The opening night of the artists-in-residence exhibition is the most popular annual event at the Studio Museum of Harlem, and this year’s show, “Figuratively,” which bowed last Thursday, was no exception. Art world heavies Jeffrey Deitch and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn packed in with the teeming crowd that spilled out onto 125th Street.
Curator Thelma Golden compared the show — the culmination of nine months of work by artists Dave McKenzie, Wangechi Mutu and William Villalongo — to a fine meal.
“It’s like sitting around cooking dinner, and then, suddenly, it’s done,” she said.
Assistant curator Christine Kim, who oversees the artists-in-residence program, said observing the young artists, whose studios are on the museum’s third floor, is a personal thrill.
“Seeing a line become a body and then a landscape never loses its fascination for me,” said Kim, who, as designer Peter Som’s best friend and muse, is no stranger to the creative process.
Mutu’s mixed media portraits created the biggest sensation as gallery goers crowded around her otherworldly collages of the African female body.
“She’s going to be a star,” declared Corey Baylor, a member of the museum’s acquisitions committee.
While Mutu mingled with collectors, alumni and friends, she was already enjoying a perk of her budding celebrity: getting acquainted with other celebrities.
“Oprah’s best friend is here,” squealed the Kenya native as a pal informed her Winfrey’s bosom buddy, Gayle King, had arrived. “I have to meet her.”