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Terence Koh Speaks in Tongues at the National Arts Club

The talented Mr. Terence Koh, whose poetic and provocative artworks have been labeled both brilliant and the emperor’s new clothes, was at his best last week when he delivered the performance piece Art History 1642-2009 at New York’s venerable National Arts Club. Speaking to a packed house of art-world sophisticates in a completely unintelligible language, he railed, whispered, gestured, and danced his way through a visually entertaining lecture about art since the time of Goya.

Organized by National Arts Club Contemporary Art Chair and Curator Stacy Engman, who wore a Goya-inspired couture outfit designed by threeASFOUR for the occasion, and presented under PERFORMA’s Visual Art Performance Biennial, the amusing event was theatrically programmed from beginning to end. Guests — including P.S.1’s new director, Klaus Beisenbach; collectors Beth DeWoody and Phil and Shelley Aarons; art dealers Jeffrey Deitch, Mary Boone, and Vito Schnabel; artists Marina Abramovic, Will Cotton, Aurel Schmidt, and Kalup Linzy; and downtown heavies Sophie Lamar and Aaron Bondaroff — were started off with food and drink specially created for the night, and a pianist, who was dressed in white at a white piano, where he repeatedly played Ave Maria.

The buffet menu — consisting of Pernod’s absinthe to honor Vincent van Gogh, chilled Campbell’s soup to reference Andy Warhol, mussels in praise of Marcel Broodthaers, ant candy and éclairs with fake ants to commemorate Salvador Dali, a block of cheese that resembled a block of fat to remember Joseph Beuys, and 1,000-year, black eggs to conjure the presence of Chinese artists — was designed to match the variety of artists in the slide show. From Rembrandt and Vermeer to Duchamp, Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Cotton, and Schmidt, Koh constructed a personal take on art in the lecture that had a universal appeal. The audience was mesmerized for 45 minutes, even though no one could understand a word he said.

Terence Koh performing Art History 1642-2009 at the National Arts Club. Photo JP PULLOS/PatrickMcMullan.com ©Patrick McMullan

Terence Koh performing Art History 1642-2009 at the National Arts Club. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

National Arts Club's Contemporary Art Chair and Chief Curator Stacy Engman

National Arts Club's Contemporary Art Chair and Chief Curator Stacy Engman, wearing a Goya-inspired outfit designed for the occasion by ThreeASFOUR. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

National Arts Club's President O. Aldon James Jr.

National Arts Club's President O. Aldon James Jr, wearing rose-colored glasses. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

Art Production Fund's Doreen Remen and Casey Fremont enjoying ant covered eclairs with a friend

Art Production Fund's Doreen Remen and Casey Fremont enjoying Koh's ant-covered eclairs with a friend. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

Counter-culture fashionista Sophia Lamar sipping Campbell's Tomato Soup from a can

Counter-culture fashionista Sophia Lamar sipping Campbell's Tomato Soup from a can. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

Art dealer Vito Schnabel and design-maven Kyle DeWoody

Art dealer Vito Schnabel and design-maven Kyle DeWoody. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

Terence Koh and celebrated performance artist Marina Abramovic

Terence Koh and celebrated performance artist Marina Abramovic. Courtesy the National Arts Club and Patrick McMullan.

More images from the performance and reception are available on Zimbio.

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