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Petah Coyne installation (Courtesy of Galerie Lelong)

The art world’s rolling-in-money days may be dwindling, but you’d never know it from the plethora of substantial gallery shows in Chelsea right now. Maybe the most habitually denounced of all art ZIP codes is staging a last grand stand, signaling its intention to go down fighting or at least to put a good face on things. Maybe it is just pulling out the stops during the fall art auctions, when lots of collectors are in town.

Whichever it is, this weekend Chelsea provides an ever-humbling, close to encyclopedic survey of ways of making and showing art. It runs the gamut from blue chip to schlock, die-hard hip to clueless, and good to pedestrian to egregious, often within close proximity. There are two- and three-gallery franchises (Gladstone, Gagosian, Paula Cooper, 303, Matthew Marks) and tiny holes in the wall, especially on 27th Street. Galleries continue to arrive as others relocate to the Lower East Side.

The array reminds you that the No. 1 rule for looking at art is: no rules. You must be willing to be betrayed by your taste, or put another way, to let yourself be dazed and confused by art that runs counter to your most dearly held ideals, agendas, prejudices and so-called standards.

My favorite show by a least favorite artist is Petah Coyne’s over-the-top exhibition of tarlike masses of black-red roses and entangled creatures both feathered and furred (stuffed, of course) at Galerie Lelong. It is a statement about environmental and material waste that itself wastes material. Ms. Coyne is pushing her Victorian aesthetic to the limit, so don’t miss it.

In Chelsea you can sense the over-enthusiasm for beautifully made but regressive Chinese art, especially on West 25th Street. Yet on the same street you may be drawn into Gana Art, as I was, by the paintings of Sa Suk-Won. In his first show in New York this 48-year-old Korean artist paints on calligraphy-covered chalkboards, reiterating neo-Expressionism with fans, whisks, headdresses and other Asian artifacts. The paintings remind you that any art idea is as alive as an individual artist can make it.

Roberta Smith
New York Times

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