In Season: Amy Phelan on Aspen and ArtCrush





For most people, the word “Aspen” conjures images of winter—ski bunnies and chair lifts, fur coats and snow, fireworks on New Year’s Eve and air so cold it freezes the trees. But Amy Phelan, the notorious New York art collector and chair of ArtCrush, the Aspen Museum of Art’s annual summer benefit, says that’s a misconception. “The summer is busy, if not busier than the winter,” she told Interview.  “And during the summer, there’s more culture seekers who travel to Aspen not only to hike, bike, and raft, but also to visit the nearly 250 non-profits that operate in the valley.”

Among those non-profits, the Aspen Art Museum—with its steady rotation of cutting-edge exhibitions—is the biggest draw. This year, in conjunction with ArtCrush (which takes place Friday), the museum has mounted an exhibition of recent photographs of Abu Dhabi by Stephen Shore, as well as an installation of paper collages, wallpaper, and wall-mounted light sculptures by Haegue Yang, the Berlin-based Korean artist who is the 2011 Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist-In-Residence. 


At the event’s auction, 350 international guests—many of them voracious collectors—will bid on works by Shore, Yang, and other world-class artists like David Altmejd, Richard Avedon, Huma Bhaba, Mickalene Thomas, and Rashid Johnson. But the real star of this year’s ArtCrush is Roni Horn, the American multi-media artist who will be honored with the 2011 Aspen Award for Art. Phelan is thrilled that Horn is being recognized. “We’re pretty close friends,” she said. “I just think she’s one of the most amazing artists of our time.”
ArtCrush’s theme, “An Evening At the Ice Hotel,” fits nicely with Aspen’s reputation as well as Horn’s oeuvre. The artist produced many of her pieces during the 30-year period she spent in Iceland. “In her work, Horn often explores weather, water, and ice,” Phelan explained. “What better way to celebrate that than with a sleek, sexy, cool theme?”
Phelan, who was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees at institutions including the Guggenheim and Creative Time, is launching the festivities with WineCrush, a tasting event held at the home she shares with her husband, John, and their daughter, MacKenzie. Guests will be able to admire Phelan’s immense cache of works by more established artists like Marilyn Minter, Thomas Ruff, and Walead Beshty.
It’s not only the adults in the family who are collecting. Mackenzie, who is given a small budget every year with which she may buy works of her choosing, is also doing her part to flesh out her parents’ artistic assortment. “Her taste is different, but it’s constantly developing,” Phelan told Interview. “She tends to lean towards pieces that are beautiful, and interesting, and happy, such as a Will Cotton painting, or a small Minter photography.”
Phelan didn’t say whether she’ll be bidding on any of the works that will be up for auction at ArtCrush, but she’s certainly looking forward to the event nonetheless. “ArtCrush is such a sign post,” she said. “It’s part of the history of Aspen. I’ve been doing the event for a number of years, and although it’s different every day, it’s always the same great party.”