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. With so many patrons of modern and contemporary art in town, that ought to bode well for a gallery featuring contemporary art.

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The eponymous Richard Taittinger Gallery is the passion 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. Intrigued, I head downtown.

Anchoring the Lower East Side

Walking east on Houston, looking for Ludlow Street, I pass Russ & Daughters, a landmark on the Lower East Side run by the same family since 1914. Shopping at R&D is a true New York experience, for when it comes to caviar, smoked salmon and specialty foods, they have the finest selections in town. 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.

Anchoring the lower 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 back-story 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 caught on 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, a sign in the window reads: Where Harry Met Sally. Enjoy! Who could forget Meg Ryan faking sexual bliss with the mortified Billy Crystal ready to crawl under the table?

 on ludlow street...

Closing in on 154 Ludlow Street, I hook a right to walk by Dirty French, the trendy restaurant located in the Ludlow Hotel where French food has been is reimagined with Moroccan touches. (To see the fabulous photos, click the link) And then there's a darling shop on the corner, the fresh and sprightly Yumi Kim. The neighborhood is funky, swinging. Arriving at the Taittinger Art Gallery, the doors are wide open, with a repairman up on a ladder and a porter wet-mopping the floor. Maybe someone spilled champagne at last night's grand opening party.

The dazzling 5,000-foot exhibition space has 20’ high walls ideal for hanging the museum-sized canvases that artists favor nowadays. It's clean space with good lines and not an intrusive column in sight. A former music hall, the space has been redesigned by Markus Dochantschi of Studio MDA. To think that I saw it on Ludlow Street...

What's happening in the 'hood?

At the Taittinger Gallery sits a work by the French sculptor Théo Mercier, one that on closer inspection represents not a bird breaking out of its shell as you might expect, but a rather stoic-looking paleolithic man. Aha! I get it, do you? It represents the convergence of the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary. As defined by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

The stunning black-and-white composition above is by the Turkish-born painter and video artist Haluk Akakçe, now working in New York. His  main interest is exploring the intersections between society and technology. You can see there's  a lot going, but I leave it to you to interpret it. At which I meet David Gimbert, the director of the gallery, who explains that Richard Taittinger plans to concentrate on mid-career artists, that these artists have been highly successful on the international scene, but are not as well known in the New York market. Bienvenue à New York!

Watching a 30-something couple at the rear of the gallery circling a crumpled mass on the floor, I edge closer. It's a page from the New York Times 2007! Unsure of the artist—nothing's labeled yet—I recognize the painting on the wall behind it from a newspaper article last week: 'Appearance of Crosses, 2009-2013'  by Ding Yi.

 The construction to the left is by Recycle Group, two Russian artists who are childhood friends and 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 wok references a 'tablet,' like those handed Moses on Mount Sinai, but the word 'tablet' now references the ubiquitous tablets we tote around --iPads, for example. Having enjoyed simultaneous shows in London and Paris last year, Recycle Group will be given a solo show at Taittinger next year.

So which of these appeals to you? The contemporary art market has been sizzling, but it's bound to cool off. Good to plan ahead.

Where now?

Next door, for a cup of coffee with an amiable counterman. On a bleak cold wintry day, nothing beats a trip downtown to warm this uptown girl's heart.  Next time you're in New York, be sure to stop by the Richard Taittinger Gallery on the hip and hot LES. There's a lot going on in the downtown area, you won't be disappointed. Cheers!