Taittinger Gallery: Pop the Cork!

The opening of the Richard Taittinger Gallery on Ludlow Street felt propitious, coming as it did the same week as the 17th Annual Armory Show. Hosted at Piers 92 and 94 on the ice-bound Hudson River, the Armory show attracted more than 200 top-flight galleries from around the world. And with so many important works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries on display, thousands turned out to see the exhibits despite the bitter cold, snow and ice. Dealers said business was brisk. I figured that with so many patrons of modern and contemporary art in town, that should bode well for a gallery featuring contemporary art.

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The eponymous Richard Taittinger Gallery is thepassion of the great-grandson of the founder of Taittinger Champagne. For the inaugural show, "Sinthome," he brought together the works of six international mid-career artists, works based on the theories of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan having to do with the convergence of the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary. Say what? Intrigued, I headdowntown.

On the Lower East Side

Walking east on Houston, looking for Ludlow Street, I pass Russ & Daughters, a landmark on the Lower East Side that's been run by the same family since 1914. Shopping there is a true New York experience, for when it comes to caviar, smoked salmon and specialty foods, they have the finest selections in town. And rumor has it that they are opening an uptown outpost at the Jewish Museum at 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue, a boon for those of us who live on the Upper East Side.

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Whoa, there's Katz's! For 125 years, Katz’s Delicatessen has been a beacon on the Lower East Side, famous for its pastrami. The backstory is that during World War 2, when two of the owner's sons were serving in the armed forces, the family sent food packages, encouraging others to do the same. Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army! The slogan became famous and, to this day, Katz’s has carried on the tradition, most recently sending packages to our armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In case anyone may have forgotten, there's a sign in the window: Where Harry Met Sally. Enjoy!  Could anyone forget the scene with Meg Ryan faking sexual bliss and the mortified Billy Crystal ready to crawl under the table?

What's Happening in the 'Hood

Closing in on 154 Ludlow Street, I hook a right to walk by Dirty French, thetrendy restaurant in the Ludlow Hotel, and by the fresh and sprightly Yumi Kim. The neighborhood is swinging.

Arriving at the art gallery before noon, the doors are wide open, a repairman up on a ladder,  a porter wet-mopping the gallery floor. Looks as if someone spilled the champagne at last night's grand opening party.

The dazzling 5,000 foot exhibition space is a world of white with clean lines, 20’ high walls perfect for hanging museum-sized pieces, track lighting, and not a single intrusive column in sight. The building, a former music hall, was redesigned by Markus Dochantschi of Studio MDA.  Nothing quite like this on Ludlow Street.

Who's Who? What's What?

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In one corner sits a work by the French sculptor Théo Mercier, a work that on closer inspection represents not a bird breaking out of its shell, but a man. Aha! I get it, do you? It represents the convergence of the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary.

Nearby hangs a stunning black-and-white composition by the Turkish-born painter and video artist Haluk Akakçe, now working in New York, whose main interest is exploring the intersections between society and technology. There's a lot going on there.

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Which is when I meet David Gimbert, the director of the gallery, who explains that Richard Taittinger plans to concentrate on mid-career artists who have been highly successful on the international scene, but are not as well known in the New York market.

Watching a thirty-something couple at the rear of the gallery circling a crumpled mass on the floor, I edge closer.

All the News that's Fit to Print

It's  a page from the New York Times 2007! I like it. Unsure of the artist-- nothing is labeled-- I catch sight of a painting on the wall which had appeared in a newspaper article:  'Appearance of Crosses, 2009-2013'  by Ding Yi.

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What's Next?  The above is by Recycle Group, which consists of two Russian artists, childhood friends, whose work focuses on recycling images from the past to reveal how technology and social media, particularly Facebook, affect our identities and alter the terms by which we live. For instance, the word 'tablet' once referred to those handed Moses on Mount Sinai, but now references the ubiquitous ones we tote around.

Having had simultaneous shows in London and Paris last year, Recycle Group will be given a solo show at the gallery in2016.

So which of these pieces appeals to you? The contemporary art market, which has been sizzling, is bound to cool off one of these days. Good to plan ahead.

Where To?

Next door, for a cup of coffee with an amiable counterman.  On a bleak wintry day, nothing beats a trip downtown to warm this uptown girl's heart.

When next in New York, be sure to stop by the Richard Taittinger Gallery on the hip and edgy LES.  There's a lot going on in the downtown areas, you wont be disappointed. Cheers!