Open Bar Leads to Coat-Check Fiasco at MoMA Kippenberger Retrospective

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Roth in his youth ... snicker. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Martin Kippenberger is aesthetic godfather to some major art stars, at least to judge by the crowd at the Museum of Modern Art opening last night. Actual artists like Elizabeth Peyton, Hans Haacke, Joel Sternfeld, Rachel Harrison, and Chris Martin crowded aside the usual dealers, posers, "junior associates," and supermodel Natalia V. at the retrospective's opening party.

Kippenberger, leader of an eighties-era cadre of hard-drinking German artists, was an early fan of installation and shock art (Pope Benedict condemned his beer-drinking frog on a crucifix, titled First the Feet). MoMA’s 200-plus-piece salute is exhaustive and exhausting.

Video artist Kalup Linzy, whose latest film opens at the Studio Museum of Harlem in April, said he’d come to the show to get “energized.” Kippenberger’s Ford Capri automobile coated in oats and paint “hit you in the gut” as you entered the gallery, he said. Photographer Louise Lawler said it was exciting that an artist so “outside the culture” during his life had been given such a nod by the museum.

An unexpected highlight was some lobby performance art. People fed up at the long coat-check line began piling their coats on the floor, and, two hours into an open bar, a few began diving under, creating a writhing lobby octopus. Security guards broke it up, one noting to the applauding crowd, "This is not part of the Kippenberger exhibition. This is about people drinking too much."