Anthony Haden-Guest’s New York: Gallerist Eli Klein, Restoin Roitfeld's "Hue and Cry" at Sotheby's, Catherine Johnson's Warhol biography, and Steinway's artist-in-residence

“I think it’s interesting the way Warhol polarises people,” says Catherine Johnson. “Some people love to hate Andy”

Stars in their eyes

“Hello,” I said. “Is Eli there, please?”

“Yes. Who may I say is calling?”

The voice was collegey. This was a gallery girl, maybe even one of the gallery girls in Bravo’s reality TV series, “Gallery Girls”, because Eli Klein, who I was calling, is a participant in the show.

He came on the line. I asked about the effects of being on the show.

“It’s been fun,” he said.

Klein employs two of the leads, and one of the guilty pleasures of the show is that we hear monologues from the gallery girls, who sometimes diss each other, and Klein too.

Are more people coming to the gallery?

“We’ve certainly had a lot more people come in. A lot of our clients have come in to say hello and congratulate us.”

What about non-art world people?

“A lot of them come by. The best part about the show is that I have had only positive feedback from clients and colleagues. And these serious reviews of a Bravo reality show in Artforum or the Observer, I don’t think my clients take them too seriously.

“So there’s been no downside. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the season. I don’t anticipate it to be a big part of my life after the last episode airs.”

Which will be just when?

“There are four more episodes. And then we’ll have to see about season two.”

Turf wars

Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld met Miety Heiden of Sotheby’s during Armory Week at a show he had put on in a pop-up space on East 71st Street. The 28-year-old-son of a former editor of Paris Vogue, Restoin Roitfeld is wired in to a boldface, fashiony world. Miety Heiden is a Sotheby’s VP whose bailiwick includes S/2, the retail gallery that Sotheby’s opened a year ago on York Avenue.

Heiden suggested Restoin Roitfeld come up with an idea for an exhibition. He did so. “Hue and Cry”, which opens on 5 October, features abstract works by 20 artists, including Joan Mitchell and Cecily Brown and the newbies Angel Otero and Ali Banisadr. But the dealers do not love this latest incursion onto their turf. “It has been controversial,” Restoin Roitfeld said. “But for a young dealer like me, it is an amazing opportunity. [It] has allowed me to show very important work that I wouldn’t be able to do by myself. Sotheby’s are not trying to represent any artist. They have been showing the same artists to the same clients for the past ten years, and I think what they want to offer something different.”

Who loves Warhol?

Catherine Johnson had been to Union Square to observe the taking down of Rob Pruitt’s statue of Warhol, which has been in situ opposite the artist’s former Factory for several months, when I caught up with her. “It was so sad,” Johnson said. “People were staring at the hole. Somebody said, ‘What’s missing?’

“I said, Andy. And he said... ‘Oh, right!’”

Well, the artist is anything but missing, and that is the premise of Johnson’s book, Thank You Andy Warhol. Johnson launched her project in January 2011. “I literally could get nothing going,” she says. “So I thought, what would Andy do? Because Andy always had obstacles.” Well, get it done she has, pulling in 70-plus contributors, including Bob Colacello, Billy Name, Jeffrey Deitch and Liza Minnelli. The book is not hagiography: “He could be a cheap bastard, he could be weird,” Johnson says. I am also a contributor and my encounters with Warhol were only casual, but I liked him, and described him after his death as “sweet-natured”. You should have seen the eye-rolling when I said that. “I think it’s interesting the way he polarises people,” Johnson says. “Some people love to hate Andy.”

Tinkling the ivories

Anyone doubting the increasing heft of contemporary art should note that as of April, Steinway, the piano makers, have had an artist-in-residence at their domain in Queens. His name is Lynx and he came to their attention through a work he produced last year for the Van Cliburn competition for young pianists in Texas. “I was an art director,” he says. “Some people who saw it said, ‘Could you do an art piece for me?’ And it just grew and grew.” Laura Littlewood of Steinway says Lynx was introduced at a meeting of the piano company’s dealerships in the Americas a few weeks ago. “We do it every year. And this year we unveiled his entire collection,” she said. Her thinking is cogent. While the competition is digital and ultra hi-tech, this is the venerable piano-maker’s way of pointing out they come from someplace rather different.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Anthony Haden-Guest’s New York'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 239 October 2012