The “Third and a half” Brucennial opened last night in New York City, the 2012 edition titled, “Harderer. Betterer. Fasterer. Strongerer.” At 159 Bleecker Street, the high-ceilinged art-filled space reached its capacity of 15,000—with a line around the block—shortly after opening its doors at 6 PM. Organized by the anonymous Bruce High Quality Foundation and Vito Schnabel, a large main room, balcony, and basement, were covered with paintings, sculptures, video-works, and other installations by artists both established and less so. Running the gamut from friends of the Bruces to a Damien Hirst spot painting, exhibiting artists of note include Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Sigmar Polke, Julian Schnabel, Anselm Reyle, Francesco Clemente, Aurel Schmidt, Dan Colen, David Salle, George Condo, Rashid Johnson, Dash Snow, Terence Koh, Richard Prince, Joseph Beuys, Scott Campbell, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Sachs, Andy Warhol (collaboration), and Dustin Yellin.
An organizer named Matt—declaratively not a Bruce—told Art Observed that approximately 500 submissions were narrowed down to “400… no, 420,” and that though an exhibition catalog was planned, several artists made last minute changes and no catalog was available just yet. “There’s always an element of chaos. Herding artists is harder than herding cats.”
Evident throughout, “Professional Challenges. Amateur Solutions.” reads the final line of the foundation’s mission statement. Seemingly a second thought, the works were labeled after the show began via pencil-wielding Bruces writing on the walls, crouching down or hoisted atop each others’ shoulders.
From a hay bale stage Bruce affiliates tossed red screen-printed Tshirts into the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, the perimeter of the stage lined with trash cans full of PBR and ice, or a self-serve station of Kettle One and Johnny Walker Red Label handles, a few mixers, and clear plastic cups. The bathroom walls invited visitors to leave their mark, providing fresh green chalkboards and chalk.
Four performances will be taking place this weekend in conjunction with the Brucennial, the BHQF’s farcical take on the current Cooper Union financial situation, publicized to involve actual chickens playing the role of trustees. Cooper Union is the loosely associated spawning ground of the BHQF, and the BHQF has been outspoken toward the possible shift to charging students tuition at the traditionally free school.
The Brucennial Bleecker Street space sits just south of the campuses of NYU and Cooper Union, a location more or less coincidentally situated right in the middle of the established uptown museums and galleries, Chelsea white walls, and emerging Lower East Side scene. As this year’s Whitney Biennial—in which the BHQF participated in 2010—takes place concurrently, the Brucennial fills a DIY, seemingly more laid-back, yet relevant niche in the New York art scene.
The Hole gallerist Kathy Grayson (right)