The Transom

Back in Black Helmut Lang, everyone’s favorite Viennese clothing designer, has kept a fairly low profile in the year past, presumably regrouping in the shadow of his falling-out with Prada.

But Mr. Lang’s minimalist face showed up at Lehmann Maupin Gallery on Friday the 13th to toast his friend Juergen Teller, the fashion-slash-art photographer.

Mr. Lang was even clad in a pair of jeans of his own design—the very sort that young trendoids all over town, both male and female, have been hoarding since the designer shuttered his Soho-based business last year.

“It’s so sad,” moaned fellow gallery-goer Aretha Busby, fashion director of Good Housekeeping magazine, clearly still smarting from the closure.

Ah, but there is hope!

Mr. Lang, it seems, is gearing up for round two. “We are not ready to announce it yet,” he said, “but we do something, maybe this year—me and my office.”

And how are you enjoying Mr. Teller’s show? The Transom asked him, perhaps prematurely. “I don’t even know why, yet, it’s called Nürnberg, so to speak,” Mr. Lang answered.

But then, who did?

Some of Mr. Teller’s photographs were shots from Marc Jacobs ad campaigns, Mr. Teller’s main commercial gig for the past couple of years.

There it was, the notorious shot of model Kristen McMenamy raising her gown to expose her cooch. Price tag: “Three thousand pounds,” Mr. Teller said.

“I make my money from taking this photograph,” he added, his neck swathed in a polka-dotted scarf. “I am completely freer, in a way, than an artist.”


Painter John Currin wiped his brow and glared contemptuously at the ceiling sconces that beamed down quantum rays. His sculptor wife, Rachel Feinstein—who’d also been photographed by Mr. Teller for Marc Jacobs—stood beside her husband. She wore a heavy coat, but no stockings, and seemed quite comfortable.

“I’ve been sweating all day,” Mr. Currin said. Temperatures were indeed high in New York City last week. But those weren’t the only elevated numbers making Mr. Currin sweat.

“We’re looking at a studio for Rachel,” he said. “Half of the day was the usual real estate …. ” His voice trailed off into a dry chuckle and he wiped again.


“Yah. Renting studios is insanely expensive.” Chuckle, chuckle.

And whereabouts are they looking?

“Right around where my studio is, in Tribeca. Hopefully, it will work out. It’s actually cheap to rent, but incredibly expensive to build out, so we’re trying to figure out how much it costs to move pipes and stuff like that.”

Mr. Currin and Ms. Feinstein are not alone in their travails. Just around the corner, the host of spanking new front doors to the much-discussed new locations of seven young art galleries—who have relocated to a stretch of 27th Street west of 11th Avenue—are experiencing the real-estate equivalent of opening-night jitters. Over the weekend, these front doors were sticking like crazy.

“You just have to push hard,” said one gallery assistant to a woman who was becoming unhinged at the front door’s refusal to let her out.

The scene was an apt metaphor for larger circumstances, primarily the question of how much creative give these galleries can afford faced with the pressure to sell to pay the bills.

“Prices attract a broader attention,” said Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, itself facing a big move in 2007. “[They] establish some kind of legitimacy for the dealer. I’ve watched that happen over years and years and years.”

“It’s not McDonald’s; they don’t do that kind of volume. It’s a luxury business,” said art critic Linda Yablonsky, jotting down notes before an altar erected in Clementine Gallery by Ota Benga Jones & Associates, a 2006 Whitney Biennial inclusion.

One visitor to the new spaces—who said she was prospecting for purchases but withheld her name—made the common oversaturation argument. “I don’t know how many more galleries Chelsea can take,” she said, flashing her super-white teeth. “Is there that much good art?”

Behind her, on the floor, lay Kirsten Stoltmann’s beguiling sculpture: a knocked-over wine bottle whose spilled contents were made to look like red wine spelling out the words “You Don’t Know Me” in wretched, alcoholic blobs.

—Nicholas Boston

Lurking Down Under

Is it odd that audiences are flocking to see Hostel? Nationwide, the brutally violent slice-’em-up pic is pulling in more cash these days than Narnia. A recent late-night engagement in Union Square revealed that a significantly large number of attendees appeared to be on dates. Who knew that seeing virile young frat boys get penetrated with a cordless drill was such a good night out away from the kids?

(That’s not to give Eli Roth’s second big film short shrift; the nasty tale of young Americans gone abroad in search of loose European women actually just barely conceals totally subversive conceits about national and sexual identity—and even a minor gay subplot. Hey, all films are required to include the gays now!)

But soon it’ll have competition for gore. Though it’s not really a horror film, The Proposition, an Australian film written by the songwriter Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat, is certainly twice as dark as Hostel, if three times more poetic. (And, naturally, the music is flawless.) Set in 19th-century Australia, the film tracks a small-town lawman’s misguided and brutal attempt to civilize the outback and three lawless brothers.

Also, it contains the scare that has become Emily Watson’s face—though to her credit, she’s put that visage to work in service of a totally harrowing performance as a nice English girl in a dusty hell.

In fact, at a recent showing in the utterly claustrophobic and creepy basement screening room of the Bryant Park Hotel (the film won’t be released until May), one audience member couldn’t restrain himself during the film’s various depictions of spearings, shootings, a head being blown off, attempted rape and an endless blood-spurting flogging. “OH, GOD!!” he’d yell, prompting shushings from his embarrassed female companion. But there he’d go again, to the laughter of various film folks: “JESUS CHRIST!”

So let’s say reaction to the film will be vociferous.

Oddly enough, one of the film’s producers is Chris Brown, a long-time indie-film man who is also none other than legendary New York editor Tina Brown’s brother. Apparently, just as with the Hiltons, there’s always one more lurking on a nearby continent.

—Choire Sicha

The Dog Whisperer

Behind a short velvet rope and a fierce-looking bouncer, a line of people and their dogs waited anxiously to get into Petco on Friday evening. The Union Square pet store isn’t usually so exclusive, but it’s not every day that the animal kingdom’s reigning magician pays a visit, either.

“The dog whisperer is in there,” said Gary Bussells reverently. The large, red-faced man held a staff in one hand and the black rope leash to his dog, Prince, in the other. “He can take the meanest dog and make it act nice. He heals dogs and he trains people.”

The bouncer, dressed in a black suit, approached the line, and Prince, a powerful cur, jumped to his feet and growled. “He’s just excited to see the whisperer,” said Mr. Bussells, now whispering himself. “I hope he’ll tell us what to do.”

Like Mr. Bussells, nearly 500 people had lined up to see the dog whisperer, also known as Cesar Millan, on Friday morning and afternoon. Many of them were well versed in whisperer lore. They knew how he had been born during a hurricane that ripped the roof off his family’s house, how his grandfather helped him hone his telepathic talent with dogs, how he’d studied Rin Tin Tin and Lassie on television and always dreamed of spreading his gift to the United States, where he now runs the Los Angeles Dog Psychology Center and lives with his wife, Illusion.

But most of all, they knew him as the television star on his own prime-time show, Dog Whisperer, in which he reforms the unruliest and most vicious mutts with a staccato hiss, a jabbing pointer finger and an intense glare. After “rehabilitating” the dogs of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Scarlett Johansson, Oprah Winfrey, Ridley Scott and, yes, even Daisy Fuentes, Mr. Millan has become something of a celebrity himself.

“It’s a big event,” said Matt Everding, Petco’s appreciative manager, who said that a third of the people who came by to get a picture and an autograph didn’t even have dogs with them. “He’s a genuine nice guy—even when everyone is gone, you know?”

Just after 7 p.m., Mr. Millan—a short, fit man with wavy salt-and-pepper hair, a trim goatee, a maroon T-shirt and an unrelenting gaze—greeted his last visitor, a Jack Russell terrier dressed in a green sweater. The dog’s paws had been clicking nervously on the linoleum floor, and it seemed overwhelmed by the commotion, fluorescent white lights, squeaking rubber toys and musky scent of wet fur that hung heavy in the air. But as soon as Mr. Millan scooped the dog into its arms and stared into its eyes, the animal seemed at ease. Mr. Millan smiled for the camera.

“Intuition,” explained Mr. Millan, setting the now-serene animal down on the ground. He attributed his powers to being brought up “in another country, a country where people know dogs— Mehico.” The biography in his bulging press packet, which carries a photo of him carrying a staff, shepherd-like, as he leads 18 big dogs through the wilderness, notes his “uncanny gift for communicating with dogs and seeing the world through their eyes.”

According to Mr. Millan, that world is a godless one.

“Dogs don’t follow a spiritual leader; they don’t believe. But they follow the dominant one,” he said, adding, in one of his many trademark mantras: “Master the walk. Don’t just walk the dog—master the walk.”

He explained that, in the animal kingdom, one should never walk behind a dog, because it sends a message of weakness. “Bad energy,” he explained, noting that in New York, only homeless people understand that. “You never see a homeless man walking behind a dog.”

The problem in New York, he said, is that people baby their dogs too much. “Affection, affection, affection does not create connection. But what it does create is instability,” he said in his heavy Mexican accent. “In the wild, dogs have only two states of mind: the calm, submissive follower and the calm, assertive leader. Animals don’t have any issues until they come to live with humans. Your energy level is who you are in the animal kingdom.”

Well, what sort of level does it take to be a dog whisperer?

“I’ve got something special,” he said. “That’s why I have the show.”

—Jason Horowitz The Transom