Armory Week Send-Off

Armory Week’s closing weekend was marked by two very different art parties. One was a bawdy art opening in a nightclub, the other an exclusive brunch in a private house. Ryan McGuinness‘ Friday night opening of Women:The Blacklight Paintings was held in the Le Bain nightclub (the Boom-Boom Room’s raunchier counterpart) at the Standard Hotel. The most conspicuous guests were a group of naked women painted in the same neon shades as Mr. McGuinness’ paintings. Instead of the typical socialites, the crowd was full of young art advisers, dealers and artists, all starring goggle-eyed at the naked women, who would circulate in the crowd coolly stirring drinks when they weren’t performing. A youthful 39, the artist was nattily dressed in a jacket and tie with a neon mask pushed back on his head to keep his leonine hair in place. The Observer asked him what had inspired his exhibition. “These works were inspired by nudie cards. It’s a tradition that goes back to, like, the 1650s in India. I made my own version of them recently-although they might be disappointing if you want to look at actual naked women, as they are just simplified iconic forms.” And the reason for the naked guests? “I thought that strippers were a fun way to showcase my recent paintings and those cards.” Groups of young women pushed us aside trying to get Mr. McGuinness’ attention, so we moved on and chatted to an Italian friend of the artist, Alessandro Zenti. Mr. Zenti was a successful ex-banker pursuing his dream career as a pornographer. He’d decided that what Italy really lacked was free porn, and has created New Gentleman’s Club magazine, now distributed throughout Italy. As Mr. Zenti was a friend of one of the strippers (she’d recently been featured in the magazine), he suggested that we take a seat and watch her routine. After a few minutes of watching her blue-and-yellow-painted form execute impressively flexible maneuvers on the pole, we drifted off in search of André Balazs, Mr. McGuinness’ patron and the proprietor of the Standard. Mr. Balazs admitted that he didn’t personally own any of Mr. McGuinness’ art but thought it “looked great in this space.” As Mr. Balazs is known as a keen collector, we asked if he’d been to any other Armory events this week. “No, but I don’t think there is any connection between parties and collecting.”

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One of the most coveted invitations of Armory Week is the exclusive Hort brunch on Sunday. Susan and Michael Hort are two of the city’s top art lovers and founders of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, which provides grants to promising artists. Patrons of contemporary art for 26 years, they have amassed an extensive range of contemporary artists and have collected more than 3,000 works in total. “When we fall in love with an artist’s work, we like to collect their work in depth. Michael and I do not feel we ‘collect’ an artist until we have five major works,” said Susan Hort. The Observer asked them which of their new pieces was their favorite. “That’s like asking me which of my children I love the most. You know what I used to say to that-whichever one is giving me the least trouble.” French, Polish, Italian, Russian and Dutch voices filled the rooms as the crème de la crème of the art world nattered to each other about the extraordinary video installations, iconic paintings and fascinating sculpture. Conversations about the brilliance of Jacco Oliver and the importance of Elizabeth Peyton swirled about like leaves. This was seriously Important Art. “The brunch started 10 years ago after we spoke to the head of the Armory, who said that in Europe people open their houses during the art fairs, and no one does that here. So we said we could accommodate 150 and it has grown from there,” said Ms. Hort, nibbling on a bagel. Eric C. Shiner of the Andy Warhol Museum and his friend, artist Jeremy Coste, looked around in amazement. “I love that they really live with the art. They buy early and they keep it.” Upstairs, Jamie Cohen Hort, the Horts’ daughter-in-law and first-time curator of the installation, was pointing out a giant work of beer cans and silver paint shavings by David Newman. “I’m sure I hung too much in this room,” she said nervously (no one shared her concern). As the day wore on, the collectors, gallery owners, curators and artists lingered. One of the last guests to drift out was overheard to say, “Everyone who is in New York right now goes to this party.” –Daisy Prince Armory Week Send-Off