A.O. Scott Gets Freudian at Crewdson’s Gagosian Opening

Last night at the Gagosian Gallery’s opening reception for Gregory Crewdson’s latest photography series Sanctuary, a humbly dressed A.O. Scott seemed slightly out of place as the Upper East Side types packed the room.

Mr. Scott will host a Times Talks panel with Mr. Crewdson in October and, at the artist’s invitation, penned an essay to preface the eponymous book featuring the series.

“In my ordinary line of work I tend to keep a distance from the artists that I write about and not really talk to them and engage them, just because it’s not really how it’s done,” he told The Observer, eyeing the room.  “It was really a treat for me to just kind of to be writing as a critic in a slightly different, more sympathetic way.”

Mr. Crewdson was the man of the hour, with Gagosian photographers circling him to document his interactions, occasionally chatting with the throng (“Your hair is beautiful.” “Oh, do you want me to turn around so you can take a picture of it?”)

The photos on the wall were shot at the empty, decaying sets of Rome’s Cinecittà movie studios — a departure from Mr. Crewdson’s usually populated pictures, which are staged to look like stills from movies that never existed. “I just wanted to do something that felt very restrained and empty,” he told The Observer. “Something that felt particular to the moment we’re in, and I feel like these pictures reflect a certain kind of fragility and sadness, and beauty.”

“I think this might be my favorite work of his,” said Noah Baumbach, who made quite the entrance, accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Wes Anderson. “In some ways the artificiality almost makes them more real which is I guess what movies are like, right?”

The blurring of the lines can be, to use Mr. Scott’s word, uncanny. “This is why, if you read the essay, it’s got Freud all over it,” he said. “I jumped into psychoanalysis, which is not my usual idiom, to kind of figure out what these pictures were doing.”

As personalities poured in and out, the groups mingled. Mr. Scott could be seen chatting enthusiastically with Mr. Baumbach at one point (“We were talking about kids,” the director later told The Observer). Among the attendees was the writer James Frey, and The Observer asked him what he’s been up to.

“Working away, man,” he said, chewing a green piece of gum. “Got a book coming out in April. It’s about the messiah.”

Is it a novel?  

“Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t really matter,” he chewed. “I don’t care what people call it, it’s just a book. Doesn’t matter.”

Sanctuary runs at the Gagosian Gallery through October 30.

dduray@observer.com A.O. Scott Gets Freudian at Crewdson’s Gagosian Opening