Ragnar Kjartansson Won Performa's First Malcolm Award From Lou Reed, and There Was Much Rejoicing

Lou Reed presenting Ragnar Kjartansson with Performa's first Malcolm Award
(Billy Farrell Agency)

 Last night at the Bowery Hotel in New York, the artists of Performa 11 gathered with a crowd of distinguished fans to celebrate the closing of the fourth edition of the biennial, which had featured everything from Beckett-inspired theater to Tennessee Williams séances and two varieties of performative musical marathons, one for Mozart and the other for Rachmaninov. The event was also a chance to anoint the winner of the first Malcolm Award, named in honor of the late Sex Pistols mastermind Malcolm McLaren, who died in 2010. Guests like White Columns's Matthew Higgs, art historian Claire Bishop (a judge for the prize), and Performa commissionees Liz Magic Laser and Iona Rozeal Brown mingled in the ornate space, which featured both a fireplace and an outdoor deck, and enjoyed spicy margarita cocktails—either a nostalgic nod back at summer, or a boozy preview of Miami Basel, depending on your outlook. 

Young Kim, McLaren's companion of many years, delivered a heartfelt remembrance of the punk fashion icon, followed by a tribute read by "Lipstick Traces" author Greil Marcus and another by British cultural scribe Michael Bracewell. Performa curator Mark Beasley, who dreamed up the prize to honor his late friend, spoke movingly as well. The award itself, designed by Marc Newson, was presented by a characteristically terse Lou Reed, who mumbled a few words before handing the $10,000 honor to none other than lovable Icelander Ragnar Kjartansson, whose 12-hour opera piece "Bliss" — that would be the Mozart marathon, a sublime rendition of the reconciliatory coda to "The Marriage of Figaro," set on repeat — brought the art world down to Abrons Art Center on Saturday. Kjartansson said a few words of thanks and then hoisted his award, which oddly resembled a Joseph Cornell box, overhead. The party continued into the wee hours of the morning under the able hand of DJ Spencer Product, making it all the more remarkable when Performa director RoseLee Goldberg announced that her team would be waking up the following day to get cracking on the 2013 edition of the biennial.