In-Demand Star Kandis Williams Picks a New Gallery, a Top Music Producer Clues Us Into His Collection, and More Art-World Gossip

Plus, which artists got together for the World Series of Art Poker? Which dealer is having trouble with his collectors? Read on for answers.

Kandis Williams. Photo: Dicko Chan, 2018.
Kandis Williams. Photo: Dicko Chan, 2018.

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].

 

KANDIS WILLIAMS KEEPS IT COZY

The reason I love art fairs is that deals that would otherwise happen hush-hush behind closed doors unfold in plain sight. It happened at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, when Simone Leigh said bye-bye to Hauser and Wirth to join Matthew Marks, who announced his representation of the artist with a piece by the artist in his booth.

So imagine my surprise when, last week, while I was reporting from Frieze Los Angeles, I noticed something curious at Morán Morán’s Felix Art Fair booth: a piece by the closely-watched artist Kandis Williams

Williams got her big break when Ebony L. Haynes organized a solo show of her work at the David Zwirner-owned, kunsthalle-like 52 Walker gallery in Tribeca. From my vantage point, it was the most star-studded opening of 2021, with attendees including Massimiliano GioniCecilia Alemani, Aziz Ansari, and the late Virgil AblohAnd critics loved it too: our reviewer called it “elegant and conceptually rich” and a sharp “rejoinder to the overdetermination, commodification, and brutalization of the Black body.” The show included collages, paintings, sculptures, videos—the whole gamut, even houseplants—for a highly choreographed exhibition on racism, identity, eroticism, and intimacy. It had a lot going on! 

The work at Moràn Moràn’s booth caught my attention because it was iconic Williams: tall, crafted from a large plant, and utterly eye-catching. But then I realized, wait a minute… Williams doesn’t show with Moràn Moràn! She shows with Night Gallery, and has been with them since 2013!

Well, not anymore. Williams—who gets another star turn in New York as part of this year’s Whitney Biennial (did I mention that she will also have a showing at Performance Space in New York, plus several video screenings at the Getty throughout the year?)—is now officially part of the Moràn Moràn stable. Check their website! She’s on there. And she’s not on the Night Gallery list of artists any longer. None of the other parties involved (not Williams, not Moràn Moràn, not Night Gallery) wanted to speak to your poor, lonesome Wet Paint scribe about it. Was it something I said?

My whole thing is, with the art world seemingly at her feet, why didn’t Kandis go for one of the mega-galleries? All I can do is speculate. Leigh, who made headlines when she abandoned Hauser and Wirth less than two years after joining the gallery to join Matthew Marks’ considerably, um, smaller outfit, may have been motivated by the desire to get the kind of individual attention that corporate behemoths can’t provide. (All that said, Hauser is still sponsoring her work at the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale.) 

Maybe this is the start of a new direction for Williams? Either way, cheers.

 

CAPE COD COLLECTA COLLECTA

Rostam Batmanglij and James Cherry at Karma's booth at Frieze, Los Angeles.

Rostam Batmanglij, on the right, with James Cherry at Karma’s booth at Frieze Los Angeles.

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of walking through Frieze with a lesser-known patron of the visual arts, a widely known producer of music: Rostam Batmanglij, who first made his splash as a member of the Ivy League pop group Vampire Weekend.

Batmanglij (he’s actually mostly known as Rostam in industry circles) was there with his partner, the artist James Cherry, whose work you can see now at dealer Ryan Noon‘s new Los Angeles outfit, Noon Projects. (Noon actually just sold one of Cherry’s works to Sarah Miller Meigs, who also owns pieces by Sol LeWitt and Louise Bourgeois. Cherry also has works in the homes of hip Angelenos such as Jeremy O. Harris, Danielle Haim, and Nick Robinson.)

Batmanglij is a bit of an artist himself. Before he left Vampire Weekend in 2016, he was responsible for some of the band’s indelible cover art, including the picture for Contra, the group’s 2010 sophomore release. Not that he took the picture. I mean, he did take it, but from Flickr (and it later became the subject of a lawsuit).

“I wouldn’t say I’m a collector,” Batmanglij told me as we strolled through the Focus section of the fair. “I have some pieces of art I bought from friends in the last decade”—Alex Da Corte, Cody CritcheloeBorna Sammak—”who have built names for themselves in the art world. I wouldn’t buy art to put in storage and trade later.”

But he was certainly looking to be inspired. Checking out a vase by Brian Rochefort at Massimo de Carlo’s booth, he said it looked like the cover art for Battles’ album Gloss Drop.

So would he be interested in doing a music/art collab? When I mentioned it, Batmanglij brought up his good friends Caroline Polachek and Matt Copson, a musician and an artist, who often work on projects together. “I’ve known Caroline since 2008, when we were both in bands,” he said. “We don’t have the exact same arc, but I joke that we both survived the class of 2008.” 

So sure, Batmanglij wasn’t at Frieze to buy per se, and he wouldn’t say much about what he looks for in art. But he did have one last thing he felt the need to mention. “I’ll tell you what I’m not crazy about. Neon. Maybe I’m not alone in that.”

 

WE HEAR

Collector Jeff Magid is opening a non-profit art space in Mexico City … Fashion brand Kitsuné is launching an art space, Galerie Kitsuné, at its Brooklyn location, starting with a solo show by Mario Navarro … Every month, a group of art-world lesbians congregate to play backgammon in a tournament called Lesbian Bisexual Backgammon that’s organized by Ellie Rines … Upsilon Gallery has a new flagship on the Upper East Side … Lomex Gallery’s Alex Shulan has been having a difficult time with certain collectors, and Dean Kissick and Bridget Donahue both reached out with their sympathies … 

 

SPOTTED 

Laurie Simmons out to dinner in Los Angeles decked out in Puppets and Puppets, the buzzy New York brand helmed by artist Carly Mark—she said the outfit originally belonged to her daughter, Lena Dunham, but that she had it refitted *** Zac Bahaj, owner of the beloved Lucien, on Los Angeles soil for the first time ever last week *** David X Prutting, a founder of photography service Billy Farrell Agency (you know it as BFA) offering to buy Will Ferrell’s jacket off his back at the VIP opening of Frieze (to his credit, it did have a Talladega Nights patch on it) *** Jordan Wolfson and Chloe Wise visiting Jacolby Satterwhite’s excellent new show at Morán Morán *** Tobey Maguire, Jonas Wood, Adam Alessi, and Willa Holland participating in the World Series of Art Poker, upstairs from the Felix art fair ***

Jonas Woods records the final table at the World Series of Art Poker.

Jonas Wood records the final table at the World Series of Art Poker.

WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE

Last week, I asked which artist got the best name-check on a popular TV show. I was surprised that no one wrote in with my favorite, which is from season one of Sex and the City, when Charlotte gets picked up by a man offering to show her his Ross Bleckner painting.

Lanya Snyder, editorial director with TheGuide.Art, wrote in about the Cindy Sherman name-drop on the critically abhorred Netflix series about the legend of Anna Delvey, while Kristin Sancken of Company Agenda offered up that Miami Vice episode with Mark Kostabi (“The Lost Madonna”) as “absolutely brilliant.”

NFT guru (and former Artnet staffer) Katie Rothstein had a great one, mentioning a scene in Gilmore Girls in which Emily gives Lorelai a Kiki Smith etching as a wedding present. “And Lorelai is completely nonplussed because it looks like this.”

This week, I ask you to ponder this: Who is the most fashionable art advisor? Send your responses to [email protected]


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