For anyone familiar with party scenes in New York City from the heady 1970s on, the name Anthony Haden-Guest — who has a new exhibit opening at Cross Contemporary on Partition Street next weekend, as well as a talk at a new performance venue and B&B on the Saugerties/Woodstock border January 14 — is instantly recognizable.
He’s that witty Brit who used to write about all manner of scenes he’d be in attendance at for decades. The one whose family peerage went to half-brother Christopher Guest (of Spinal Tap fame), whose work (and image) regularly appeared in the New York Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Sunday Times, Esquire, GQ (UK), Radar, Spy and Financial Times. And who the late Christopher Hitchens pegged as the real model for Tom Wolfe’s character study of a drunken expat yellow journalist, Peter Fallows, in the epochal Bonfire of the Vanities.
“I was publishing political cartoons before I started writing,” Haden-Guest said of his inclusion in Word Count, an exhibit of his hand-colored prints alongside materials by Shira Toren and Peter Tunney that opened in December and runs through Sunday, January 15. “That’s another field that’s depreciated over time.”
The scribe known for his reportage on scenes at Studio 54, New York’s art scene of the 1970s and 1980s, and glimpses into the high market value of auction art in more recent years talked about how the world he arose and flourished in is fast disappearing. At least in terms of readership…and recompense.
“Magazines are a melting iceberg. I do some online work for Daily Beast and other sites, some continuing book projects, curation of a few exhibitions, but it’s all much more difficult than it once was,” he said. “Of course, something called the Internet happened. It transferred things from what used to be the best life a writer could have.”
Haden-Guest went on to talk about the proliferation of fake news, and attacks on journalism and intellect in general, noting how it made he and his peers tend to feel that “what we do hasn’t ever been more necessary than it is right now.” He added that wit and humor, his own stocks in trade, have also always grown in sharpness during “harder regimes.”
“We’re all oppositional now,” he added. “It’s just economically more difficult.”
The writer/artist’s works in Word Count at Cross Contemporary tend to present profound quotes with a slightly ominous twist, playing off and with Tunney’s painted and screened over collages of old book pages that “create contemporary clarity over layers of cultural memory,” and Toren’s graphite numbers evoking “the count down at the start of old black and white films as well as the anticipation of what a count down can bring.”
Haden-Guest’s talk, at 7 p.m. in the new boutique venue The Pineapple, 1659 Route 212 Saugerties, just across from Red Onion, is planned as a multi-media conversation featuring new animations and a live reading of poems and essays entitled An Evening with Anthony Haden-Guest.
The Pineapple, added Cross Contemporary’s Jen Dragon, is the art deco living room of a new bed and breakfast establishment featuring modern art and “spacious, elegant interiors in a traditional woodland setting ideal for small gatherings and special events.”
“We will be presenting a renaissance man who is full of stories and insights about current events, the art world and contemporary culture,” Dragon said. “We hope that this will be the first of many monthly cultural salons at The Pineapple that will present writers, artists, performers, singers and musicians to the public in a relaxed and congenial atmosphere.”
How did Haden-Guest get invited for the exhibit and evening?
The man himself says he’s been coming to the Woodstock area from his West Village home in New York City for years.
“It’s a sort of UK thing. You spend part of your time in the town, and some of it in the country,” he explained. “It’s become more interesting of late given some of the problems now in the city, as well as the numbers of city people now up in the country. It’s not exactly rural these days, you know.”
Dragon noted how having Anthony Haden-Guest in her gallery, and as her first guest at The Pineapple, for whom she’s doing curating work, is a bit of a dream come true.
“I was always a fan girl of Anthony’s writing back when I had subscriptions to New York Magazine and Vanity Fair. I loved his NYC culture and Art World coverage as well as the cartoons that would pop up every so often in random publications like the NY Observer,” she said. “I started Cross Contemporary Art with the encouragement of some friends: Ford Crull, Larry Litt, Eleanor Heartney, Mark Kanter and Heather Hutchison. They in turn introduced me to mid-career artists they thought would be a good fit for my small space and Anthony Haden-Guest was one of them.”++
An Evening with Anthony Haden-Guest, an artist talk with reading of rhymes and animation screening presented by Cross Contemporary Art, takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, January 14 at The Pineapple, 1659 Route 212 in Saugerties (close to the junction with Glasco Turnpike). A concurrent art exhibit featuring works by Haden-Guest, Word Count, will stay up through January 15 at Cross Contemporary’s gallery space at 81 Partition Street in Saugerties. For online tickets, see https://bit.ly/ccaahgevent. For more information call Jen Dragon at 399-9751.