Vasif Kortun, Biennial Man

dalrymple.jpg
Clarissa Dalrymple

“Next year, in 2007, I think it’s like the year of the suicide—the art world commits suicide,” said Vasif Kortun. “It starts with Moscow, and then there’s the Emirates, and then there’s Venice, then in Istanbul; there’s Documenta, there is Muenster Sculpture Projects—there’s like fifty biennials next year.”

Mr. Kortun, whose polite patience punctuates his lengthy disquisitions on the state of the contemporary art world, holds some responsibility for this biennial blitz. After all, it was he who founded the one in his native Istanbul. He lives there now.

But for a stretch in the mid-nineties he lived in bucolic Annandale-on-Hudson, as director of the Museum of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. And so he was back here in New York, so the Center could bestow an award on him—and on the Dia Art Foundation’s Lynne Cooke—at the Central Park Boathouse.

“I used to have a house up in the northwest corner of Connecticut and I always went to the exhibits” at Bard, said Diane Ackerman. She wore leopard-print heels and a striking arrangement of metallic disks around her neck. “It added so much to the whole area. Fantastic.”

“I think Mary Kelly and I are going back to school; we’re going to go to Bard. Right?” Ms. Ackerman said to dealer Sean Kelly’s wife.

“Absolutely!” Ms. Kelly said. “Curatorial studies. Exactly.”

Mr. Kelly, who represents Laurie Anderson and the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, spoke about the recent spasms in the Asian contemporary art market: “I think it’s like most things—it gets very excited very, very quickly, and then it kind of peaks and then it settles down and then you’ll see if there’s a real market there. And I’m sure there is. But it takes time. At the moment, we’re in the kind of first flush of enthusiasm. It’s a bit like being on a first date.”

Isaac Julien flew in from England. He felt right at home among the many Brits in attendance – the Kellys, former Public Art Funder and current Bard Center executive director Tom Eccles, and the ever-sophisticated curator Clarissa Dalrymple.

“Lovely warm hands, lovely, my Gawd,” Ms. Dalrymple said. She was standing a few steps from the front door, which kept yawning to admit more guests and more biting wind. “In the wrong place again…Hellooo, Jim,” she said.

“David, do you know T.J.? T. J. Wilcox?” said one curator to another. Mr. Wilcox leaned against the bar in jeans and a houndstooth jacket. He blinked and extended his hand.

Tatjana von Prittwitz, surveying the room from the refreshments table, said she was thankful for the vegetarian fare on offer. “I didn’t out myself as a Buddhist,” she said. “But I am an engaged Buddhist; my Buddhist name is Myoko.” She moved aside her wrap so that her yin-yang could be seen. “I used to be totally in the art world because I was in that program myself. I did the curatorial program and I did an exhibition myself. And then I totally engaged into the Buddhist world and I was totally out of this art world. And now I feel like … having the freedom to move in and move out, no attachments, no expectations—for that matter, no disappointments, just being free and really being there. In each world.”

Later, at the coatcheck, a young woman half-moaned to her friend, “I don’t even know why I’m here.” Her accent said Buenos Aires, or maybe Montevideo. By her own admission, she was painfully overdressed for the occasion. “I can’t wait to get these heels out,” she said. The missed preposition was beyond understandable; it was fitting.
—Nicholas Boston

Vasif Kortun, Biennial Man