Dodie and Tad Had Their First Date at Andy Warhol’s Funeral, and Other Stories From the New Museum Gala
You'll never guess what Warhol said to Tomkins during an interview.
Writers Dodie Kazanjian and Calvin Tomkins, or “Dodie and Tad” as they’re lovingly called by their cadre of friends and admirers, were the honorees of the New Museum’s annual gala, held on April 8 at Cipriani’s Wall Street outpost.
Honorees at most galas receive a short toast from a director, shuffle up to the stage, and spend a minute or two on thank yous before returning to their seat. But most people are not Dodie and Tad.
The pair was presented with a heartwarming video tribute to their years of journalistic excellence (he is best known for his Marcel Duchamp scholarship and work at The New Yorker, while she is a longtime contributing editor at Vogue), with cameos from the likes of Jeff Koons, Laurie Simmons, Cindy Sherman, John Currin, and Rachel Feinstein. “The best thing about being profiled by Tad Tomkins for The New Yorker is that you get to be friends with Dodie and Tad for the rest of your life,” Simmons effuses in the video.
Following the tribute, Dodie and Tad proceeded to dominate the room for almost 10 full minutes, each playfully jostling for control of the microphone, in a touching and comedic back-and-forth routine that was packed with revelations about artists they have interviewed over the years.
The pair met 28 years ago when Kazanjian was assigned to interview Tomkins for Arts Review, a magazine published by the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC. She was hoping for the perspective of an art critic, but when she met Tomkins in New York, he insisted that he was not, in fact, an art critic.
Nevertheless, they talked all afternoon, and when the director of the endowment read Kazanjian’s interview transcript, he was so taken with Tomkins that he asked him to come down to D.C. for lunch. Tomkins came, the pair continued to hit it off, and a week later he invited Kazanjian to come with him to Andy Warhol’s funeral. “That was our first date,” recalled Kazanjian with a smile. If that’s not a legendary beginning for an art world power couple, I don’t know what is (see How 8 Art World Power Couples Met and Fell In Love For Valentine’s Day, 10 Los Angeles Art Power Couples You Need To Know).
A few outtakes from the speech:
Tomkins on Duchamp: “One of the best things Duchamp ever said to me is that ‘art is a happy, habit-forming drug.'”
Tomkins on Warhol: “My first interview with Andy Warhol back in the mid-’60s was unsettling. I came equipped with a tape recorder, which was very primitive, and he brought out his own, which was much more advanced, German-made machine. He held a detachable microphone up to my face and said ‘Do you have a big cock?’ Yes, it didn’t throw me as much as it might have, because due to my poor hearing I thought he said ‘Do you have a big clock?’ I said, ‘Not especially.'”
Kazanjian on Maurizio Cattelan: “One time he was telling me about the jobs he’d had in Padua after he quit school—mailman, factory worker, janitor, factory mechanic, nurse, accountant’s assistant. Morgue attendant, sperm donor, bank robber. Bank robber? ‘Every other week, we were robbing a bank,’ he assured me, ‘we were interested just in robbing.’ At this point, he grabbed my arm and started laughing, ‘Ah, Dodie, I never robbed a bank. Or sold my sperm. To anyone. It’s a big lie! We have to start all over—another lunch?'”
Tomkins on Paul Chan: “We were interviewing Paul Chan in a restaurant downtown. The waitress was very friendly. At one point, she asked Dodie if Paul was our son. Paul looked up at her, smiled, and said yes. And since then, he refers to us as Mom and Dad.”
Kazanjian on Elizabeth Peyton: “When I interviewed Elizabeth, she said she had been thinking a lot about Abraham Lincoln. ‘I made some paintings of him the other day and discovered he looks a lot like Cameron Diaz,’ she said.”
Kazanjian on Kara Walker: “I asked how long she thought she’d be dealing with the Pandora’s box of race and gender. She stared at her shoes for a while and then looked up and said, ‘Oh, probably as long as I’m black and a woman.'”
Kazanjian on Julian Schnabel: “Julian Schnabel was telling me about sitting next to John Cage at a dinner party. He said, ‘After we talked a while about Joseph Beuys, Cage said ‘you’re an intelligent young man, what’s your name?’ ‘I said Julian Schnabel. He said ‘Julian Schnabel?! I’m supposed to hate you.’ But you’re so nice!'”
Tomkins on Baldessari: “He said, ‘so much of my time in the early years was spent trying to figure out what I thought art was. ‘Have you figured it out?’ I asked. ‘Not a clue,’ he said. ‘Not a clue.'”
The rest of the evening was punctuated by an auction hosted by Simon de Pury (during which a much giggled-about Paul McCarthy “butt plug” sculpture went for $200,000), a rousing, impromptu musical performance by artist Ragnar Kjartansson, and a concert by the Brooklyn-based band Chairlift. But it was Tad and Dodie’s stories—those shiny keepsakes from their incredible careers that they were kind enough to share—that had everyone talking.
“When an artist sits down with Tad or Dodie,” noted New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni, “they know that those are the same ears that have listened to Duchamp’s whispers and to Rauschenberg’s jokes…Gertrude Stein once said that artists don’t need criticism, they need appreciation. For years, Dodie and Tad have been nurturing and supporting artists…transforming [them] into legends.”
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