, who rarely drew, François-Xavier began as a painter and continued to make technical drawings for his sculptures as well as more fanciful sketches and prints. An inveterate bargain-hunter and haunter of charity shops, even I felt I was perhaps going too far when rifling through the reject box ‘Everything 10 P’, outside an Oxfam in Hastings filled with broken frames and dusty rubbish. Only to discover at the very back this litho by Lalanne. I instantly knew exactly what it was and held it up in utter disbelief, the likelihood of there being some sort of God made likelier.
Vase, gold plated bronze, 2022
Hamisky is a crucial cog in the world of Les Lalanne, the granddaughter of Claude she has been in charge of the fabrication of all her works for the last decade or more, working alongside her husband the artist Darius Metcalf, himself the son of Jimmy Metcalf, one of the oldest associates and friends of Les Lalanne. Julie is the daughter of the Franco-Vietnamese sculptor Kim Hamisky, an intriguing figure in himself, and when I visited Adrian Mibus of the Whitford Fine Art in order to borrow some Joseph Lacasse paintings for my exhibition on the Impasse Ronsin imagine my surprise when he showed me one of his favourite works in his collection, a striking wooden chair-totem by Hamisky père. Of late Julie has happily started to show her own very personal work and it is lovely.
Flower jar, ceramic found object, 2017
Another fine vessel is this clever objet trouvé, the tender paw of a kitsch decorative tiger amusingly repurposed with typical Bonduellean aesthetic ju-jitsu. Elvire is a brilliant young Parisienne proto-Situ strategist, mi-typographer, mi-draughtsman long associated with those smartest of publishers and art agents One Star and Three Star Press.
bowl, polychrome ceramic 2015
Likewise this irresistible patinated vessel by the Argentine -Parisienne Lohidoy, a longtime collaborator with the artist Beatrice Caracciolo who is equally known for her own unique sculptures and installations built from human hair.
Ikebana vessel, shattered painted ceramic, 2021
The most meticulous and skilful of figurative painters, Shrive also lets himself rip with these swirling, savage pots, using a very different part of his creative energies and revelling in the mess and danger of such dirty handwork.
A Greyhound Frightened by Lightning
oil on canvas, 2021
A knowing riff on Géricault’s frightened equine, Shrive practically gives the old master a run for his money in terms of technical chops and sheer painterly bravura. A denizen of Northern Norfolk, Shrive was long based in Soho, in a classic boho garret above the notorious Coach & Horses pub and became celebrated for his ambitious group portrait of many of its most scandalous characters. For the last decade or more Shrive has been in Paris where he occupies a wonderfully romantic atelier in a cul-de-sac behind Sacré Coeur, a studio worthy of Murger piled high with his impressive paintings not to mention a giant sculptural head of Balzac. The latter is part of his blockbuster solo museum exhibition at the Maison de Balzac, Rupert Shrive Expose La Peau de Chagrin, on view from 22 September-30 October. When I asked Shrive if he had a painting for my exhibition he unhesitatingly picked out this striking image, not knowing it had a remarkable visual echo in a drawing of a dog already in the exhibition, as so often a sort of morphic resonance chimes between disparate art works, a chain of links, clues, coincidences.
S.A.R. Prince Ferdinand Philippe, Duc d'Orléans
Étude de tête de chien, pencil on paper, c.1828
This charming drawing - unwitting perfect pendant to Shrive’s quivering hound - has long lingered in my collection, making perfect sense when my wife had a little farmhouse in the Sologne just outside Orléans itself. Son Altesse Royale (SAR) Ferdy-Phil had a glamorous short life, being born in Palermo in 1810 and dying in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 31 in 1842, after a carriage accident. I like the fact that one of his many titles was Duc de Chartres and he was always known in the family by that resonant name ‘Chartres’. A tremendous soldier and politician of relatively liberal leaning, he was also a lover of literature and music, fine furniture and art. Thus as an avid collector committed to contemporary painting he owned works by Delacroix, Corot, Rousseau and Ingres who he commissioned to paint his portrait. He was taught landscape painting by Ary Scheffer (Van Gogh’s favourite artist) and was himself a genuinely gifted draughtsman, here evinced.
Princess Charlotte Bonaparte
A river flowing through an overgrown valley,
black chalk, pen and ink, brown wash, watermark J Whatman, 1831
Who can dare resist art made by royalty, however recent or minor (the royalty not the art), of which there is a surprising amount, whether watercolours by Prince Charles and even Queen Victoria, paintings by Sarah Armstrong-Jones, the book illustrations of Queen Margrethe of Denmark or collages by Grace Kelly. Sadly such works are always judged by a different standard, indeed usually dismissed out of hand without any serious consideration for their actual potential merits. Princess Charlotte may have not really been royal (my how we frown upon post-revolutionary French titles) but she was a highly accomplished artist, sketching some remarkable waterfall scenes whilst in exile, improbably enough, in New Jersey. I am also rather proud to own works by artists who had their own notable portraits painted by Ingres and Jacques-Louis David, Charlotte being captured with her sister Zénaïde by David in 1821.
signed passport, ink on paper, 1793
I was so excited to spot this ‘passport’ in a group of autographs at Swann Galleries in NY and arrived panting at the auction house exactly as this lot was being hammered down, further proof it was always meant to be mine. (I gave several of the other artist letters in the lot to my feu friend Duncan Hannah who had them framed.) The passport is not only entertaining in itself - the description of the bearer who plans to leave Paris - but historically important; I could not work out who the other two signers might be and then found in the Rare Book department of the NYPL another document from the Comité de Sûreté also signed by them, but have damn lost the piece of paper on which I wrote down their names. Dated ‘huit messidor (June)‘l’an second de la République’ this elegant document still conjours the excitement and fear of the Terror, it is also as close as I will probably ever get to owning a work-on-paper by David.
Glaive de l’École de Mars, brass and steel, wooden scabbard with felt cloth inserts, 1793-94
It was my friend Sam Hodgkin (son of the late great Sir Howard) who spotted this in the window of the Armoury of St James’s in Piccadilly Arcade and was sorely tempted. He managed to resist but I could not, least of all because I already owned the David ‘passport’ from the exact same period, and as he pointed out this is as close as one can get to owning an actual ‘sculpture’ by David. Designed by the artist for the short-lived revolutionary officers school this is the most classic neo-classical objet imaginable, that deliberate link between revolutionary aesthetics and Ancient Greek and Roman style, and pleasingly similar to swords to be seen in David’s history paintings. L’école de Mars was dedicated "à l'Amour de la Patrie et à la Haine des rois” which makes short shrift of my aforementioned fondness for art made by royalty. David’s active role in both the Ancien Régime and then the revolution, how many he himself actually sent to the guillotine, is a fascinating political-artistic paradox, excellently limned by our favourite Marxist art historian (and member of the Situationist International) T.J. Clark.
Jacqueline de Jong
Accidental Baseball, oil on canvas, 1965
Another Paris revolution is here prefigured, that of Mai ’68, by a fellow radical Situationist, the redoubtable and remarkable Jacqueline de Jong, who along with her close friend Michele Bernstein embodied the feisty feminist contribution to that militant movement. Of this singularly rich life someone could, and probably will, make a movie (indeed there already exists an exemplary documentary); having escaped the Nazis as a child by walking with her mother to safety in Switzerland, the teenage De Jong had her portrait painted by Asger Jorn and soon after moved with him to Paris where she joined the SI, participated in their international conferences, not least in London, and then boldly excommunicated herself from Debord by creating her own publication The Situationist Times. I exhibited the rare zero issue of that journal in my first Doomed and Famous show in New York, and am proud to have this actual painting for the Paris iteration; one of only two American-themed works by De Jong (the other being Elvis) it was prominently hung as the opening picture of her recent retrospective at Les Abattoirs in Toulouse. It is also the most expensive art work I have ever bought, quite rightly so.
Silver Christophorus (Cistophore) coin of Marc Antony (Marc Antoine) crowned with ivy, engraving, c.1800
I found this small print (always read the ‘small print’) of a Roman head in the antiques mall of Millbrook NY, with the feu Paul Kasmin who there maintained a lovely farmhouse where one would weekend. I later established that it was actually a late 18th century engraving of a Roman coin, a representation of a representation. As such it echoes David’s neo-classical concerns, that early-modern fascination with the imagery of ancient Greece and Rome. And when it comes to contemporary art and Roman coins I can only call on one expert who covers both fields, yes Donatien Grau, curator of contemporary art at the Louvre and author, amongst much else, of the seminal La Memoire Numismatique de l'Empire Romain.
Sketch of the Death bed of Vivant Denon, pencil, 1825
Apropos le Louvre here is a curious thing, an on-the-spot drawing of the dying Baron Denon, mastermind behind that museum and close artistic companion to Napoleon; the vivacious Vivant here portly and poorly but guarded in bed by his own curatorial staff and another fine hound.
John Giorno (16)
I would crawl through a mile of shit to suck off the last guy who fucked her, watercolour on handmade paper, 2013
Another very different modern homage to the ancient Classical world is this work by Giorno. Based on a poem he first wrote in 1985 Giorno explained to me it was actually directly inspired by some of the filthiest verses of the Latin writer Catullus (c. 84 BC – c. 54 BC). Some of these poems were never translated until late into the 20th century so extreme is their obscenity, most notably 'pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo’, sometimes rendered as "I will sodomize and face-fuck you”. Giorno, the perpetual bad boy of downtown NY had all the wit and sizzle of some perverse Roman Senator, and the craggy Italian good looks as well, and nurtured a natural fondness for such predecessors as Catullus and Martial (c.38 AD– c.103 AD) who claimed, ‘Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina/ Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.’ Which might as well be translated as ‘I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond/ I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.’ I have always wanted to find a small version of the bust of Catullus at Lago di Garda to place at home next to this contemporary homage.
Head of a woman, terracotta, c.50BC-200AD
This was the very first thing I bought, aged 12, from an antiquities shop just round the corner from my school in Westminster and I have periodically picked it up and looked closely at it over some fifty years, still relishing that tininess and oldness yet timelessness. It makes an interesting comparison to the Cycladic head (though by contrast it is genuinely old of course) and also plays well with the recent lavatory-roll portrait head by Lindsay-Hogg.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg (9)
Head of a character, ink on cardboard lavatory roll, 2021
Lindsay-Hogg, best known as a filmmaker, has recently been in the news thanks to the footage he shot of the Beatles which was turned into an 8-hour series by Peter Jackson, in which the youthful director himself appeared to notable effect. At 21 he was helming the world’s first rock’n’roll TV programme, Ready Steady Go and went on to an illustrious career, creating Brideshead Revisited, directing award-winning Broadway plays and even having a memorable character named after him in Spinal Tap. But love has always been his first art (or vice versa) and his signature lavatory-roll figures are to be seen holding court up on every modish mantelpiece, or is it chimneypiece?
An Crowned Head, ink drawing on cigar box, 2013
A great puffer of Cohibas, this taste for the best Cuban cigars is probably inherited as Lindsay-Hogg’s putative papa was none less than Orson Welles, a fellow director who always loved to draw. Rather naughtily I myself added this yellow felt crown to the drawing he gave me, as I just could not bear the bare bald pate, as I cannot stand my own.
But it is only lightly attached - like a toup - and can easily be removed. I first met the great ‘Hogg’ in Paris through our mutual dear departed friend the artist Duncan Hannah.
Duncan Hannah (3)
Dunnit Again, oil on canvas, 2015
Hannah, who died unexpectedly in June aged 69, was a very dear friend, of myself and indeed Galerie Pixi, where he was to be the next show after this one. How happy I am at least to have this sort-of portrait of myself as a vintage Penguin book cover, in the ‘Biography blue’ colours of course, one of the relatively few such Penguin paintings in which Hannah himself invented the title.
Portrait of Eric Mitchell, ink on paper, 1976
Hannah was a central figure in the downtown NY punk scene, a participant in the seminal Times Square Show of 1980 (where he is listed alphabetically between David Hammons and Haring), as an illustrator for Interview magazine he introduced the fledgling Talking Heads to his friend ‘Andy’, put together Nico and Eno and hung with the TV Party crew of his old pal Glenn O’Brien. A singularly beautiful boy, Hannah also appeared in several films, not least a ‘No Wave’ double-bill by Amos Poe, Unmade Beds and The Foreigner in which he co-starred with Debbie Harry and the redoubtable Eric Mitchell. At that time Hannah was living with Mitchell, his very best friend for at least that year, both of them ferocious bohemians who began every morning with ice cold Colt 45 to ease them into a long day of mayhem, drinking and debauchery. This was drawn from life, and what a life, at their notorious home HQ.
Portrait of D.W. McDermott, ink on paper, 1977
David Walter McDermott was, of course, with long-time partner Peter McGough, one of the key figures in the East Village and downtown New York art scene of the 80s; a pair of fabulous Edwardian dandies who charmingly coated their militant homosexuality in the most delicious of retrograde stylistic niceties. They were the best, and rightly celebrated as such, ‘McDemott & McGough’ proving an invincible subversive brand that expanded from no-budget storefront galleries to very grandest dealers and institutions. McDermott was always the more extreme (his current life in Dublin exile the source of much consternation) and of course, like everyone at the time, was madly in love with Hannah, even throwing a full 19th century salon party in honour of his first solo exhibition. This drawing, significantly, is from several years before he met McGough.
Portrait of Rene Ricard, ink on paper, 1977
Hannah knew and collaborated with many poets throughout his life, starting with John Berryman who he met on the bridge from which he would later leap, and was particularly close to the New York School, especially Joe Brainard. And for a while he was notably friendly with the fabled poète maudit Rene Napoleon Ricard, a relationship which turned sour when Hannah refused to bend from his adamant heteronormative quest and they ended up in a full-scale brawl. Ricard, whose obituary is in my book, was one of the undeniably great figures of late 20th century New York, as outrageous and frightening as he was brilliant and generous. He always knew le gratin tout, from Warhol to Paris Hilton, and had taken drugs and had sex with the most dizzying array of unlikely people, everywhere, all the time.
A Thousand Lashes, acrylic on canvas, 2020
I first knew of Horan through Rene Ricard, she was possibly living with him at the Chelsea Hotel, certainly exhibiting with him in Hydra, and doing daily drawings with him during her Calder residency in Gramercy Park; and as an international adventuress and high bohemian this artist gives the late poet a run for his money. A Catholic convent girl, Yemeni and UAE Arabic on her father’s side, Horan bafflingly emerges everywhere, oft with rock stars, most recently at the Presidential Inauguration next to Biden himself, thanks to her notorious portrait of son Hunter; this work being one of 200 men she has painted from NATO war strategists to Scot’s Guards. Horan maintains studios in the deepest East End of London and Mayfair, as if blithely unawares of any socio-economic difference between them, and her paintings are not only joyous explosions of colour but also a serious critique of gender and power. Thus this perfectly pretty and decorative panel, seductively lush, refers to both eyelashes and the punitive oppression of women in some Islamic states.
I want to wind you up and let you go, like Music,
acrylic on canvas, 2018
Another frenemy of Ricard, Max Blagg was originally brutally English, a teenage poet who moved to New York in 1972 and never lived above 14th street; his legend encompasses everything from a starring role in Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency to being ripped off by Madonna, who used his Gap advert performance lyrics as the basis of one of her songs. Still shockingly handsome, he was the notorious playboy barman at Raoul’s as well as model for many a high fashion campaign, all whilst collaborating with the likes of Alex Katz, Richard Prince and Keith Sonnier. Blagg also co-founded the literary and art journal Bald Ego with his longtime collaborator the late Glenn O’Brien. And his art work, including vintage gritty photography and stencilled typewriter covers, demands a proper retrospective soon.
Peter BD (1 & 29)
Two Poems for AD, coloured pencil and ink on paper, 2022
A new find and friend, Peter BD sails through NYC using only such initials (his real name a closely guarded secret), a poet, artist and performer who recently created a multi-media soirée in celebration of his first slim volume, Milk & Henny. Like myself Peter has never owned a portable telephone so we both carry an eternal book with us - to await those with such phones who are always late - and like myself he is a fan of unannounced appearances, the shouting-up-of-names-at-windows and skipping of subway turnstiles. Known for his verse portraits of art world acquaintances I am very proud of this matching pair of rhyming praise-poems, most deliciously flattering. Most recently BD co-curated the inaugural show for that hot new Chinatown gallery Foreign & Domestic.
A London barber shop, ink on paper, c.1760
The curiously 18th century tone to some of my collection celebrates what is obviously the best century of all, after our own 21st. I found this mysterious sketch in a Dalston junk shop and particularly like its diagrammatic precision, those lines and numbers and alphabetic letters, as if a mathematical explication of some shaving technique.
Untitled, (The Line Above), pencil & Letraset, 1971
I have always felt an mysterious affinity between 18th century ancien régime culture and ‘conceptual’ art practice, some hidden aesthetic link between, say, Voltaire and David and Michael Asher and Kosuth, some sort of Classicism disguised as cerebral solemnity. Huebler, long a favourite of mine (that project to photograph every living person in the world) is here perfectly paired A to B with the barbershop diagram. Amusingly enough this work is featured in a small and unlikely book of French translations of Huebler texts.
Untitled, oil on canvas, 1951
Sima is the most consistently intriguing of artists, a central figure in Le Grand Jeu, that mystical narcotic breakaway shard of Surrealism, he went on to become the most rewardingly haunting of atmospheric colourists, some opium dream urbanist. This work came from the collection of his great friend and supporter the leading art historian Meyer Schapiro and pleasingly it has his name and NY home address on the back of the frame, somehow entirely misidentified by an dozing auction house.
Auto-portrait as Clairvoyant Master, crayon, c.1900
Desmoulin was a classically trained Beaux Arts pompier painter, best known for his illustrative engravings, who seems to have undergone some sort of mental ‘vastation’ and for a short period around 1900-1902 began channeling Spiritual Medium messages in automatic drawings. Hence the dense hand-scribbled devotional text on this hypnotic portrait, prostrating himself before the ‘maître’ who was leading his pencil. Desmoulin, who counted André Breton amongst his admirers, soon returned to his official Salon style and even has his own museum in Brantôme en Périgord.
Marie-Laure de Noailles (12)
Composition, oil on canvas,1963
Bataille de coques, oil on canvas, 1964
These fighting cocks belonged to the renowned curator William ‘Bill’ Lieberman who created the first department of contemporary art at the Metropolitan where his boss was none other than Philippe de Montebello, himself a direct relative of Marie-Laure, who probably gave him this. De Noailles is a wonderful artist who was never taken seriously, or even really considered at all, just because she was already so celebrated as the most important and influential patron of the Surrealists. Being a wealthy and influential collector, mécène and muse means that your own art work becomes invisible, or treated with condescending scorn as the dabblings of a rich dilettante. For nobody ever really looks for themselves, they just resort to circumstantial anecdotage instead. In fact De Noailles was an extraordinary visionary painter and deserves a proper retrospective exhibition, as historically overlooked as, say, Dorothea Tanning and altogether worthy of favourable comparison with her obvious mentor Max Ernst.
The New Picturesque, paper, cardboard & wood, 2007
Some gallerists have too good an eye to survive (successful dealers oft have no aesthetic antennae) and thus with Laura Bartlett, that very smart operator from the Welsh Marches (she even had her own poem by the late great Grey Gowrie) who introduced me to the early work of Gaillard. Again, a sort of Ancien Régime avant-gardism, brutalist cityscapes invading Poussin’s Arcadia, drifting battle smoke in empty formal gardens, and these curious collage envelopes obscuring minor châteaux. At an exhibition I organised in a rather grand Jermyn Street antique shop I was able to place this Gaillard next to a beautiful 1900 walnut side chair by his distant relative the designer Eugène Gaillard, the same chair as actually used in the Dining Room of ‘Samuel’ Bing’s famous gallery, L’Art Nouveau. Meanwhile Gaillard-jeune has happily continued his spectacular career and has a forthcoming double-whammy show HUMPTY/DUMPTY opening on the 19 October at Palais de Tokyo and Lafayette Anticipations.
Untitled 2015 (14,086 unfired), Chinese brick, 2015
I have known - glancingly - the remarkable Tiravanija since he shared a NY studio with my old friend the Scottish painter Graham Durward, hundreds of years ago in boho-chronology. I always regretted not having tried to buy one of his emblazoned banners at that time and thus was delighted to see at the Venice Biennale these distinctive and surely handsome handmade bricks. Exhibited previously in China, 14,086, the titular number of bricks—the number necessary to construct a small family home—were fired on-site in an industrial kiln and made available for purchase at RMB 30 each. Tiravanija said he was most interested in what would happen to the bricks ten years on, how they may become building blocks, doorstops or paperweights. A month after the show’s opening, over a thousand bricks had been sold. It is now 2022, almost ten years later, and this brick is on a shelf in a Rue de Seine gallery for sale at the same price, RMB 30 or 4.35 euros. The brick’s Chinese characters translate as ‘Ne travaillez jamais’, the infamous Situationist slogan and as a proto-Situ who has the honour of having been denounced as a “troublemaker” by both Guy Debord and Malcolm McLaren I felt obliged, of course, to steal rather than buy this object from the Arsenale.
Photograph of a woman, silver gelatine print, c 1950s.
The Malian studio-photographer Keïta is rightly renowned for his vibrant sense of composition and inherent humanism but unfortunately is also known for an estate long been embroiled in complex legal battles amongst rival collectors and dealers. That is why I particularly love this simple, humble image; because it was given to me by the fabled Michael Rips, a specialist intellectual-property lawyer who himself collects vernacular photography from India and Africa andhas written much on the case of Keïta, not least for the New York Times. Rips, from the oldest family in Nebraska (which also happens to be one of the oldest Jewish families in the Midwest) has long lived in the Chelsea Hotel, currently in the apartment once occupied by couturier Charles James and now filled with treasures, from Rubens sketches to Rosenquist masterpieces. A serial book writer and flea market addict, Rips has a set of paintings devoted to him by David Salle, Rips in the Mirror, and an equally devoted following of fans, from Democrat Senators to country music stars.
Untitled, oil, acrylic, charcoal on true gesso on panel, 2019
Mendes is a recent discovery for myself, a 34 year old painter and sculptor (an ‘artist’ tout court) from a highly observant Jewish theological background in Brooklyn, with many a grand Rabbi in the family lineage, now based in LA. Mendes is deeply involved with materiality, texture and technique, and their deep love of painting and art history is matched by a wide knowledge of literature, old and new. This provides a sort of conceptual groundwork for their oeuvre which hovers somewhere between theatre, poetry and avant-garde performance. The ambiguity, the haze and flux of this painting by Mendes might even be interpreted as a reflection of their own unwillingness to be fixed, defined, limited by any rigid nomenclature or identity.