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Hennessy Youngman performs at NADA art fair

Hennessy Youngman giving his “His History of Art” lecture at NADA Miami Beach.

This year’s installment of Art Basel Miami Beach mania brought the usual army of art world celebrities to Miami. Among the throngs of the who’s who was newcomer to Miami Basel, Hennessy Youngman who gave a lecture labeled “His History of Art” at NADA Miami Beach. In keeping with the popular ART THOUGHTZ series currently available on Hennessy’s Youtube channel, Youngman tells it like it is with help of a prepared slideshow and a glass of Hennessy to steer the course.

Audience at Hennessy Youngman’s “His History of Art” lecture at NADA Miami Beach.

Youngman has become a hit among art students who find the marriage of his humor and criticality refreshing in the sea of bloated art speak. This was made evident in the huge turnout that packed the lobby of the Deauville hotel for his performance. Much of his success comes from embracing the role of outsider with insider knowledge that makes him both approachable and intellectually stimulating. Recently, his popularity is also garnering him critical acclaim, named as one of the top ten highlights of 2011 by art critic Michael Ned Holte for Artforum’s annual “Best of” edition.

For the NADA performance, Youngman’s lecture, which in keeping with Miami time started behind schedule, began as teaser of slides and comments referring to the secret of success for artists. Youngman described a timeline dating back to everything and everyone from ancient cultures to conquistadors and scientists. Including all examples of human creativity and innovation. For all of this, Youngman said we can credit one thing… the ultimate secret to success and what he referred to as the “artist’s ally” in all things creative. This, Youngman finally reveals is one thing and one thing only… cocaine. And if you were paying close attention, and considering that this lecture was written for Youngman’s first Miami performance, you might have seen this one coming.

Hennessy Youngman’s “His History of Art” lecture at NADA Miami Beach.

Upon wrapping up his lecture with a barrage of slides that included everyone from Marcel Duchamp to Claes Oldenburg to Damian Hirst, Youngman took a scientific approach to proving the positive effects of cocaine on the practices of all successful artists. In the end, proclaiming, “cocaine is the eternal friend of people who need to do shit.” The crowd, filled with everyone from hipsters to an impressive turnout by local artists sipping on green Grolsch bottles were enthralled by Youngman’s energy. So much so, that Youngman headed into the crowd in a stand-up comedian style tête-à-tête with members of the audience. At one point singling out the only collector he could find to try to sell him some work. Wherever he went in the audience and whomever he chose to sit down with, everyone was wide-eyed and star struck and snapping pictures with smart phones. I can honestly say that the audience was in love with Hennessy Youngman.

Hennessy Youngman speaking with Peggy Nolan.

Hennessy Youngman is the creation of artist Jayson Musson, whose work has become synonymous with the characters he develops. However, Musson is no one trick pony. Other examples of work that represent more traditional art forms include a set of colorful abstract “paintings” made from woven Coogi sweaters currently on view at David Castillo Gallery in the group exhibition Don’t Get High On Your Own Supply. For these paintings, Musson borrows from the visual language of Abstract Expressionism and uses materials that reference pop culture icons like rapper Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G) and Bill Cosby, cleverly joining versions of “high” and “low” art forms. Also included in the exhibition are classic ART THOUGHTZ on Bruce Nauman and Post Structuralism.

Courtesy David Castillo Gallery, Photography by Alissa Christine.

Musson is also currently part of a two-person intervention exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Hennessy Youngman has created an audioguide to accompany visitors through the museum’s collection along with two videos in the ART THOUGHTZ vein that are also in dialogue with the museum’s collection. An intervention, that Musson notes, hasn’t been exactly welcomed by the museums more conservative docents[.]

This post was contributed by Melissa Diaz.

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Hennessy Youngman performs at NADA art fair