Georgina Gratrix, Reclining Woman with Flower (Detail), 2020, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the artist and SMAC Gallery

Jerry Saltz, @JerryGogosian, and More Play "Fuck Marry Kill" with the Art at The Armory Show

Plus! Find out who needs to "kill one art collector every 90 Art Basels to stay right with the gods."

by Annie Armstrong
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Mar 8 2020, 9:30am

Georgina Gratrix, Reclining Woman with Flower (Detail), 2020, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the artist and SMAC Gallery

“It was the Armory Week of coronavirus,” Joan Didion might have written about this week in New York. Across the city’s numerous fairs which attract visitors from near and far each year, artists, collectors, and dealers explored new ways to greet each other without actually touching. A couple of my favorites: a hand-over-heart motion, championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a bow, which made me feel very regal, and one person even gave me a “hang-ten” sign, and then seemed to immediately regret it.

Thus, my art fair game of “Fuck/Marry/Kill” may have been a little tonally off for this year’s queasy crowd. Touching of any sort was at the very back of people’s minds. That said though, I still found a few folks game to take on the booths at Pier 94.

For those who didn’t play along at Art Basel Miami Beach, the rules are simple: you go to one booth at any given fair and pick one piece you’d fuck (one that you only kinda like), marry (that you love), and one that you’d kill (that just isn’t your taste).

Jeanette Hayes, artist, at Gagosian
Fuck: Rudolf Polanszky, Reconstructions, 2015
Marry: Marnie Weber, Log Lady & Dirty Bunny (2009) [presented by Simon Lee Gallery]
Kill: Rudolf Planzky, Hypertransformation Sculpture, 2008

Gagosian’s presentation of frenzied, whitewashed collage works by Austrian artist Rudolf Polanszky greeted attendees right out of the gates at this year’s fair. Well, sort of. Just in front of it was a bunny-suit fit for a man, ominously filthy and clad in a ratty bowtie, reclined on a tree log. Instantly, Hayes knew where her heart belonged. “Even though I feel a lot for the art inside that booth, I know what I want to marry.” She added later, “Something about it’s Steve Buscemi eyes.”

Back in the booth though, she picked one of Polanszky’s sculpture works for the kill option, only because the various jagged points on it gave it a threatening aura. “It seems like it could have some rust on it, so I feel kind of cautious around it.” Best to not risk tetanus, for sure. A work on canvas, Reconstructions, earned the “fuck” option, as a dash of refracted color on a mirrored bit created an attractive rainbow from the fair’s overheard lights. Although she was quick to assert, “I want to fuck it, but I also want it to know it’s worth and that I respect it as a piece of art.”

Hilde Lynn Helphenstein artist, gallerist and recently revealed as the voice behind @jerrygogosian, at SMAC Gallery
Fuck: Georgina Gratrix, Reclining Woman with Flower, 2020
Marry: Georgina Gratrix, Filler Face, 2020
Kill: Georgina Gratrix, The Belgian Collector (Not Vincent), 2020

At first I felt apprehensive about playing this game with a booth presenting only one artist (who isn’t a Gagosian-style blue chipper), but then upon looking at Gratrix’s cheeky, in-your-face paintings, I realized they’re actually kinda perfect. Huge globs of paint practically reach out and grab your face, and her choice subject matter is as jocular as the game itself.

So, it added to the perfection that the sharpest tongue in the art world’s cheek would take on this booth. For the game, she explained that she’d roleplay as a “very wealthy eccentric,” hence the decision to marry Filler Face. “I like the idea of being so rich that plastic surgery and body modifications just becomes a whim, an art project, a mood, etc.,” she explained. “I think I could marry a person who thought of their identity as an ever-evolving sculpture or canvas.”

Though Helphenstein recently had the veil of anonymity lifted from her, it certainly didn’t remove any of the venom from her bite. On her decision to kill Gratrix’s distorted portrait of an art collector: “Its a taboo to ever admit that you'd take pleasure killing a person. Purposeless killing isn't good, but in this universe, I'm a pagan and I need to kill one art collector every 90 Art Basels to stay right with the gods. I wouldn't want to do it, but I'd have to ensure the art market increases in strength over the next 30 years and yields high profits for me, my artists, and my other collectors.”

And that’s that on that.

Dustin Yellin, artist/founder of Pioneer Works, at Sean Kelly Gallery
Fuck: Antony Gormley, Crunch (2015)
Marry: Shahzia Sikander, Double Sight (2018)
Kill: Callum Innes, Exposed Painting Delft Blue (2019)

I approached Yellin to play the game with me, who suggested we go to his friend Sean Kelly’s booth. Once we got there, I could barely keep Sean Kelly from playing along with us. “I do this with collectors all the time,” he said in a British accent dignified enough that I was inclined to believe him. “Really?” I asked. “Of course not!”

Oh right, duh. Anyways, Yellin found himself instantly attracted to a beautifully spare work by Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander. “Yeah, that’s marriage material for sure,” Yellin instantly fell in love at first sight. But boys will be boys, and at the sight of Antony Gormley’s Crunch, a brick-toned floor sculpture, he decided on the “fuck” option. Why, I asked? “Because...uh… it kind of looks like it has an ass?”

Jerry Saltz, critic, at Buchmann Galerie
Fuck: Jason Martin, Victorian (2010)
Marry: Joel Sternfeld, Wet’n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida September 1980
Kill: Bettina Pousttchi, Vertical Highways A10, 2019

“The only reason I’d want to fuck this Jason Martin is because it’s at least juicy,” the New York critic started off strong. “Otherwise it’s completely uninteresting. I’ve never had a one night stand because I’m not an attractive person. Nobody ever would. But this for me would be a two hour, zipless, blah.”

As for marriage, Saltz said he’d marry any Joel Sternfeld work, comparing him to Andreas Gursky, though Sternfeld in fact came before him. He described one image taken of the tail end of an American summer, where sunbathers wade in a wave pool beneath a twisting waterslide. “It’s an old kind of space where you’re seeing the beginning of a suburban sprawl-y thematized wall-powered American privileged past-time space.” Then turned to me with confidence, “I could live with that, have a good relationship with it, and sex often.”

For the kill switch, Bettina Pousttchi's sculpture made from steel highway barriers, Vertical Highway A10, was in the line of fire. “It’s exactly from Chamberlain, but 55 years after the fact," he said. "It wouldn’t even be good by a swimming pool. It really shows you how horrible the art world can be.”

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