A horse costume lay on a glossy white vanity in Sarah Michelson’s dressing room; Sam Lewitt offered tiny spinning spheres emerging from what looked like an oil slick; and framed pages of an old celestial handbook turned up on the walls throughout the museum, placed there by Lutz Bacher.
A preview of the Whitney Biennial last night unveiled art that was pristine, messy, bewildering and pretty.
Who could resist the bright colors and shapes of Andrew Masullo’s paintings, or the sculpture, more mischief from Bacher, created from an organ?
Michael McCarty, owner of Michael’s restaurant, was one of the first to arrive, on a blue carpet flanked by red curtains - - the colors of sponsor Delta Air Lines Inc. Chuck Close, in a blue African print, shared an elevator with Dennis and Coralie Paul, eager for their sneak peek.
Brooke Garber Neidich, co-chairman of the museum board, was found departing the second floor, where she said she liked the work of LaToya Ruby Frazier.
Her mostly black-and-white photographs document despair after a hospital closing in Braddock, Pennsylvania. One Frazier image shows a sign reading, “Everybody’s Work Is Equally Important,” with a hand-written reply on the bottom, “No Way.”
Garber Neidich also said she liked Dawn Kasper, on the third floor, in the back.
“She’s living in the museum!” Garber Neidich said.
That explained -- a little -- why Kasper’s room looked like a surreal suburban tag sale, complete with a spinning tennis racquet and a wall projection of an animated bee.
John Arnhold, chairman of First Eagle Investment Management LLC, toured the Biennial with his family. In front of a delicate weaving of gold, orange and green thread by Kai Althoff, the Arnholds reported they had seen the actress Parker Posey and the director of the Frick Collection, Ian Wardropper. The Frick recently opened a new gallery to display the Arnhold family’s collection of Meissen porcelain.
“I’m going to go in for a wash and wax,” said Don McMahon, the executive editor of Artforum, having fun with the car-wash-like strips of black rubber at the entrance to Werner Herzog’s installation, “Hearsay of the Soul.”
A moment later, the car wash spit out Joel Wachs, president of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. “The second floor is really strong,” Wachs said. “I hope the rest will be as good.”
It was the night for museum directors to stop by, among them Glenn Lowry, of the Museum of Modern Art, and Holly Hotchner of the Museum of Arts and Design. Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, spent the evening in the lobby, greeting all.
That’s where we found one of the curators of the Biennial, Jay Sanders, sitting on a bench, watching a mob of people trying to get downstairs to the bar. The preview had been going for a few hours by then. How was he feeling?
“Tired,” Sanders said. “Last night was the party for the artists. And then we took them out for karaoke.”
Sanders performed John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)