On Sunday night, Marina Abramovic stood out. At a party Costume National held in her honor, the performance artist sported a lipstick red shirt in a sea of black outerwear. “You can’t miss her,” Tim Hailand advised, “not that you would anyway.”
Hailand has a new book, “One Day in the Life of Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic” (to be published in April), in which he followed Abramovic as she created her operatic biography with Robert Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. It was an experience she called “liberating,” explaining that “giving my story over to someone else [her director, Wilson] made it new…it became his and mine.”
The party took place in a recently finished West Village town house, a cavernous, whitewashed Escher maze of a space filled with glass and centered around a roughly hewn slate stairwell. The party line was that the house was going on the market the next day; this was the first time it had been seen in its finished entirety. Security guards were strict about abandoned glassware. “Gotta keep it pristine,” one guard shrugged, collecting two full glasses from a windowsill before adding, “Not that I want to live here.” It felt more like a gallery than a private residence: each floor held two small rooms connected by a glass platform; in some, partygoers could sit atop long, black benches facing television screens that played scenes from the project, in others, Hailand’s photographs were the only visuals. The lights were kept quite dim everywhere but on the photographs. Bathrooms were not easy to locate. One or two guests had accidentally become locked in the upstairs facilities, and those became off-limits.
Partygoers tended to keep to the ground floor in large crowds near the bar: St-Germain had made a signature cocktail for Abramovic called L’Artiste. It was very tart and incorporated Champagne. Lou Reed and wife Laurie Anderson swept through the fete, as did Alba and Chiara Clemente, Richard Phillips, Waris Ahluwalia and Marco Brambilla.
“It’s sort of unexpected, isn’t it?” Hailand said of the layout of the works, walking from one room to the next “we want people to just move around, happen across everything naturally.” Abramovic had just arrived from the Berlin Film Festival that day, a destination Hailand was headed for after a few months spent northwest of Paris, in Giverny. “I’ll be staying in Claude Monet’s house for a residency and then moving into my new apartment in Prenzlauer Berg,” the photographer explained.
Berlin has been a recently popular destination for artists fed up with the New York scene. He agreed, “People say it’s like New York in the Seventies…but in New York in the Seventies people did cocaine all night and went and worked for Halston in the morning. In Berlin they don’t do anything in the morning.”