Last week I was on an art tear that coincided with New York Art week – the first week of May.
The scene was Pier 94 with my friend Robin on the opening night of Context New York (produced by Art Miami). Our goal was to take in all 150 galleries.
We must have gotten there before the work crowds descended because the place was crowd-free.
Robin and I found some great new stuff – our favorite being a pigeon coop filled with dozens of animated pigeons connected to some intricate motherboard system. Mesmerized – we watched these little birds for a long time and of course posted our video of them on Instagram.
After a full sweep through every gallery we were famished and headed back to our car. On arrival, we had dangerously walked a narrow ramp from the parking area down to the art fair despite the outdoor freight elevator that was recommended. We were only one or two flights from the fair so I convinced Robin to walk down — not a good move. There was no pedestrian walk area and it was dangerous. We agreed to use the elevator on our way back.
As we left the fair, we headed to the freight elevator. There was not a soul in site – or so we thought. As the enormous doors opened, we entered the cavernous vault that could easily fit 3 SUVs and 10 of those pigeon coops.
Out of nowhere, inside, a 30-something man in heavy rimmed stylish glasses was standing by the floor buttons. Robin and I looked at each other and took a step back deeper into the vaulted elevator as the heavy doors slowly began to close.
An arm extended out of nowhere blocking the doors from closing – we gasped and in stomped a slim stylish 30-something woman with short blond hair a sweeping leather cape of fish netted leather draped over her slim pants –wearing heavy black platforms.
She faced the closing doors and angrily blew the last drag from her cigarette between the crevice of the now closing doors and then with a dramatic gesture, brilliantly flicked the butt of the cig out as well.
Robin and I glanced at each other in amazement. I wanted to applaud but then… she started yelling – she was trembling with anger and her back was to us but the man by the elevator controls was facing us while listening to her and appeared to be getting very upset.
This scene felt abusive and it didn’t help she was speaking Russian or some harsh Slavic language. We didn’t understand one word.
We could see her shoulders slump as the man began to yell. He faced us as he screamed at her – her shoulders started to shake. I whispered to Robin, “She’s crying.”
But then she seemed to find her strength and began to yell again, still facing the doors with her back to us – and he yelled some more still projecting toward us as though we were his audience. She never turned around – her screams were directed at the elevator doors.
Robin and I were trapped in this crazy fight. We were captives. “This elevator is so slow – this is too intense,” I thought..
The 3rd floor button had been pressed but it didn’t seem like we were moving at all.
Robin nervously laughed and whispered, “Is this a play or a real fight – this is better than the art show.”
My mind flashed to the pigeon coop and I whispered to Robin, “We are trapped in the pigeon coop.”
Maybe this was part of the art fair – could it be real? Perhaps “The Unhappy Couple” was a performance art piece that was in previews and we were experiencing it between Floors 1 and 3..
The strangest thing was, we were not invisible bystanders, but that didn’t get in their way. It was painful to watch this misery unfolding and to just stand there passively.
“I don’t know what you are saying or what language you are speaking, but I am truly sorry about what is happening here,” I said…hoping they understood English.
The woman stopped yelling – the man smirked nervously.
“I am alone – all alone now – this is bad,” he said.
His body language gave off an aura of the abuser and his verbal language gave off sadness. Very confusing.
As the doors opened to the outdoor parking lot, he bolted out and she chased him still screaming in Russian.
“Let’s follow them,” Robin said. “I think we are in a play and we need to see what happens next.”
We raced to our car trying to catch up with them – but there was no sign of them.
“What had we just experienced’?
Art imitating life or life imitating art …. “Only in New York,” I thought.