Magazine article The New Yorker

In Character

Magazine article The New Yorker

In Character

Article excerpt


The other day, a black town car with tinted windows pulled up to the David Zwirner gallery, on Nineteenth Street, and the actor Dennis Quaid, an hour late, emerged from the back seat. "Sorry! It's been a whirlwind," he said. "I was in Cannes, France, forty-eight hours ago." He pronounced the city's name "Ken"; "France" rhymed with "tents." He flashed his familiar grudge-deflating grin, the creases around his mouth forming right angles, and added that he'd spent the previous evening with his twenty-three-year-old son, Jack (mother: Meg Ryan), who is also an actor. "We stayed up till three," Quaid, who is sixty-one, boasted.

He kept his mirrored sunglasses on as he entered the gallery, which featured works by Isa Genzken--mannequins in Technicolor ensembles and wigs were scattered about. He peered at what looked like flattened disco balls on one wall. "I like these four squares here," he said. "My background in art is mostly appreciation and drawing. I can't really draw a perfect circle or whatever, but I draw things that reflect what's going on inside of me." He noted that van Gogh (whom he learned about, as a kid, from the Kirk Douglas movie "Lust for Life") was his favorite artist, "period."

He was on a Chelsea gallery crawl, inspired by his new TV show, "The Art of More," which, according to press materials, "explores the underbelly and surprisingly cutthroat world of premium auction houses." Quaid is an executive producer and plays Samuel Brukner, a caddish real-estate mogul and mega collector. The series is light on the art (except for an arc involving a forged van Gogh), and heavy on rock memorabilia, looted antiquities, and sports cars. Ten episodes were released last week, on Crackle, Sony's bid for streaming relevancy.

Quaid, who wore a fitted blazer over a T-shirt, recalled his first art acquisition, in 1982, a de Kooning drawing of "a man or a woman coming out of the ocean," which had been suggested to him by his former agent, Bob Gersh. As he strolled into another room, filled with Wolfgang Tillmans photographs, he described his latest purchase: a Degas charcoal study of a circus performer. "I'd like to have a Warhol," he said. "I'd take what I could get. Marilyn or the Mao. Didn't he do a Marlon Brando?"

"Starry, starry night!" Quaid exclaimed in front of a photo of distant lights. "They're probably towns, but it looks like little forest fires. …

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