So I just got back from the opening of the new Salander-O'Reilly mega-church on 71st Street. Fair readers, this marks my first art post. I'm not really part of that scene, but Mr. Right is, and he asked me to attend in his absence so I could take notes.
Note One: Billy Crystal didn't show, though I could have sworn I spotted him next to a 13th-century Scandinavian crucifix.
Note Two: It's a strange thing, the commodification of religious art. It's disorienting to look at a Byzantine altarpiece and wonder how much it costs and in which Park Avenue duplex you might find it.
Note Three: How does one evaluate these relics? By which criteria do you assess a life-size wooden Madonna and Child? Of course, Renaissance scholars have established a value system for this stuff; I suppose it's just a lot more foreign to me than are the set of rules by which we deem Pollock and Rothko. And I guess that's the gallery owners' point: this stuff is NEW. There's not yet a market for it. We still connect stone gargoyles to Strasbourg and not to SoHo. I suppose these dealers are challenging us to erect Benedictine cloisters in our West Village gardens, to carve out chapels from our walk-in closets.
Note Four: The deep shame and tingling pleasure of sipping Veuve Cliquot while cowering under a giant Christ suspended from ceiling wires.
Note Five: Chatter heard in the line waiting to get in: "It looks like a Francois le Jeune, definitely 16th-century. We just discovered it," breathed a bookish woman in a 1980s power suit. I exhaled a little in the presence of her professorial non-style, hoping my sensible skirt and public radio tote bag wouldn't brand a scarlet "academic administrator" on my forehead. Sure, a fair number of slim Northern Italian types in linen and gauze sauntered among the dozens of rooms. But actually far fewer snappish fashionistas than I'd feared inhabited the party. A very handsome, tall man in a tuxedo at the door had merely welcomed us and wished us a wonderful evening, mentioning nothing about our names and on what list he might find them.
Note Six: Whoever oversaw the mansion's comprehensive makeover had missed a blob of graffiti near the entrance. Perhaps an indication of what was inside: the profane and the sacred interacting.