Sunday, February 12, 2012

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: New York Finish Line

On Friday morning at Heathrow, I boarded a jet bound for D.C. and then hopped on a plane to LaGuardia and checked into my hotel in Times Square by 4:45pm. 

I thought I might finish the Challenge a day earlier than previously scheduled, but it would be a bit of a race.  After quickly freshening up, I met my dear friend Janet, who lives in New York, in the lobby, and we took the subway to Chelsea.  Wow.  I'm glad I saved New York for last, because the galleries and exhibits in NYC are the most impressive of all of them, in my opinion.  We visited the 24th Street Gallery first, which is between 10th and 11th, and the space and some of the spot paintings were huge!  After traveling around the world and seeing all the Gagosian galleries and Spot Painting exhibits, seeing these pieces on such a large scale was thrilling.

The 21st Street gallery is three short blocks and a 10 minute walk away, and I was similarly impressed with the exhibit.

The gallery staff at both galleries were nice and congratulatory when they saw how far I'd gotten on the Challenge.  By this time, it was 5:45pm, and the young lady who processed my spot asked whether I planned to go to the gallery on the Upper East Side tonight, to which I replied, yes.  Did I plan to get there in the next 15 minutes?  Uh oh.  I had assumed that the galleries in New York were open until 7pm, but they are open from 10am - 6pm.  So it turned out I would have to complete the challenge on Saturday after all.  No matter.  I was feeling great at this point knowing that all the planning and focus on completing the Challenge would come to a successful end tomorrow.  Janet and I walked the High Line and got caught up as old friends do, and then we tucked into Macy's so I could buy some fresh clothes (world challenge tip:  When traveling a world challenge with minimal luggage for maximum mobility, use old underwear --that you would have normally have thrown out at home-- that you have saved for such an occasion.  Toss said clothing and buy new as you go.  At the end of your travels, you will have the same volume of clothing in your carry on.).  Then we went to Rosa Mexicana and had margaritas and delicious Mexican food in a pre-completion celebration.
I got a great night's sleep -- 9 hours -- and the next morning Janet joined me again for the final, final stop -- Gagosian central on Madison Avenue, between 76th and 77th. 

When you enter the building, you need to go to the elevator that is off to the left side and go to the 6th floor.  The gallery is on several floors, and Janet and I took our time enjoying the exhibit before I presented my card for the final spot.  The young lady who processed it, Alexine, could not have been nicer -- thank you.  What a wonderful way to end the challenge. 

I had my picture taken in front of the first painting, Spot Painting, 1986, Household gloss on canvas, which started it all. 

Another young lady took me around the gallery and took photos of me in front of various paintings, and then the formalities were discussed, and it was done!  Amazing.  Nine days after I left for Hong Kong I had collect the 11th, and final, spot in a whirlwind trip around the world!  Elation.

Later that afternoon I boarded a flight headed for L.A., and by 8pm I was home with my puppy Bandit. 

People ask why I took on this challenge.  I've resisted commenting on the art, as I feel my comments would sound trite.  Although I love art, I am not an artist.  Nor am I educated in art.  Nor, frankly, do I really understand it.  But I do react to it.  The spot paintings made me feel something which I cannot adequately describe.  I very much enjoy viewing them, and viewing them in so many different spaces around the world has been great fun.  The Challenge also stirred in me the spirit of adventure and compelled me to try to complete it, if I could do so in a reasonable amount of time and within a reasonable budget.  The journey was indeed challenging, but I had a blast! 

I hope this blog will help fellow Challengers, and I'd like to thank all the wonderful Gagosian gallery staff I met around the world and, finally, Damien Hirst for creating the art.