Art World Couples: Who’s On Top?

You’d be forgiven for mistaking this image for a promotional shot for Vidal Sassoon, though it’s actually a portrait of two German heavyweights of the contemporary art scene, Isa Genzken and Gerhard Richter, taken back in 1987. It raises some interesting questions: How, exactly are their eyebrows so perfectly sculptural? Did Gerhard spend most of his time in the ‘80s walking around half-naked in a bathrobe, putting the finishing touches on squeegee paintings that would later sell for a bazillion dollars at auction? And why didn’t these two ever start a twee Euro-pop band, which clearly could’ve been called The Richter Scale?

The portrait is included in MoMA’s catalogue for their current Isa Genzken retrospective. It’s an enlightening tome, especially for the way it traces Genzken’s dalliances, friendships, and romances with the likes of curator and critic Benjamin Buchloh, photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, and art star/former teacher/onetime husband Richter.

This got me thinking—in a very serious and not at all superficial way—about the current crop of artist couples.Genzken and Richter are no longer an item, of course, but is there any other duo that lives up the stone-cold level of impeccable cool exemplified by this portrait? The usual suspects have all called it quits (David Byrne and Cindy Sherman…Bjork and Matthew Barney—like Genzken, a former model.) I crowd-sourced my very generous community of Facebook friends, who offered up a bounty of alternatives:


Josephine Meckseper and Richard Phillips

A handsome pairing, to be sure…but Meckseper’s current show at Andrea Rosen left me beyond cold. And Phillips has painted Lindsay Lohan. So, yeah.


Eric Yahnker and AllisonSchulnik

Yahnker’s got a gnarly Jesus biker beard and he and Allison both evince a sort of hyper-patterned Manson Family hippie vibe, in a good way. He makes delicate, hilarious colored pencil drawings; she makes gloopy, glorious paintings of things like cats and clowns.


Jennifer Allora & Gullermo Calzadilla

This married couple, based in Puerto Rico, overturned a tank for the 2011 Venice Biennale and installed a treadmill-runner on top of it. But hey, all critique of the military-industrial complex aside, check out how goddamn stylish they are in Italian Vogue.


Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Two British mainstays who make excitingly confrontational work and look like they’re members of a post-punk band that just opened up for the Kills.

Other possibilities included Charline von Heyl and Christopher Wool, as well as some that cheat a little bit: The bearded duo of artist AA Bronson and architect Mark Krayenhoffand Belgian filmmaker Nicolas Provost and the effortlessly chic Hannelore Knuts.

I’m still not convinced that any of these talented couples quite compare to the crystalline hipness distilled in that 1987 portrait of Isa and Gerhard. Do you have other ideas? Please share ‘em in the comments, preferably with links to accompanying photographic evidence.

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