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First Downtown Biennial

All Holes Matter. Why certainly! Art from the Biennial from Ajay Kurian. (Photo by Estate of Fred W. McDarrah)

All Holes Matter. Why certainly! Art from the Biennial from Ajay Kurian. (Photo by Estate of Fred W. McDarrah)

The first Whitney Biennial below 14th Street opens March 17 - and we got a sneak peek Monday. The younger and lesser known artists chosen to participate in the contemporary survey always set trends, and the show is always one of the most controversial of the year.

Museum Director Adam Weinberg and Biennial curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks were on hand as were many of the artists.

There is some good work, some is overtly political, some funny, some waaaaay too derivative, and some, well, not so good. The Whitney building remains a work of art. That is why you should go see it. It is up thru June 11.

(The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932 when the museum was on 8th St.; the first official biennial was at the Madison Avenue space in 1973.)

The Biennial is a great way to spend an afternoon, especially after learning about the original Whitney and so much more on a Save the Village tour.

Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum and Biennial curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks. (Photo by Estate of Fred W. McDarrah)

Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum and Biennial curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks. (Photo by Estate of Fred W. McDarrah)

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Old/New

The corner of Prince and Wooster Streets in 1972

The corner of Prince and Wooster Streets in 1972

  The restaurant FOOD was Soho at the beginning. And it is central to the new Artist's World tour in the sense that the tour doesn't use the word "juxtaposition," "derivative" or "brush stroke" in its narrative.

  The tour is more about their world, not necessarily their work. You can get that elsewhere, or at a museum or out of a book. Not many books feature what Pop or Minimalist artists ate for dinner. But that kind of stuff is important to any culture or civilization.  

  As the New York Times put so well in the obituary for FOOD co-creator and downtown artist Gordon Matta-Clark, "The restaurant lasted not quite three years in its original incarnation, as the artists who cooked in it and who ran it, more as a utopian enterprise than a business, burned out or moved on.

  "But many of the vaguely countercultural ideas fostered there — fresh and seasonal foods, a geographically catholic menu, a kitchen fully open to the dining room, cooking as a kind of performance — have now become so ingrained in restaurants in New York and other large cities that it is hard to remember a time when such a place would have seemed almost extraterrestrial....

  "Artists were also invited weekly to serve as guest chefs, and the whole dinner was considered a performance art piece. One of the most fabled, costing $4, was Matta-Clark’s 'bone dinner,' which featured oxtail soup, roasted marrow bones and frogs’ legs, among other bony entrees. After the plates were cleared, the bones were scrubbed and strung together so that diners could wear their leftovers home.

  " 'It looked like an anthropological site,' said the artist Keith Sonnier, another guest chef and a member of the extended FOOD crowd, one that also included members of Philip Glass’s ensemble, dancers from Trisha Brown’s company and other artists like Robert Kushner and Donald Judd, who lived in SoHo before it was called SoHo."

  Learn more about FOOD, what the artists ate, and where they lived, worked, played and drank on the new tour, Save the Village: The Artist's World.

The corner of Prince and Wooster Streets today. It is branch of Lululemon, the high end (is there any other end?) yoga gear store - but only men's clothes. Ladies are in the store across the street. Barf.

The corner of Prince and Wooster Streets today. It is branch of Lululemon, the high end (is there any other end?) yoga gear store - but only men's clothes. Ladies are in the store across the street. Barf.

Art tour ready to go

420 West Broadway, the first big time SoHo gallery building, on Thanksgiving 2015.

420 West Broadway, the first big time SoHo gallery building, on Thanksgiving 2015.

420 West Broadway, the first big time SoHo gallery building, on opening day in 1971. Photo by Fred W. McDarrah

420 West Broadway, the first big time SoHo gallery building, on opening day in 1971. Photo by Fred W. McDarrah

   Save the Village: The Artist's World, a new walking tour of the photos of Fred W. McDarrah, kicks off December 5.

   Virtually every important postwar art trend matriculated below Manhattan's 14th St. 

   The Abstract Expressionists and the New York School, the nascent Soho and use of repurposed industrial spaces as studio and gallery for Pop artists, performance and site-specific installations, the East Village graffiti galleries and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks - arguably the most famous American painting of them all - all happened within walking distance of each other.

   Fred W. McDarrah, the longtime Village Voice photographer and picture editor, was right there with his camera as it happened. His iconic art world photos are the basis for this new walking tour.

   See where Robert Rauschenberg inadvertently started the sushi craze in New York City over 40 years ago. What other tour can offer you that!?

  While McDarrah's 250,000-image archive is an encyclopedic catalog of the people, places, movements, trends and events of the New York scene over the second half of the 20th century, his collection of photographs of artists is truly unique and often the sole visual record of a special time and place in the history of American art.

  The Artist's World tour, based on a 2015 exhibition at Chelsea's Steven Kasher Gallery that featured vintage photos from McDarrah's seminal 1961 book The Artist's World, is the third in a series of four Greenwich Village Walking Tours based on the photographs of McDarrah, including the ongoing Save The Village and The Beats and Bob Dylan tours, and starting later this fall, the St. Marks Place/East Village tour.

  Tickets are $25 (Adult) and $15 (Students, seniors, individuals with a valid library card, or a membership in a Historic Preservation Society, Group or Association) and every ticket includes a keepsake postcard packet.

   All tours are available for private bookings; custom or combination tours can be arranged. For tour schedules, to make reservations and for more information, go to SaveTheVillageTours.com.