Throughout the year, New York Magazine publishes special issues about fashion and money and food and various other subjects that obsess and enthrall (and occasionally bewilder) those of us who live here. This is not one of those issues. But along with stories on incoming Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel and outgoing Giant Tiki Barber and Everything Guide to city-friendly puppies, it features three articles on artists, each outrageous in his own way. This happened more by accident than by design, so we decided to break form and tell a little bit about why. For several months, contributing editor Ariel Levy had been following around the almost-famous and already-notorious Dash Snow, 25, a graffiti kid who descends from art-world royalty and likes to use his own semen in his artwork, and his good friends Ryan McGinley, the photographer of record for downtown, and McGinley’s roommate, the artist Dan Colen. Taken as a whole, this group seems to be trying to jump-start a Warholian moment we thought was worth noting.
As we were getting ready to publish that story, another one we’d assigned came in—on how an artist makes it in this sped-up art world. It focused on Terence Koh, who is, as it happens, also a member of the McGinley circle and who, well, has also been known to use his ejaculate in his work. Koh’s rise has been rocket-fast even by today’s standards. His first American solo museum show opens next week at the Whitney.And then it became clear that we had to do something on Doug Aitken’s new project, which opens next week at MoMA—or, rather, on MoMA: five films screened along its outside walls. Instead of spacing these stories out, we decided to bundle them together, albeit in separate parts of the magazine.
Of course, that these three stories came to populate this issue at this particular cultural moment is certainly no accident. Cash and talent and ego keep coursing madly through the art world, and our coverage is a product of that go-go mood. But the issue also speaks to a corollary New York obsession, that gnawing worry that routinely crops up in a city that feels ever more corporatized: Has New York lost its cool? Is the money here but the real scene elsewhere? And if cool hasn’t up and left, where does it reside these days?
One possible answer is that cool may live where cool has lived for quite some time, in a walk-up on the Bowery with a broken buzzer downstairs and a giant birdhouse on the floor: Dash’s place. Or in a building on Canal Street where every surface has been painted white: Koh’s new Factory. For our part, we remain ambivalent about whether this scene is the real thing. But if downtown is dead, these guys certainly don’t know it.