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RSVP : The Gagosian Gallery: The Return

October 19, 1995|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Beverly Hills is getting artier and artier. Last month, the PaceWildenstein gallery arrived in town. On Tuesday night, it was the opening--or rather the return of--the Gagosian Gallery.

Principal Larry Gagosian had closed the doors on his L.A. contemporary art gallery 10 years ago and moved to New York. He marked his return to an airy, Richard Meier-designed space on Camden Drive with a two-tiered bash--700 for cocktails in the gallery, 210 for dinner at Mr. Chow. Asked whether he was taking a risk to open locally at this moment in time, Gagosian shrugged, "I have no idea. Everything's a gamble. I think not opening in Los Angeles is a gamble."

The locals agreed wholeheartedly. "I think Los Angeles is on the rise again," said Jerry Magnin, owner of the Polo shop one block away on Rodeo Drive. "From the ashes, we have risen like the phoenix. As they used to say in Green Bay, 'The pack is back.' "

When they weren't checking each other out, the crowd inspected six mammoth stainless-steel-and-found-object Frank Stella sculptures, the largest 13 feet high and 14 feet long (price tags: $300,000 to $1 million-plus).

"They are intense, physical pieces," as Robert Shapazian, the new gallery's director, put it. How physical? When the flatbed trucks and forklifts came to install them, Stella--a quiet, Coca-Cola swilling, cigar-smoking figure--climbed on them, kicked them, sat on them. "The guy is physically involved, like he's making a being," Shapazian said.

It was inexplicably rumored that President Clinton was going to make an appearance (he didn't); still, there were plenty of famous faces in the crowd, a cross-sampling of movies, money and power art types.

Among those attending were Donald Bren, Terry Semel, Sherry Lansing, Richard Koshalek, Phil Spector, Maurice Tuchman, Alex Von Furstenberg, James Woods, a note-taking Dominick Dunne, David Salle, Steve Tisch, Robert Graham and Anjelica Huston, Bea and Phil Gersh, Rose Tarlow, Francesco Clemente, John Baldessari, Sandra Bernhard and Julian Sands.

A minimalist aesthetic presided over cocktails. Two liquids were served--Pellegrino and Veuve Cliquot champagne--on stainless steel trays passed by black-turtlenecked waiters. But Stella got his can of Coca-Cola. "I have connections," he said.

And there wasn't a morsel to eat. But several hours later, those invited to join Stella, Meier and Gagosian for dinner were treated to a multi-course feast in a setting that was an experience in itself. Event planner Jeffrey Best had created a mirror image of the restaurant's black-and-white checkerboard interior in the parking lot.

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