Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paris versus NYC According To Jean-Paul Gaultier

Up-and-coming art impresario Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld blew up NYC's Lower East Side last night in inimitable French style, exhibiting 16 never-before-shown paintings by Parisian artist Nicolas Pol, who is being compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat by French art critics.

The champagne-soaked affair drew an enormous crowd of fashion and society types, from John Paul Gaultier and Neville Wakefield to Mary Kate Olsen and Carine Roitfeld, editor of French Vogue (who just happens to be curator Vladimir Roitfeld's mom).

Nicolas Pol "Studies for a Pink Martus" 
Mixed Media 2009
205 x 310 cm

To whatever extent Mama Roitfeld may have played in attracting the fashiony crowd, sonny must be credited with discovering one of NYC's greatest exhibition venues since Vito Bruno's '80s Outlaw Parties  rocked the 59th Street Bridge (alas, no cops arrived to shut down Roitfeld's affair!).

"It took us seven months to find the space, and get the city to approve it," Vladimir told Savagenyc of the former meat market at 80 Essex Street, near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. "It's the perfect setting for Nicolas's historical but anarchic aesthetic." Roitfeld added. 

Even Gaultier was impressed. 

"It's been too long since I've been to New York, " the '80s powerhouse designer enthused, gesturing to the abandoned market's 20-foot ceilings, decayed moldings and Depression-era neon signs reading MEAT. 

"In Paris we have nothing like this for art." Asked to compare the art scenes of Paris and New York, the style-maker reiterated: "I just told you--it's here that it's happening."

Pol's work, which ran the risk of being overshadowed by all of the celebs and paparazzi, nonetheless rewarded close inspection, showing thought, craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail.

"I am primarily a printmaker who happens to reference abstract painting" said the artist of his new work, which indeed revealed, under giant neon splashes and livid brush strokes, intricate prints made from what Pol says are original etchings, influenced by Goya's war drawings.

Nicolas Pol "Puaka Crusade" 2007
Mixed Media, 130 x 300 cm

The artist, although shy and unassuming amidst all the revelry, is no shrinking violet. Once arrested by French police for spraying graffiti on Paris buildings, Pol says a childhood experience discovering the rotting corpse of an elephant in Africa strongly influenced his aesthetic, which references executions, war and environmental apocalypse, as well as art history's Western European tradition, from Hans Holbein the Younger to Velasquez, to the afore-mentioned Goya.

When asked about comparisons to Basquiat, Pol shrugs and explains that if he references superstars like Goya and Velasquez, then he can't exactly "leave out" American art stars like Basquiat, Warhol and Robert Motherwell.

"My artwork is like creating emotionally moving music for a silent film. I want to create a narrative for people to think about while discovering my work," the artist says of his new work. Pol also says he's highly influenced by film, from Hitchcock to David Lynch to David Cronenberg.

Sources say two of the paintings have already sold, one for close to six figures.Pay a visit to 80 Essex Street, where you can see Nicolas Pol's engrossing new work. 
While you're there, savor the venue, a shrine to Lower East Side grime and glory.

Nicolas Pol
"The Martus Maw"
80 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002

Through December 10th