After the fluorescence of Frieze, last night’s cloistered and barely candlelit opening of Venus Over Manhattan was a shock to the art system. The new gallery at 980 Madison Avenue is the latest passion of Adam Lindemann, and if it seems strange for an art writer and collector to turn dealer at age 50, well, strangeness is part of the aim. “I was fascinated with the novel À Rebours,” Lindemann said, referencing Joris-Karl Huysmans’ decadent classic. “It means ‘against the grain,’ and it’s about a debauched nineteenth-century aristocrat who destroys his life with drugs and art.” (It also gave him the title of his inaugural exhibition.) He was offering a modulated version of excess: a late, 10 p.m. start time (the better to coexist with Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale, one of the big events of the auction house’s year) and a different drink from the usual gallery-opening Champagne. “Have you tried the absinthe yet?” he asked the crowd, which included Linda Evangelista, Rita Ackermann, Hope Atherton, Charlotte Kidd, and Richard Kern.
Elise Øverland had not. “I can’t do hallucinogenics,” murmured the designer (pictured), just back from sabbatical in India. “It’s trippy enough just being in the dark,” added art world impresario Yvonne Force Villareal. “I think this is my first candlelit art opening, and I love the mystery, the feeling that anything could happen.” Erin Fetherston felt it, too. “It’s been so long since I did anything spontaneous,” she said. “I love it. My friends said let’s go to this art thing, and now I’m in a haunted house.”
“Isn’t it so weird here and wonderful?” sighed curator Stacy Engman. “I hardly know what time it is or where I am, but it could only be New York.”