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Art, Carnies

Gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin opens his New York space with a carnival-themed bash

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Pharrell Williams and Swizz Beatz   
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Some say today's art world is a circus. True or not, super-gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin seemed more than happy to play ringmaster last night at the Russian Tea Room, where he hosted a carnival-themed celebration for his new Manhattan outpost.

All four floors of the storied venue were put into service for the bash, which drew the likes of Maurizio Cattelan and Tamara Mellon. So, too, were a handful of Perrotin's big-name artists, who staffed the county-fair attractions on the top floor. There was KAWS, handing out art trinkets; Daniel Arsham, overseeing the ring toss; and the semi-anonymous French artist JR manning the photo booth. Collectors and other art-world notables queued up to try their luck against a claw machine. Build it, fill it with plush toys by Takashi Murakami, and they will come.

Perrotin—who made a name for himself years ago, at 21, when he organized Damien Hirst's first exhibition—splashed through it all in a Lanvin suit, thanking everyone. "Is it necessary? I don't know," he offered. "I just wanted to throw the kind of party that I would be happy to be invited to."

Housed in a former bank, his new gallery on Madison Avenue is part of a mini-empire that includes spaces in Paris and Hong Kong. Earlier in the evening, Perrotin unveiled a colorful show there by Paola Pivi that features frolicking, feather-covered polar bears and a machine that intermittently spits out money. (The title: Ok, You Are Better Than Me, So What?)

Jeffrey Deitch circulated, a folder clutched to his chest. Pharrell Williams, meanwhile, was happy to play humble spectator. "Who am I to say? I am yet a novice, a mere layman walking around just learning and sponging from people," he explained. "But from what I can tell, it's an amazing environment, and it just puts a different spin on art." One, he might have added, that smells like popcorn.

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