Sitting on the floor of his Las Vegas hotel room, L.A. art dealer Ernie Wolfe rummaged through a cooler and grabbed a live lobster. This one, he said, he would give to cultural critic David Hickey, who at that very moment was 20 floors below celebrating the opening of the Godt-Cleary Gallery in the Mandalay Bay hotel.
The new gallery is an art-serious addition to the notoriously kitsch city. Although there are others along the Strip -- the one at the Venetian was showing paintings by the singer Donna Summer -- Godt-Cleary Gallery looks to be different. There will be no crying clowns.
Visitors to the Nov. 21 reception where Wolfe was handing out crustaceans were mostly New York and Los Angeles art dealers, but also a few artists. They were greeted by Jeff Koons' ceramic puppies stuffed with pink and yellow flowers. (Price tag, sans greenery: $1,850.) Behind the dogs was a set of Cindy Sherman's yellow Limoges china featuring her portrait as Madame de Pompadour. (A steal at $3,500. A soup terrine was $11,000.) On the walls was the first show: prints by Ed Ruscha.
The neighborhood -- a shopping arcade that links the Mandalay Bay and Luxor hotels -- includes an upscale wine shop, a bookstore and a lingerie boutique. Michele Quinn, the gallery director who gave up a job at Brooke Alexander Editions in SoHo to work here, showed optimism worthy of Vegas. "Me being in a mall is somewhat of a culture shock," she said with a little giggle. "But we're on the cultural side of the mall."
On opening night, contemporary art tchotchkes sold briskly. Objects ranged from the $25 olive oil plates by artist Mary Judge to a $325,000 Ruscha painting. Some of the guests commented on the Vegas mark-up of the prints. Finding the right price point can be tough, said painter Ed Moses. "If it's too cheap, they don't want it, and if it's too expensive, they don't want it, either."
Quinn didn't expect many gamblers to buy art impulsively after a win. Employing a Rumsfeldian construction, she mused: "Is it going to happen once in a while? Possibly. But I'm not going to base the business on it."
Hickey, by the way, got his lobster, but passed it on to another guest. "They just went around and around," Wolfe said later. "They were the musical lobsters there for a while."
Lifetime achievement award for Davidson
Accepting a career achievement award from LA Stage Alliance at the Ovation Awards ceremony last Sunday, Gordon Davidson quipped, "If you hang around long enough, you might wind up with one of these things."
Actually, if you hang around long enough, you can wind up with two.
The artistic director/producer of Center Theatre Group received a similar award for lifetime achievement from the same organization -- then called Theatre LA -- at the Ovation Awards ceremony in 1992.
Davidson's full-page bio in this year's Ovation Awards program mentioned several other awards he has received but overlooked that 1992 Ovation. Then again, the bio also misspelled his name, in all caps and boldface in the first sentence, "Gordon Davison."
Not your average museum gift shop item
Amid the books, posters and T-shirts available from MOCA's shop is one real whopper: a $50,000 original artwork by Robert Rauschenberg.
The piece is actually a door that Rauschenberg created as part of a fundraiser for the museum several years ago. MOCA has only two left: his and one by Catherine Opie, which costs $8,000.
It's a fully functional door, says Grand Breding, the director of retail operations for MOCA. "It's actually on two sides, and it would be considered a mixed-media piece. He's applied bits of images and some paint, very much like any of his other works. It's very recognizable as his style -- a little bit messy and a little bit dirty."
The door isn't on display in any of MOCA's three gift shops -- on Grand Avenue downtown, in Little Tokyo, or in Santa Monica -- but only online at www.moca.org/store.
Click and add it to your electronic shopping cart and they'll ship it out in a secure crate, Breding says, so long as "you've got the right credit card, and it gets authorized."
MOCA sells high-end items on its Web site quite frequently, he says, often to overseas buyers. The museum also offers limited-edition prints of Frank Gehry's Disney Hall sketches ($12,500 for a set of 10) as well as a 10-photo portfolio curated by Cindy Sherman for $2,500.
MOCA members do get a 10% discount.
-- Robin Rauzi