My 2022 Top Two List of Pieces Of Correspondence Involving Douglas Cramer

It’s the time of year when people are publishing lists. And here’s mine. Starting with number 2:

2. Letter to Peter Norton
When Peter Norton joined the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, he apparently asked Douglas Cramer, who chaired the Committee on Painting & Sculpture, if he could sit in on the Committee’s acquisition meetings, to see how they worked. Cramer wrote back to express his utter bafflement at such a request, the audacity of which neither The Modern, nor the art world at large, had ever known, and that such things were not done, so no. Norton had the letter framed and hung it in the front hall of his Central Park West apartment, where he hosted many collection visits.

1. Joan Collins Visits Gemini! Postcard from Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Collins Visits Gemini! 1985, collage on exhibition card, sold out from under me at Bonham’s in April 2022

On Tuesday, March 26, 1985, Joan Collins, star of the Douglas Cramer-produced Dynasty, was photographed meeting Princess Diana at a charity fashion show in London. The wire service photo of their meeting ran in the Los Angeles Times a few days later, on Friday the 29th. Did Kelly see it there? That weekend he had back-to-back shows in New York; a painting show closing at Blum Helman, and a wall reliefs show opening at Castelli.

Tues., 26 March 1985 AP Wirephoto of Princess Diana meeting Joan Collins in London, via ebay

Christopher Knight wrote an essay for Ellsworth Kelly at Gemini 1983-85, a catalogue/brochure of four series of editions now listed as being published in 1984. The cutout paper collage on the left of the card[-shaped piece of paper] above is similar in composition to Cupecoy Relief, from one of the 1984 series. Cupecoy is the name of a nude beach on St Martin, where Kelly & Jack Shear, and Cramer, would visit Jasper Johns. Was there an announcement card for the book or the works? Was there an exhibition? Was there an ad clipped from an art magazine and trimmed to postcard-size? Does the collage cover the text details of the series/book/show? Does the up-do’d head of Joan Collins cover a photo of the artist, as the caption says, at Gemini?

Ellsworth Kelly, Cupecoy Relief, 1984, painted aluminum, 58x50x3.75 in., produced by Gemini G.E.L. in an edition of 3 plus 2 AP, image:

The card is inscribed on the back, “Joan Collins Visits Gemini!” Maybe because now it looks like Joan Collins is looking at an Ellsworth Kelly at Gemini. It is also signed, “EK 85.59,” which makes me think that Kelly revisited the card after giving it to his collector/friend Cramer, and gave it a catalogue number. Or did Kelly keep a running registry in his head at all times, ready to sign and number whatever cleared the artistic bar? You see the layers of awesomeness involved here.

But the work was also signed, “Love, Joan Collins.” The ultimate Cramer flex? Or did Kelly get Collins to sign a card when she visited Gemini? The making and sending and signing of this card hangs on the answers to these chronological questions.

If you are the person who practically walked away with this Ellsworth Kelly Rosetta Stone for one thousand two hundred and seventy five dollars [?!], please share your insights-and let me know when you’re ready to sell.

Previously, related, what even is this arc:
2013: Ellsworth Kelly Postcards: Wish You Were Here!
2015: Untitled (Joan Collins Toile de Jouy), 2015
2017: Ellsworth Kelly Dancing Monkey
2022 Wish I Was There! Ellsworth Kelly Postcards

Sargent Painting

John Singer Sargent, “The Holy Trinity,” after el Greco, 1895, 31.5 x 18.5 in., oil on canvas, private collection currently on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I went for the watercolors, but I could look at John Singer Sargent’s paintings of other artworks all day long. The first gallery of the Sargent and Spain show at the National Gallery is almost entirely copies of paintings Sargent made in the Prado, mostly Velásquez and El Greco.

John Singer Sargent, “Las Meninas,” after Velásquez, 1879, 45 x40 in., oil on canvas, collection The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

I can’t believe we’ll have to some day go to George Lucas’s museum to see Sargent’s copy of Las Meninas. But at least that day is not yet.

John Singer Sargent, Virgin and Saints, 1895, watercolor over graphite with gouache, 12.5 x 9 in., private collection via nga

The show was crowded, and I mistakenly figured I could look up everything I needed to know afterward, but I guess they’re saving it all for the book. From the room full of Sargent’s studies of Spanish religious painting, sculpture, and architecture, I wrongly assumed that the watercolor above of an altarpiece was related to the Gardner Museum’s study of the Caananite goddess Astarte/Ishtar for the Boston Public Library, which was hanging next to it. But the altarpiece dates from 1895, after that section of the library murals were completed.

John Singer Sargent, Astarte, 1892-94, study for murals for the Boston Public Library, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A lot of these works were definitely not made to be shown. Sargent was making them for other reasons: For himself. Maybe like how Richter just wanted a Titian, Sargent just wanted a Velásquez. Or he was trying to figure something out. To capture a moment, a detail, a lighting effect, a space, an experience, a turkey.

John Singer Sargent, Turkey in a Courtyard, 1879-80, oil on canvas, 14×10.5 in., private collection

I will have to go back to see if there is any explanation at all for why Sargent went approximately 100x harder in the paint on this photobombing turkey in a Spanish courtyard than on the courtyard itself. This may be my new favorite Sargent ever.

[Completely unrelated, I’m sure: Turkey, c. 1913, a nearly life-size [?!] bronze the Corcoran Gallery acquired out of Sargent’s estate sale in 1925.]

Betty Parsons Rock 👀

Betty Parsons, Untitled, 1976?, painted rock, 3×6 in., image via Doyle New York

Sometimes it’s just impossible not to love a Betty Parsons sculpture. Just look at this little thing. The date on the back’s hard to read, but what if Parsons was 76 when she painted these eyes [?] on this rock. This is definitely one of those situations where I blog about it so I don’t buy it. But ngl, I do want it.

update: Parsons in a double exposure in her studio on the invitation for a 1975 exhibition at Studio Gallery in DC is not quite how I imagined her painting this little rock owl or whatever, but it’s probably closer to how it went down.

image via gallery98, also in the aaa betty parsons papers, but nfs, obv

Also a good time to remember that in his architect phase, Tony Smith designed Parsons’ studio and guest house on the North Fork.

Lot 332, Dec. 8, 2022: Betty Parsons, Untitled, est. $300-500 [doyle]
Previously, related: Rothko & Parsons at the National Gallery, curated by Bunny Mellon

Throwback: Jayson Musson Vine Sculpture, 2013

Jayson Musson Vine screencap, May 9, 2013

In 2013 artist Jayson Musson created a sculpture live on Vine & Twitter, and offered it for sale. Though I was in DC at the time, I saw it, bought it, and rallied some friends on the ground to pick it up before it got scooped or tossed. That saga was capped in a blog post. And now, on the moment of decoupling this site from the site of the sculpture’s creation, I have finally installed it. It’s a little dusty, but it holds up.

Jayson Musson, Punk is dead. Art was never alive. If I said I never stressed about money that’d be a lie., 2013, found materials. [also a Maki Tamura scroll drawing, pour one out for A/C Projects]

Tejo Remy X Balenciaga

Katja Meirovsky, Uniform Clothing, image via Stefan Rollof via Erin L. Thompson

via Prof. Erin Thompson comes the story of Katja Meirovsky, who in 1940 wore a red dress to her Berlin art school which she made by cutting the swastika off a stolen nazi flag. She became part of the Red Orchestra, the largest civilian resistance movement against Hitler. The group and its members are the subject of an exhibition at the German Resistance Memorial Center by artist Stefan Roloff, which Thompson reviewed at Hyperallergic.

Tejo Remy Re-Bench made from Balenciaga deadstock fabric at the London store, Nov. 2022, via

In other problematic textile repurposing news, Droog designer Tejo Remy, who has always made custom Rag Chairs from the client’s bags of old clothes, has collaborated with Demna. Remy made Re-Benches out of deadstock and offcut fabric for Balenciaga, which were installed this month in ten boutiques worldwide. After two weeks on display, they went up for sale online. Artnet says the drop on the 22nd was a surprise, and sold out immediately. But there was time to put out press releases to the hypesphere. Balenciagattention was then promptly devoured by the rightwing vortex of shit, when online q-trolls fed the latest ad campaign through the p3do conspiracy outrage machine in the stupidest way possible. The company responded by loudly suing itself and its creative team.

None of which is the point here. The point is that Demna, too, is recycling. Remy made a Rag Chair last September at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs as a performance. He used linen panels left over from the exhibition, « Luxes », the hometown version of « Dix mille ans de luxe », with the Musée programmed for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019, sponsored by the Confédération Européenne du Lin et du Chanvre, the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp.

August 2022: Gap before the stormfront, image: @owen_lang

The video recap very much does not look like a performance, but it does work as a how-to for making your own Rag furniture. Whether you use the leftover scenery from your pandemic-era exhibitions or your bags of damning fits by suddenly outré designers, you can tell your own story! Or maybe you have a lead on those giant bins of cancelled Yeezy x Gap joints you can turn into at least ten of the dankest Rag Chairs ever.

Tasty Chandigarh Bookcase

Lot 270, Toomey & Co. design auction, 13 dec 2022

Where has this Pierre Jeanneret teak and steel and glass bookcase been all my life? The Central State Library, you say? Can you loot three more to match?

Suddenly I’m rethinking my moral objections to the emptying of Chandigarh for the aesthetic enrichment of the bourgeoisie of the west. [oh wait, I already rethought it.]

[A couple of obsessed hours later update: there is another. A similar bookcase was sold at Christie’s in Paris in November 2021. It had the same estimate, was in what looks to be less attractive condition–and sold for EUR225,000.

The lot essay says Jeanneret’s “crenelated shelves of the Central Library display case recall the undulating glass panels and alternating railings of the interior architecture he had designed.” Hmm. Here is a photo of the cases installed in the library.

Interior views of the Central State Library, Sector 17, Chandigarh, India by Pierre Jeanneret, photo: Jeet Molhothra, via CCA

Lot 270: Bibliothèque from the Central State Library, Chandigarh, est. $30-50,000 [toomey]
Previously, very much related, in that they’re Chandigarh pieces I want: Chandigarh Find

Rock, Paper, Flowers

Danh Vo, Untitled, 2021, graphite & ink on A3 paper by Phung Vo, Revolver for Secession

Danh Vo had two shows simultaneously last fall, with work that turns out to be related.

Thought it had an ISBN number, the publication for Vo’s show at Secession in Vienna was not a book, but a drawing. The artist’s father Phung Vo wrote the word Neolithic on one side of an A3 piece of paper. The exhibition’s sponsors Secession’s colophon were stamped on the back. It was slightly baffling, tbqh.

Danh Vo, Untitled, 2021, graphite and c-print on paper, A3, framed, image: massimodecarlo

Meanwhile, at Massimo De Carlo, he showed photos of flowers from his farm outside Berlin, mounted on an identically sized sheet of paper, with the scientific name underneath, also written by his father, in the same script as Neolithic.

Danh Vo, Untitled, 2021, detail

They’re impossible to see from the reproductions online, but there are tiny alignment crosses above Neolithic. The text is in the same place on both, and the marks seem to be where a photo would go. The composition of these works is basically the same.

The Neolithic publication is the first thing Manuela Ammer asked Vo about in their gallery talk at the closing of the Secession show. Vo explained that he’d come to see these two things–specific names of flowers and the neolithic–as opposites, and that his practice entails not choosing, but doing both, and considering the difference.

To Vo, neolithic is an abstraction, an amorphous period of time about which there is so much we can’t know, because the only human traces that survive are stone. This is what is captured, he did not say, by the absence of a photo.

Goncharov (1973): The Making Of

I started this blog in 2001 as a side project for my filmmaking. It was the place to share my inspiration, development, behind-the-scenes, making-of, marketing, reception, and commentary.

screenshot of @zootycoon’s tumblr post with the bootleg platform sneakers with a label based on a movie poster that unlocked the Goncharovissance

Now Tumblr has, in one day, generated an entire metacontent universe around a film that doesn’t exist: Goncharov (1973), produced and/or, disputedly, directed by Martin Scorsese. It is spectacular, and exactly the kind of thing I got into blogging about movies for.

[update: I am told that Goncharov (1973) is, in fact, an absolutely real film. If it wasn’t, would it have an elaborate and exhaustive Google Doc mapping its history, production, plot, music, versions, and analysis? And there’s a poster? And then there’s all the fanfic. My apologies to Messrs JWHJ0715 and Scorsese.]

Previously: Goncharov

Hilton Aluminum Cookware

At one point in the 1910s, before he was married, my great-grandfather Wilford “Bill” Hilton sold aluminum cookware door-to-door in southern Utah. That’s according to an undated note my great-grandmother Vera Snow wrote to accompany these drippy aluminum blobs. In the 1920s, when my grandmother Lora Hilton was a little girl, the note continued, she accidentally melted some of these leftover aluminum pots on the stove.

The resulting dripped and pooled forms were interesting enough for my great-grandmother, and then my grandmother, to save in a drawer for a hundred years. I’ve had them on the bookshelf for a couple of years now, trying to think of what to do with them. Mostly, I just look at them and think about these people who kept these things. Sometimes I think about trying to photograph them better.

Obviously, if asked, I would install gargantuan replicas of them on the plaza of the Seagram Building. I’m not naive.

Previously, related; Vera’s Rocks

Brigham Morris Young, son of one Mormon prophet and son-in-law of another, dressed as his operatic alter ego, Madam Pattirini, for a concert at the Sugar House Ward, Salt Lake City, c. 1901

With news that at least two of the five victims of the Colorado Springs terrorist attack on Club Q were trans, and that the shooter, apprehended by patrons of the gay club he attacked, is a member of the LDS Church, it’s important to note the impact of the Church’s own positions and rhetoric in stoking anti-LGBTQ hatred and violence among its members, and as part of an increasingly extremist network of right-wing religio-political groups around the world.

Whatever progress and enlightenment it has achieved, the LDS Church and its constituent communities are far too often a source of bigotry and pain and an unsafe space for queer members. And the Church’s treatment of trans members is even worse.

When one Church leader–a cousin, fwiw–quotes another calling for “musket fire” in defense of the Church’s anti-LGBTQ policies, and when racist, misogynistic, and homophobic harassment by extremist members goes unchecked, even unmentioned, the Church should recognize the impact this has: and that includes stoking the murderous violence that one member unleashed last weekend on his queer neighbors. It’s not as if the guy had to be a zealot hanging on every word; in this case, he apparently was not, but was raised up in it. And then he found more hate to reinforce and build on what he’d absorbed.

The point is, the organization that should be fostering love is seeding bigotry and lending credence to active agents of violence against LGBTQ people.

Joan Didion’s Mantle

Lot 50: Group of Shells and Beach Pebbles, from the Estate of Joan Didion, image: stairgalleries

Let’s for a moment say we won’t even think about the money. If that seems hard, just imagine that someone donated $7,000 to Parkinson’s research and Sacramento women’s college writing scholarships, and in return, rather than public recognition and a tax deduction, they received Group of Shells and Beach Pebbles.

And then they paid $1,960 to a Hudson Valley auction house to warrant that these “approximately 26” shells and rocks–there are, in fact, 32 shells, 17 rocks, and one item whose rock-or-shell nature I could not determine in the auction house’s display photo–that “[t]his group of shells decorated the fireplace mantle in [Joan] Didion’s living room.”

The Mantle Does Hold: the flagship image for the sale of Joan Didion’s belongings at Stair Galleries, as promoted on
Continue reading “Joan Didion’s Mantle”

Garbage Can van Lieshout

Atelier van Lieshout, Untitled (Litter Bin), 1991, fiberglass, 35 x 30 x 30 cm, image: christie’s ams

Before he designed a slave city or declared a pier in Rotterdam as his own anarcho-utopian country, Joep van Lieshout got attention for his brutalist/minimalist fiberglass sculptures shaped like furniture, plumbing fixtures, and architecture. It rarely comes to the market.

But lo, here is a 1991 work, Untitled (Litter Bin), being auctioned at Christie’s Amsterdam. I’d call it a great start.

Did Brian Eno Really Piss In Duchamp’s Fountain?

Brian Eno lecturing at MoMA on October 23, 1990 as part of a performance series organized by RoseLee Goldberg for “High/Low”

The NY Times Magazine’s interview with Brian Eno brings back his story about pissing in Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. It’s a story Eno’s told many times. Every time it gets retold, there’s an air of incredulity; because it sounds fake as hell.

The clearest, widely available version of the story has been from when he told it to designer Ron Arad in 1993. That’s on YouTube [at around 17 minutes]. He was specifically, asked: “Have you really used the Fountain?” Eno laughs. “Yes, yes, that was a really good story.” He then mis-tells the history of Fountain, and Duchamp’s concept of Readymades, and misses the point that Fountain is not one ancient, auratic urinal, but is actually an edition of eight, plus several others.

Screenshot of Brian Eno in, as if it needed to be said, a 1993 interview for French TV

And he said, “So I thought someone should piss in that thing, to sort of bring it back to where it belonged. So I decided it had to be me.” He then says the strength and aim of his urine stream were, “at [his] age,” insufficient to get through the narrow gap in the glass. So he got thin, plastic tubing, threaded it with wire, pipetted his piss into it, put it in his pants, and then he inserted it through a gap, “and let the piss out. It’s a bit of a fake, really. I didn’t physically do it.” Which, in context, could sound like he’s saying he didn’t physically piss in Fountain. But it could also be an admission that the events in this “story” only happened in his head. Which should be the same in conceptual art, no? Eno then claimed he only revealed what he’d done at his lecture “that night,” at the Museum of Modern Art.

Continue reading “Did Brian Eno Really Piss In Duchamp’s Fountain?”

Nice Grpg

March 12, 2014, 12:20 PM: I swear, every one of these still lands this week, and lands different.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about twitter and social media for fifteen years, and the only thing I can come up with is, start a blog.

Whatever else it is, Twitter has been a source of language fascination for me. To see or share combinations of words of unexpected beauty, sublimity, stupidity, and criminality. I developed a practice of tweeting stuff without explanation or context–without original context, since the whole point was to hold up an object of text, or later, an image, or a combination of both, and present it in the context of the Twitter feed itself–that annoyed tf out of some people. I really tried to approach Twitter as an experiment, to see what would happen, or what worked and what didn’t. As time went on, Twitter’s own conventions coalesced, and even came to dominate information in the world, far beyond its own users’ spheres.

But that’s not important right now. One thing I started to do was to find meaning or resonance in groupings of tweets. Because they were in my timline, coming from people I’d chosen to follow, the synchronicities between adjacent tweets weren’t exactly random, but the more random and unrelated they seemed, the better. The connection didn’t need to be glaringly obvious, either, but an unusual, mundane word appearing in three unrelated tweets was as awesome as two rhyming images.

I developed rules for groupings: adjacency was a must; longer chains of tweets beat a pair; no retweets or manipulations by me. But in practice, I’d just screenshot’em all and figure I’d sort’em out later. And sometimes, when they ended up next to a gem, I couldn’t resist including my own tweets.

These groupings were made by others and me, and yet it seemed the only intentionality was in the finding. There was the sense, or perhaps the alluring suggestion, that beyond illuminating the contours of my own curatorial decisions, the groupings offered glimpses of a larger, unintended, collective meaning, like generative glitches in a (not the) matrix.

I tweeted some of these out as I’d find them, just a blip in the stream, but then I decided to collect them, to see what they could do together. So I started a tumblr, and after two tedious weeks of trying to capture the metadata embedded in each multitweet screenshot, I shelved it. But the screenshots have kept piling up.

Now with the actual destruction of Twitter looming, these shards feel possibly more relevant than they did, and so I’ve dusted off the tumblr and will keep posting these nice groupings, worrying less that they conform to my own arbitrary notions of multi-tweet poetic form, and instead being glad that they exist at all.

Trade of Restraint

Nayland Blake, Dual Restraint, 1990, 95 x 95 inches? 144 x 144 inches? Selling Nov. 17 at

An intriguing work by Nayland Blake is coming up for auction. Double Restraint (1990) is a canvas and steel structure, object, sculpture, outfit? It’s a strait jacket built for two, but it hangs on the wall like a kinky Richard Tuttle.

The auction house says it’s from a prominent West Coast collection. When a Blake Double Restraint (1990) belonging to Ruth and Jacob Bloom was installed at the Hammer Museum in LA, it was apparently four feet taller and wider. Maybe it shrank in the wash? Are there two? From the buckles and hoods, they look like the same size.

Nayland Blake, Single Restraint, 1990, canvas and steel, 96 x 58 in., image:

Blake’s 1990 show at Petersburg Gallery in SoHo included both [one of?] Double Restraint and Single Restraint (above). Whether they wrap up like a knuckle bandaid or a burrito, these Restraint works insinuate bodies that aren’t there, which could be either an invitation, a threat, or an elegy.

17 Nov 2022, Lot 77244: Nayland Blake, Double Restraint, 1990 []