A buzzy vernissage for Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld's latest found-artist project has become a ritual of sorts during New York fashion week. This season's unveiling was of 15 works by Ouattara Watts, a Neo-Expressionist who came of age in the eighties with fellow big-canvas painters David Salle and Julian Schnabel. Giovanna Battaglia, no slouch when it comes to art history, connected the dots even further. "It's like transavanguardia"—the Italian movement of the same period that included Francesco Clemente and Mimmo Paladino. Watts even got her to come out to his studio in Brooklyn, Battaglia added, a borough she visits rarely and with an extreme sense of purpose—"only to studios and photo shoots, and they have an amazing place for cheeseburgers over there." A half-hour after the opening ended, guards at the West Village warehouse where the show went down (or up, rather) shooed her and Restoin-Roitfeld out. No matter: They were late for the after-party at Acme, where they joined the likes of Elisa Sednaoui, Lily Donaldson, and Stavros Niarchos, the latter installed in a corner seat with girlfriend Jessica Hart. Watts entered the dining room to a standing ovation and settled in at the main table with Ivorian countryman Isaach De Bankolé and Glenn O'Brien, who's known Watts ever since meeting him through Jean-Michel Basquiat. "Ouattara's been underrated for various reasons," O'Brien offered. "I think he's the kind of person who likes to live a nice life, so he hasn't really been incredibly aggressive and ambitious. But his work has still really evolved." Thanks to the new exposure, his sales may have, too—Roitfeld said he'd found a buyer for about half the paintings in the show, one of which has the letters "V.R." rather prominently stitched into it. "Vlad was very proud of it, but he never said anything to Ouattara. And Ouattara never said anything," Battaglia confided. Actions, as they say, speak louder, anyway.—Darrell Hartman read more..
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