The art of living with art

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Not that we’re crazed or anything but I almost forgot to tell you about our celebrity siting on May 13 in Lehman Maupin Gallery on 26th St.

There was a crowd spilling in while we were there so it was a little noisy and distracting. I heard some Italian and looked around and saw a tallish, salt-and-pepper haired man in a sports coat. He looked familiar but it took me a minute to place him. I turned to Libby and said “Is that Maurizio Cattelan?” She said she thought it was. We had seen the artist and his gallerist Marianne Boesky at the Carnegie International so we were slightly familiar.

Cattelan, whose dead Kennedy in a coffin sculpture was one of our favorites in Pittsburgh, wandered out of the gallery space and into what looked like one of Lehman Maupin’s back offices but what on further investigation turned out to be a long, narrow art space, maybe for projects. A sign board in the hall announced there was a project, “L’art de Vivre,” curated by Josh Baer and Suzanne Demisch. We walked right in.

The room was full of blockbuster art, crafts, and furniture laid out like an Ikea showroom. “Your house could look this,” seemed to be the message, improbable as that may seem. The million dollar decor included work by Robert Gober, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Beuys, Fischli and Weiss, Gilbert and George and a host others. The list of what was in the room went on for pages. What we stopped and really paid attention to in the cluttered space was the 1987 Fischli and Weiss piece “The Way Things Go (Lauf der Dinge)” a 30-minute video playing on a small flat screen monitor. Everybody, including Cattelan, was smiling away like kids at the antics of F&W’s Rube Goldberg environment where real matter — junk actually, like an old rubber tire and a ladder and planks of wood and plastic bags are made to interact by careening into each other and setting off a lazy but continuous chain reaction of events. If you don’t know the piece, you can get a sense of its mesmerizing and suspenseful charms by watching the trailer here. (top image is the showroom-style installation. The Fischli and Weiss video is on the small screen in the background. The next image is the “kitchen”-like space with a Gilbert and George video playing)

The gallery, by the way, is a rabbit warren of plywood-clad open offices which surround the gallery spaces. We tromped right through the office on the way out — it seemed weird to be walking through the back office but OK. The plywood walls are very hip, the ambiance is work, work, work in the art factory but I don’t know how you could get any work done with the parade of people passing by all day long. (last image is a shot of the Jenny Holzer wallpaper and a Joseph Beuys felt suit)

Anyway, even without the Cattelan siting, the back room was a total hit. The gallery’s website does not mention it but if you’re in there wander back and take a look.

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