Courtesy of Friedman Benda

Nylon Nights

Gallery-Hopping In Chelsea On The First Thursday In May

Or how to get into the art-world party machine.

by Tim Latterner

At 8 p.m. on May 2, things had just started picking up in Chelsea. The High Line loomed overhead, but at street level, it was busier — much busier — than any other day should be for this neighborhood. That’s because Thursday night is opening night, aka when the art world in New York comes out to play: The galleries swing open their doors and welcome the public to take in the new shows, get boozy for free on white wine, and maybe even see a celebrity. (Last month, I spotted Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick at Kasmin, for example.)

I’m starting the night at Friedman Benda, where director Erica Boginsky is showing Under Present Conditions, a not-to-be-missed series of pieces from designers including Estúdio Campana, Max Lamb, and Studio Raw Material. There are plenty of people circulating between the front design gallery and the back room, where works are hung on the walls for all to enjoy. I pour myself a cup of wine from a table of open bottles (told you) and remind myself the beautiful chairs are art, not furniture.

Courtesy of Friedman Benda

It’s Art Week, so the streets around Chelsea have a natural current to them. Tonight, there’s a clear flow between the New American Art Dealers’ (NADA) show on West 22nd St. and the Frieze Fair at The Shed. The crosscurrent between both means it’s impossible not to bump into someone you know — which is what happened when I saw Josh Campbell, COO of Eazel, a business dedicated to archiving gallery shows digitally.

“I love the Thursday-night gallery openings,” Campbell says. “Amid the kaleidoscope of art, familiar faces mingle, conversations happen, and new connections are always made. Though the crowds can get intense, the energy is always overwhelmingly positive.” He’s on his way to see artist Derek Weisberg’s piece at the Swivel Gallery booth in NADA. The sculpture is of a human head that reminds me of a bust of Aristotle or Plato, only if they weren’t remembered as fondly. The precise scratches and placement of eyebrows and features makes the skull somehow feel more real and abstract at the same time.

Amid the kaleidoscope of art, familiar faces mingle, conversations happen, and new connections are always made.

Making my way back down past High Line Nine gallery, I pass artist Sarp Kerem Yavuz. “I always loved the social component of being an artist, which I know is not for everyone,” Kerem Yavuz tells me. “As a Gemini, it recharges my batteries to have an opening turn into an event where you connect with people who then take you to meet someone at Ella Funt at 11 p.m. and then Jean’s afterward. You blink and it’s 4 a.m. and you only know half the people in your own living room. Those are the best kind of nights.”

After parting ways with Kerem Yavuz, I start to make my way back east toward the subway when I hear a voice behind me call out, “Hey, Tim!” Two other artist friends are walking down 10th Avenue toward Meatpacking. “Are you going to Ana’s thing?” Before I could answer, we were in a cab downtown to Primo’s.