Julian Schnabel 1978–1981
Through March 30, 2012
One must turn to the past to move forward.-- Akan proverb
We are sitting around a banquette at Nell’s, well sorted, and I am overwhelmed with a vague sadness all of a sudden -- the conversations around the table, a sonic penumbra: who has new tits (girls with names like Coriander and Chloe), who is in rehab (“she has a nasal addiction”), who fucked whom with what (don’t ask), and possibly, for the first time in recent memory, I no longer care what I am wearing (Comme des Garçons leather jacket over a vintage Led Zeppelin t-shirt, imitation of Imitation of Christ store-torn jeans, Prada driving shoes, with no socks, as my awesome new ankle tattoo -- neo-tribal -- is still too fresh and bandaged). Someone comes to take orders, and Damien, who has drawn eyes on the head of his cock with a Sharpie, stands up, takes it out (a Camel Light dangling from his urethra), wags it, and says, ventriloquist-like, “Three Black and Tans and two E’s, please.” The table dissolves into laughter. I think that a piece of uneaten tofu on the plate in front of me is whispering something important. It is definitely time to leave.
Outside, Jeff Koons jokingly offers a homeless guy his AmEx card, pulling it away at the last moment and laughing; and Johnny Depp, embarrassed, hangs back, writing him a check. There are suggestions of better places to go in Soho, with names like Spy or Toy or Goy. Gwyneth Paltrow suggests we go to a club called HIV, but we end up tagging along with Ashley Bickerton, Jay MacInerny, Larry Clark, and Kate Moss to someone’s loft, which has been decorated with silver helium balloons and glitter and a 15-foot rail of blow on a long mirror on the floor to celebrate either someone’s opening or a new record or possibly a cure for AIDS or Sean Landers’s new novel. The Julian Schnabel show at Oko, which features just one painting (St. Sebastian, 1979), has drawn a huge crowd, and some of the runoff has spilled in. Leonardo DiCaprio is on the floor hoovering from the enormous line with River Phoenix, and Jack Pierson is snapping Polaroids and muttering things like “fagulous.” There is a suite of new Cindy Sherman C-prints on the wall where she is dressed up to look like various members of an SS Death Squad.
Someone who is definitely not a DJ is playing Oasis, and Damon Albarn throws a Guinness bottle through a window. Thurston Moore takes over at the turntables and starts playing the Beatle’s White Album at half-speed. People start dancing again. Wolfgang Tillmans sees me standing in the kitchen, which was done by Andrea Zittel -- the tables fold into the walls, and the cabinets double for growing hydroponic weed -- and asks me if I want to meet some girls. “They are really beautiful,” he says. “I mean, they are 16, but they look like they're 14.” I pass and wander aimlessly around the loft, wishing I had done more Ketamine before we left. I remember that I had come with a date, but since I can’t remember her name (which is paradoxical, since she only has one, like Moby), it seems a little pointless to ask if anyone has seen her.
There is a small painting of Kurt Cobain or Liam Gallagher that seems to stare at me from the wall in the bathroom as I piss into what I am hoping is a toilet. Someone has scrawled “I Fucked Tracey Emin” on the mirror in Hard Candy Black-Cherry-Bomb lipstick.
Sadie Benning is making a Pixelvision movie in one of the bedrooms starring Matthew Barney and Kristin Oppenheim. They have pulled all the 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets off the Frank Gehry Eager Beaver cardboard bed and are pretending to be ghosts. Barney is holding two silver ass plugs over his sheet-covered head, pretending to be a bull-ghost, and starts to mount the Oppenheim ghost, who is alternately saying “boo” and “moo.” I melt into the wall and pretend along with them for a while. Someone has written "I smell the blood of les tricoteuses"in orange spray paint on one of the walls, and, feeling a little creeped out, I slip back to the party.
Stavros Niarchos II, René Ricard, John Currin, and Alex Bag are drinking champagne from a bottle in the hallway. As I pass between them, one of them says, “No, she is a female female impersonator. I hear she is in the new Nirvana video....” I find a sealed tin of Beluga from Dean & DeLuca on a Philippe Starck princess coffee table and pick it up. I push aside a clutter of untouched Chinese take-out containers and little bottles of Evian. I sit down on the Droog Design couch, cradling the tin, tears welling up uncontrollably, and lean back, marveling at the perfection of it all. - Bradley Rubenstein
Photo: Exhibition view of NYC 1993. Photo by Benoit Pailley.
The New Museum is at 235 Bowery, New York, New York, and Oko is at 220 East 10th Street, New York, New York.
Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.