An arousing display at the Met

A-listers flock to the museum’s “Superhero” bash

Show designer’s dark past

The Metropolitan launched its much anticipated show, “Superhero: Fantasy and Fashion” (until

1 September), the morning of their same-themed Costume Institute gala benefit and the place was packed with the beau monde. Vogue editor Anna Wintour (below) actually removed her sunglasses out of respect for Philippe de Montebello while touchingly describing finding him at 7:30 in the morning standing in the Temple of Dendur, in a matching raincoat, making his favourite dawn walk round the museum. Giorgio Armani impeccably enough refused to utter even one word in English. Co-chairs George Clooney

and Julia Roberts were sadly not present but

Los Angeles sculptor Robert Graham was found closely studying Egyptian art. The show itself was suitably sexy as evinced by curator Andrew Bolton’s curious description of The Hulk: “With his thick neck, bulging tendons and throbbing veins, he suggests the turgidity of male arousal.” If the show’s “shazam” is due to its designer, who was also responsible for organising the gala, it must be in the mutant blood-stream, for Nathan Crowley is not only production designer of “Batman Begins” and “Dark Knight”, but as revealed to Flotsam, he has his own super-villain heritage: “Yes, [infamous UK occultist] Aleister Crowley is a direct relative, he’s my grandfather’s cousin, but we were never allowed to even mention his name because we were a very Quaker family.”

Met’s new artist-dealer poster girl

There is a rich tradition of artist/gallery owners, whether it be Betty Parsons, Michael Jenkins at Sikkema Jenkins or indeed Matthew Marks whose student paintings still linger in his parents’ attic. But few dealers find their early artistic work achieving quite such revived prominence as Janice Guy of Chelsea’s Murray Guy Gallery. A serious “conceptual photographer” at Bernd Becher’s fabled Düsseldorf school, Guy worked closely with fellow student Thomas Struth whilst taking candid snaps of herself in the altogether comely buff. These lingered forgotten for 25 years until Matthew Higgs (yet another artist/gallerist) put them on the wall at White Columns Gallery and discovered a booming market for this overlooked oeuvre. Now Guy is the star of the show “Photography on Photography” at the Metro­politan (until 19 October), with her image making an eye-popping poster (below, left). As the ever-modest artist admits: “I had no idea I was going to be used as the poster all over the place, I’ve been up to the museum to take a photograph of my poster right there next to the Courbet poster.”

It’s a steal

Surely tempting fate, the Neue Galerie daringly accompany their Wiener Werkstätte jewellery show (until 1 September) with a series of “Jewellery on Screen” films that even celebrate such objects as targets for thievery. In light of the rising number of museum thefts, it seemed all too tantalisingly topical to be able to watch “To Catch a Thief” or “Topkapi” in so august an institutional setting. Indeed, considering the Neue displays the world’s most expensive painting, the Klimt “golden” portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (for which Ronald Lauder, the force behind the institution, reportedly paid $135m), they might well be inviting the most famous art theft of all time.

Sculptor breaks the bank

Michael Portnoy is one of Manhattan’s secret cultural treasures, last of a boho-breed. As ultimate “bad boy” provocateur, he first achieved infamy during a Bob Dylan performance at the Grammy Awards, stripping off behind the startled singer to reveal the cryptic message “Soy Bomb” scrawled on his chest. And now Portnoy has bravely revealed himself for the first time as a visual artist, taking over the basement of the Sculpture Center (until 28 July) with his sinister installation Casino Ilinx (above). Surrounded by bodyguards and that flamboyant fashion-team ThreeAsFour (currently starring in their own Gap advert), guests wildly gambled at the opening night, most notably senior sculptor Joel Shapiro who was asked to leave the game due to his secret system that was breaking an already shaky bank, or as Portnoy himself put it: “He was asked to leave because he excised the nines on a dawb like a buck fitch and couldn’t lip the packthread.”

Hollywood’s secret avant-gardist

Artists Space cleverly devoted their benefit dinner to honouring two conceptual art pioneers, Lawrence Weiner and Kathryn Bigelow. If the latter name is less familiar amongst conceptual cognoscenti, it’s because of her atypical career. Having studied in the 1970s with the likes of Richard Serra and the late critic Susan Sontag at the prestigious Whitney Studio Programme, Bigelow was very much a part of the downtown New York Maoist avant-garde. Becoming interested in “narrative”, Bigelow made a post-modern biker movie, “The Loveless”, and then went über Hollywood, becoming Los Angeles’s only female big-budget action-adventure director, with credits including “Blue Steel” and most notably the cult-classic, “Point Break” (above). She and Weiner’s first film was commissioned by Artists Space in 1976. The opening line of their movie was “What is the structural definition of Logical Positivism?” That Artists Space grant itself was a generous $125, for which you would presumably not get very much Patrick Swayze and even less Keanu Reeves. n

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