Since the middle of August, the Upper East Side outpost of Marianne Boesky Gallery has been home to Nicola Trezzi, the U.S. editor at Flash Art, Alice Tomaselli, a young artist, and Elena Tavecchia, a curator who also manages Rudolf Stingel’s studio. Outside of their day jobs, the three identify themselves as “employees” of Lucie Fontaine, a pseudonymous character created for the purpose of organizing curatorial projects and, if the Lucie Fontaine website is to be believed, cultivating “a concept of self-generated labor similar to the Master-Slave dialectic presented by Hegel in his masterpiece, The Phenomenology of Spirit.” They are all Italian, have apartments and lives of their own, and have been living inside of the townhouse gallery in makeshift bedrooms.
When I arrived at the house last week, I was greeted with far more enthusiasm than is often the case when entering an art gallery. Ms. Tavecchia was off at work, but Mr. Trezzi—he usually works from home anyway—and Ms. Tomaselli were in the kitchen, listening to “Clique” by Kanye West and baking a cake in the shape of the Guggenheim (they were expecting visitors from the museum later that evening). They offered me water, a beer and a cookie, which is something I could get used to.
Inside the townhouse, what looked like clutter at first was actually artwork. The piece of luggage by the staircase had been used to transport pieces from Italy. In the first-floor hallway, there were photographs hung salon-style that looked like family portraits—one of them was a photograph of the artist Patrizio Di Massimo’s father. Daniel Turner had made a greasy shadow by rubbing his hands on the wall, a ghostly piece that led up the staircase. Everything else in the house, right down to the furniture and the dishes, had been brought in by the employees of Lucie Fontaine and was part of the exhibition. It was all for sale.
“We didn’t argue over setting up the exhibition,” Mr. Trezzi said, “but we argue constantly about things like, ‘Who ate my eggs?’ or ‘Someone’s not cooking enough.’” He said he likes the apartment. (His regular place, in Brooklyn, is waiting for him when they clear out of the gallery on Oct. 15; “I never sublet,” he said.) In the townhouse, he has one of the larger beds—though it was messily made when I was there—and they’ll sometimes switch off the David Robbins video playing on a flatscreen TV and watch movies at night. Still, he describes the experience as “bizarre.”
“It’s hard, because we don’t have any time to ourselves,” he said. “We’re always doing this performance task. People come early in the morning. They come on Sunday.” He said that one time he was doing laundry and he laid out some of Ms. Tavecchia’s undergarments on her bed while she was at work. When she came home later, visitors to the house were inspecting her underwear as if it were an installation.
Mr. Trezzi went to go talk with Ms. Boesky, who had stopped by after a doctor’s appointment. I broke off and stumbled into Ms. Tomaselli’s room upstairs and found the artist Jen DeNike sitting cross-legged on the bed, which she had covered in a white afghan that her mother had knitted. She was wearing a white dress, and her blonde hair fell over her shoulders.
“Would you like to do an aura cleanse?” she asked me with a big smile.
“Sure,” I said. “What’s an aura cleanse?”
“Basically you’re going to move your hands like this—” she made a windmill motion, “for seven minutes.” She talked about how this was a Kundalini technique and that it altered your consciousness. She told me to sit down and take 10 deep breaths.
“You can take off your shoes,” she said. “Whatever will make you more comfortable.”