Last night, the art world abdicated their penthouses uptown and descended onto the East Village for Rob Pruitt’s Art Awards at Webster Hall (yes, that Webster Hall). Now in its second year, the ceremony still seems to puzzle both participants and viewers as to what exactly it, well, is. A self-conscious critique of the celebrity culture that’s invaded the art world? The Guggenheim’s cure for the common gala? America’s answer to England’s Turner Prize? The people in panda suits soft-shoeing across the stage (an homage to Pruitt’s work) would be an argument against that last one.
Even Pruitt himself, no stranger to irreverent art world commentary (who remembers “Cocaine Buffet”?) seemed pleasantly unsure of where his award show stands in the grand scheme of things. He asked the inaugural Artist of the Year Mary Heilmann, in a Frank Gehry-designed tiara, how she felt about her win: did her award provide recognition and validation? Or did it stifle her creativity, breeding competition among artists and curators? But she assured him that her life has only improved since last year’s show: “Now I never have to worry about my ’67 Jaguar breaking down because I have my Range Rover as a back up,” she joked. Whatever its classification, there was plenty of glitter, lots of booze, and (gasp!) James Franco’s biceps made an appearance last night.
The ceremony was hosted by Glenn O’Brien (formerly of Interview Magazine fame) who shuffled on stage through a hilarious re-creation of Marina Abramovic’s “Imponderabilia.” Presenters included Matthew Higgs of White Columns, Art Forum’s Linda Yablonsky, Lizzzi Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, and my personal pick for art’s most adorable couple of the year, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein. There were plenty of heavy-hitters in the audience—Jonas Mekas and Martha Rosler both received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and Marilyn Minter was in attendance to receive the Artist-Educator Award for her work at the School of Visual Arts.
And while the presenters and nominees tucked into their dinners (provided by Roberta’s!) the press high up in the balcony struggled to see who on earth was sitting in between Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic, and thus preventing any sort of cozy dinner time conversation (it was Michael Stipe). And you’ll never notice the resemblance between Gavin Brown and Mark Ruffalo until you spend an evening trying to identify the vaguely cuddly, bearded man seated near the stage. Turns out that it was Gavin Brown, confirmed when we jockeyed for the same sink in Webster Hall’s awkwardly coed bathroom (I let him go first).
There were a few familiar faces from last year’s show—Jerry Saltz snapped up the prize for critic/blogger of the year for the second year in a row (we don’t care what they say—AFC’s Paddy Johnson will forever be our favorite blogger!). Lena Dunham, last year’s co-host, made a surprise appearance via live feed from Los Angeles to accept Rob Pruitt’s Achievement Award. But the most esteemed award of the night, Artist of the Year, went to Louise Bourgeois, and rightly so.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a real party without the art world’s favorite movie star, the aforementioned James Franco, who was impossible to miss in his sleeveless tuxedo. Franco performed three original songs (entitled “Asshole,” “Hot Mess,” and my personal favorite “Chewing Gum”) with his General Hospital co-collaborator Kalup Linzy. But don’t feel bad if you missed it; O’Brien warned the audience to look out for an album next year.
As for the rest of the night’s winners, you can check them (and many more photos) out below. And if you’re taking bets for next year’s awards, I would pay attention to Ben’s predictions, posted Monday; they were pretty spot-on.
Alternative Space of the Year: Artists Space
Curator of the Year: Chrissie Iles
Solo Show of the Year, Museum: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jonas Mekas
Alternative Project of the Year: INDEPENDENT
Group Show of the Year, Gallery: Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, David Zwirner, New York
Exhibition Outside of the United States: John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, Tate Modern, London
Lifetime Achievement Award: Martha Rosler
Solo Show of the Year, Gallery: Trisha Donnelly, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York
Blogger or Critic of the Year: Jerry Saltz
Group Show of the Year, Museum: In and Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960-1976, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Artist Educator Achievement Award: Marilyn Minter
New Artist of the Year: Tauba Auerbach
Rob Pruitt Achievement Award: Lena Dunham
Artist of the Year: Louise Bourgeois