Brice Marden: Forget About Public Art; Jeff Koons: Just Fix the Potholes!

From left, Koons; Marden Photo: Photos: Patrick McMullan

Brice Marden was one of several big-name artists who turned out last night for a gala dinner at Gagosian Gallery celebrating the 30th anniversary of Studio in a School, a nonprofit that hooks up public-school students with materials and artist mentors — with the goal, Marden seemed to be hoping, of improving all the crappy public art in the city.

"Who's that guy with the bulls? I don't like those," he said, referring to Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor best known for a certain 7,000-pound bronze icon just off Wall Street. "It's just anecdotal, it doesn't have much art involved." He was being charmingly vague and off-handed and unashamedly highfalutin — probably the way all accomplished abstract painters are, come to think of it. What would his next target be? Surely not Garden in Transit, the ambitious taxi-painting project conceived of as a creative outlet for disabled children! "I hated the daisies on the cabs," he said. "Disgusting! Just awful. They're the tritest, most banal — you know, and this is like New York City, the great cultural center."

We suggested that maybe Marden, best known for his gorgeous squiggles, could hit the streets and show those kids how it's done? He shrugged. "I don't know. There's enough public art out there already."

We have to admit, we love the man's candor. Plus, Jeff Koons had his back. Moments later, when we asked the oversize-kitsch specialist how he felt about New York public art, he said he was more concerned about potholes. Maybe Koons had some ideas for dressing them up? We had a vision of brigades of enormous topiary puppies replacing those boring old pylons. "No," Koons said. "Just, uh — fix 'em." —Darrell Hartman