Opening Night at The Brucennial: A Fountain of PBR and a Sea of Art

by Paddy Johnson on March 1, 2012 · 10 comments Events

Bruce High Quality Foundation's Brucennial Awning

Reports of two-hour waits to get into the Brucennial last night were greatly exaggerated by the time I arrived at 9 pm. I waited ten minutes- and no, I did not request a line jump because the blog has collaborated with the organizers. An uncurated, salon-style show, the Brucennial is art collective Bruce High Quality Foundation and dealer Vito Schnabel’s alternative to the ritzier Whitney Biennial uptown, which also opened last night.

I’d guess my experience of the Brucennial was similar to most. I spent all of two minutes inside the building before someone asked me what I thought, and spent the rest of my night fielding slight variations of the same question. No one I spoke to seemed to know what to say about the exhibition.

It’s the sort of head-scratching one gets with this kind of anything-goes hang, and it’s one reason I don’t love this kind of show. Viewers have to put forth a lot of effort to find the pieces they like, and the it’s too easy to miss good (or simply famous) work (in addition to the Bruces, the show includes Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Cindy Sherman, to name a few). I’m not the type who loves milling about a yard sale in search of the one lost jewel, and doing so makes me incredibly anxious. It’s exactly the kind of environment I worry will reveal me as a charlatan when I inevitably fail to find the best work in the show.

The Brucennial opening was merciful, though, in that it was clearly more party than exam. The hanging juxtapositions were fun, rather than serious, and the Bruce sensibility makes the show super accessible. As uncurated shows go, this is as good as it gets, and the Brucennial is completely worth checking out while it’s up  (159 Bleecker Street, 12-6, through Sunday). My iPhone highlights, with commentary, below.

Somehow no one in this shot is wearing large glasses or is proudly displaying their can of PBR. Just imagine the beer and more hipsters.

I've cropped this image because it was horrible to look at without some alteration, but for context sake: This attention grabbing Bruce High Quality Foundation painting hangs at the front entrance along with a few other works. It is the first work a viewer will see.

An actual Cindy Sherman placed beside a Bruce High Quality Foundation founding document. Also near the front.

So far this slide show is demonstrating just how far democratic hanging goes to level the economic playing field: A Warhol beside a Keith Haring.

Damien Hirst's spots made an appearance.

It's hard to say which art work on view displayed the most hipster characteristics, but for lack of any Ryan McGinnleys, these fingers in the air have my vote.

On the one hand it's really too bad I didn't take a better shot of this, on the other it's probably not necessary. Mostly I took this picture for the artists whose work got placed underneath this one. Nic Cueva (bottom left), I'm looking at you.

No real reason for posting this past as typical example of the hanging, which was really very good.


ArtistDominic March 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Julian Schnabel art dealer? or Vito?

Will Brand March 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Whoops. Vito, of course. Thanks.

Tom March 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

So you went to a show that features hundreds of lesser known artists and took terrible pictures of the art stars in the show? At the same time, didn’t bother to mention those lesser known artists that did make it into ay of the pics? I don’t intend this as an attacking comment, I’m honestly trying to make sense of this coverage and it’s intention.

Paddy Johnson March 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Yeah, the photos are bad and labeling is incomplete. The works themselves were often not clearly labeled though, so the coverage reflects the nature of the show. The post is really just meant to give an overall impression of the exhibition. It’s not a review, and isn’t trying to give exposure to under-known artists who deserve it. The party and networking might achieve that end, but the show itself isn’t designed to make that end easy. 

Tom March 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thanks. The show is not designed to give attention to under-known artists? That would be a shame. I was seeing this as a positive counterpoint to the Whitney’s grouping of institutionally approved artists. 

Paddy Johnson March 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Well, that’s just my opinion. It’s just a lot to ask of an uncurated show. I think this is show is a million times better than the one at the X-Initiative two years ago, but it’s still really hard to learn about the artist work. I mean, if you’re interested in the artist and they have a common name, how would you get in touch with them or find out more about their work? I think it’s really difficult. 

Beepbeep March 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm

dudes…they invited the participants. it’s not open call. 

uffthefluff July 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

 Ha, your charlatan fear was justified apparently.

Paddy Johnson March 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Totally, but it was a pretty loose operation no? Like, they invited the participants, the participants brought friends etc. 

Adam Zucker March 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

While it is fun and awesome, Brucennial’s concept is nothing new in the contemporary NY art scene. Sideshow gallery has been doing this for years but doesn’t seem to get the same PR. The current show MIC: CHECK (The: human mic) actually features more artists and work then the Brucennial 489 artists and 520 works.

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