Pies at Anna Frants Gallery, Champagne at Natalia Lyakh’s Apartment Party

On Friday, pirozhki were served: some with meat, others with jam. At Anna Frants’ gallery (Frants Gallery) in Soho, there’s a long-standing tradition: an exhibition opening always features pirozhki.

This time, they showcased new works by the St. Petersburg artist Vitaly Pushnitsky, united by a common theme – burn marks on paper. The burnt sheets resemble graphic drawings executed in 3D: where the burn is imprinted on the paper, it becomes voluminous, as if swelling, and one can discern a window or even a door to the unknown.

At the opening, I couldn’t properly examine all this – there were too many distractions. I had to greet everyone (like artist Andrey Molodkin, a rare visitor in New York, who shared that he was preparing an exhibition featuring installations with real oil flowing through tubes) and clink plastic wine cups (Vasya Sluchevsky, a creative director and joker, finally revealed what he does – it turns out he’s creating a website for Michael Jackson. “How’s Michael doing?” – “Seems like he’s not making any money at all. Maybe he’s looking for an apartment in the ghetto. That’s why he’s releasing a cover album to be distributed over the Internet”). Anna Frants’ huge, phlegmatic basset hound wandered around the gallery, sniffing each guest. The dog repeatedly tried to snatch someone’s pirozhok, but due to its clumsiness, it never succeeded. “Where do you get pirozhki in Soho?” – I asked. “We order them from known grandmothers in Brighton Beach,” explained Anna’s husband Leonid Frants, “and they’re always different, each grandmother has her own way of cooking them.”

Exhibitions often offer something like that: cookies, canapés, as if to lure viewers – if not with spectacles, then with bread. At Canada Gallery during the Sowing Circle short film presentation that same Friday, they even set up a table with candles and cutlery – everyone could cut off some cheese or a French baguette. This table was quite appropriate – in the film, several girls, including actress Chloë Sevigny and artist Rita Ackermann, sat at a table, eating and talking. Everyone was waiting for Chloë, the muse of alternative New York, but she didn’t show up, although there were several girls at the opening who looked very much like her. The film itself turned out to be a lyrical postcard about girlfriends, liked by the girls but somewhat boring for men to watch: after all, Sowing Circle is essentially a women’s club where they do needlework and gossip about husbands and rivals.

In light of the new crisis realities, such clubs might well make a comeback. Girls in creative professions will no longer be able to afford Birkin bags, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and endless Cosmopolitans, but home gatherings and themed parties will revive – perhaps even knitting will become fashionable again. Apartment parties are gaining popularity. For instance, the party by video artist Natalia Lyakh and her French friend Catherine Kasting last Saturday was successful for several reasons: lots of champagne brought by guests, many people, lots of glitter (the theme of the party was everything shiny). There were Vitaly Pushnitsky and Leonid Frants, whom everyone had congratulated the day before on the exhibition opening. Some danced, others tied champagne cups to balloons: will they fly or not? There was indeed plenty of champagne. The invitation even specified to bring “any bubbly alcohol,” which is right – during a recession, you need to organize parties on a budget: everyone brings what they have, and the fun is shared by all.

Ekaterina Kibovskaya