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Julian Schnabel, Ascendant

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Last night was sweet revenge for Julian Schnabel. The portly painter, who fell way out of art-world favor in the nineties but is now roaringly back in, presided — tanned, in purple pajamas — over a packed opening of his "Navigation" series of drawings just hours after he was nominated for a Directors Guild of America award for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. We'd tell you if the art at Sperone Westwater Gallery — abstract oil paintings over vintage maps — was any good, but the few hundred people wearing black, plus Al Pacino, blocked anything but glimpses. "You can't see the works," moaned dealer Angela Westwater, still happy at the crush of crowds. Jeff Koons confabbed in the corner with Interview publisher and art-flipper Peter Brant, until Jeffrey Deitch cut in. We heard rumors of Ben Gazzara and met Lisa Dennison, late of Guggenheim and now of Sotheby's, on her way in.

Off-center, a smiling Schnabel introduced Ross Bleckner to friends and signed catalogues like a rock star granting groupies autographs. "Thank you, thank you very much," he repeated often, accepting congratulations on both the artworks and the DGA nod. "What was your name again?" he asked someone, who turned out to be powerhouse New York art collector Ranbir Singh. Apparently Singh won't be starring in Schneighbors anytime soon. —Alexandra Peers