Weekly Bulletin August 28


Tim Gunn, art lover? Indeed.

Fashion’s head master is donating art, and lending his name and fame, to the Hirschhorn Museum next month. On Oct. 7, the D.C. institution opens a retrospective of the works of 1960s minimalist Anne Truitt, Gunn’s former art teacher and friend, and the “Project Runway” host says he’ll be honored to co-host the opening dinner and chair a panel on her work. He has gifted his own Truitt to the institution.

Turns out Gunn was an art student at the nearby Corcoran College of Art & Design (class of 1976, degree in sculpture) when Truitt had an exhibition there, and both the art and the artist blew him away. He says he had “The Rothko reaction” to her work. “I ascended this staircase and I saw her work for the first time. I felt immediately the way I felt when I first saw a Rothko. I felt like I was floating on air, I felt good, and I kept returning and returning, I haunted the place.” His own campaigning with the head of Corcoran’s program led her to be asked to lecture there, he says.

Two years later, Gunn bought a Truitt drawing at D.C.’s Pyramid Gallery, which he is now giving to the museum, along with its original receipt: $260. “Which in 1976, for me, as a kid, was a lot of money,” he says. (He’s not much of a collector, Gunn adds, “I wish I could” buy art, but his budget won’t allow it.)

Truitt, a leader of the influential “new wave” 40 years ago with her dense, richly colored wooden sculptures, has been enjoying something a renaissance since the Museum of Modern Art re-opened in 2004. Truitt had been all but buried in MoMA’s basement, but in the re-installation was shown in the permanent collection alongside Carl Andre and other ground-breaking minimalists. (The artist, who learned of her inclusion in the new MoMA galleries shortly before her death in 2004, said at the time she was “awfully pleased about that. There’s a tendency in the art world to discount women artists, the way a bear might discount a squirrel.”)

Gunn says Truitt hasn’t gotten the credit she deserved in art history. In 1968, market-making critic Clement Greenberg dubbed Truitt “The Changer,” and said she was “less well known than she should be as a radical innovator.” Gunn says her temperament may have limited her fame: “Anne wouldn’t play the game, and there’s definitely an art world game. She would say, and I think I’m quoting her exactly, ‘If the work doesn’t attract an audience until itself, I’m not going to do anything about it.’ “

Now, Gunn’s involvement is likely to bring some mainstream attention to the show and, he hopes, fundraising dollars. The show, which runs through Jan. 3, brings 49 of the artist’s wooden sculptures and many drawings to the Smithsonian institution. Meanwhile, Mr. Gunn’s panel discussion on Oct. 8 will include some of her former students, colleagues and fans like  Martin Puryear, Jem Cohen, John Gossage, and Kristen Hileman. Says Gunn: “I hope there are a whole new generation of individuals that are as captivated as I was.”

Full at Half

New York’s year-old Half Gallery, which is tiny, celebrity-owned, and often packed, isn’t like other galleries. And its program this September, a trio of short shows in rapid-fire succession, isn’t like other galleries’, either. While about 70 art shows are opening in New York in the days following Labor Day, at only one of them can you have your portrait done in balloons.

Half Gallery opens its fall season Sept. 8 with $100 works by Buster Balloon, then features artist Elliot Arkin’s “Mister ArtSee” exhibition two days later. The end of month will see a show of new work by ethereal fashion photographer Mark Bothwick. “We’re not interested in repping artists in the previous way,” all that worrying about museum and collector placement, says gallery director Matt Bangser. “Our model is different from that of a formal gallery.”

To say the least. The slice of a space on Forsyth Street has three well-connected owners, James Frey (the infamous writer), Andy Spade (husband of Kate, Brother of David, helmsman of the Jack Spade brand) and Bill Powers (husband of Cynthia Rowley, former “BlackBook” editor and board member of prominent art world charity RxArt, which takes the other half of the space). “They play the role of enthusiasts” and each one has “a different kind of interest,” says artist Arkin. “They’re a good mix.” The owners’ names and connections have brought some Page Six mentions and some stars to their openings —Chloe Sevigny bought some of Mark Gonzales’ work from a July show.

Arkin’s work, meanwhile, received attention last fall when Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg gave his limited-edition sculptures to top donors to the Obama campaign at a fundraiser.  His Half show opening Sept. 10 comprises the conceptual drawings, model and background work for a project called “Mr. Artsee”, which would retro-fit a Mr. Softee truck into a rolling winged non-profit gallery, performance and educational space. Then, on Sept. 19, the photography show opens. “Mark Bothwick came to us through Bill Powers. He has a strong window on the fashion world,” says Bangser.

Early With their Art

While the art season traditionally doesn’t start until after Labor Day, a couple of important galleries are throwing open the doors on shows the week earlier. On Sept. 1, Cooper shows paintings by David Novros. He’s not a household name now but  Novros and Cooper go way back (In a circa-1969 a letter in the Archives of American Art, he thanks her for representing him), and the show is perhaps partly a salute to her past by the ground-breaking dealer who is rumored to be considering retiring after nearly 50 years in the art world.

Rounding out this week’s big openings in New York, Team Gallery has the city’s solo debut of Davis Rhodes, and Taxter & Spengemann is building extra wooden supports for an opening of the work of mixed media artist Adam Putnam. Jeffrey Deitch opens keenly awaited shows by Tauba Auerbach and Kehinde Wiley at his Wooster and Grand Street spaces, respectively.