At the Martin Kippenberger Opening, Art-World Denizens Cheered by Yves Saint Laurent Auction

At the opening party for the retrospective exhibit Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective at the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, Feb. 25, MoMA president Marie-Josee Kravis and her billionaire husband Henry were two of the first to take a stroll through the show.

Ms. Kravis, wearing a gold coat with a fur neckline, walked slowly through each room, looking on as her husband occasionally wondered off to see the paintings and sculptures up close.

“The importance of this artist is incontestable,” Ms. Kravis told the Daily Transom. “I saw many stages of the show as it came together; I think it came out very well. When you see an artist like Kippenberger, and you see the variety of the production and the quality of what he did, it’s just such a wonderful inspiration.”

At the center of the room, the museum’s new chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin–appointed in September following a six-month search to replace John Elderfield—was greeting guests as they arrived.

“You could have done this show 100 different ways,” Ms. Temkin said, looking around at the works. “This is probably only five or 10 percent of his work. You can decide to present what you think is the greatest or you can present variety, and Ann Goldstein, who’s the curator from the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. who originated the show, chose variety. An important part of Kippenberger’s work was bad art and if we just showed the beautiful amazing works, it would’ve been a distortion.”

In fact, Ms. Temkin thinks that today’s artists could learn something from Kippenberger, who died in 1997—something especially relevant to the current economic climate.

“I tend to believe that the high commercial emphasis of everything is a good thing to lose a little bit,” she said. “When Kippenberger first came on the scene, it was a heavy commercial art boom of the ’80s. His art was really reacting against that and trying so hard to prove that art can be unappealing. And it’s true that in a time when there is plenty of money, a lot of artists can be distracted by it.”

Ms. Temkin’s attention was drawn across the room.

“Oh, look, it’s Amy Cappellazzo!” she said, spotting the Christie’s senior vice president and international co-head of postwar and contemporary art.

Ms. Cappellazzo had just returned from the auction of Yves Saint Laurent’s art collection in Paris, which had brought in $262 million.

“There was like this chair that was kind of rounded and it had the horns and a sun and moon on each of the handles. It was estimated at $4 to $6 million,” Ms. Cappellazzo told Ms. Temkin. “You know what it made today? $28 million!

“We all had a feeling that it was going to be successful and we knew that it was a special kind of sale,” Ms. Capalazzo told the Daily Transom. “Yves Saint Laurent was a special person with special tastes.”

And who were the buyers?

“This was a pretty active global event,” she said. “It was people across the board.” (Nice dodge!)

We wondered if Ms. Kravis and Ms. Temkin found the Paris auction figures encouraging.

“It’s such a one-shot occasion, like the Jacqueline Onassis Sotheby’s sale,” replied Ms. Temkin. “It’s as much about the sociological situation as it is the aesthetic one. But it certainly gets people into a good mood.”

Ms. Kravis was less enthused. “Well, we’re not in the auction market,” she said.  

At the Martin Kippenberger Opening, Art-World Denizens Cheered by Yves Saint Laurent Auction