The opening reception for Mark Ryden’s new exhibition, “The Tree Show” at Michael Kohn Gallery, was six hours long. If you glanced at the invitation beforehand, you might have thought this was a misprint. Six hours? Two is customary. Three is generous. Six, you might be forgiven for concluding, falls somewhere between pointless and pretentious. But then you would be seriously underestimating both the breadth and the fervor of Ryden’s fan base. In fact, the extension was merely practical.
At 3 p.m. on Saturday, midway through the opening, a line stretched out the back door, down Crescent Heights and around the corner onto Beverly. By the time the gallery closed its doors at 6, the guard who’d been hired to manage the flow had counted 2,222 visitors — this in addition to the 220 who’d attended the private preview two nights before. (All those twos make a curious pattern for an artist with a professed interest in numerology.) Kohn associate Samantha Glaser confirmed later over the phone that Ryden himself had been there throughout, milling with admirers and signing autographs. Each time I’d seen them in the course of the week leading up to the show, Glaser and other gallery staff appeared to be wavering between exhilaration and exhaustion, taken aback by the machinations of a network they weren’t used to handling and didn’t entirely understand. Ryden, on the other hand, was clearly in his element. “Oh, he’s having a great time,” Glaser said. “He’s just in heaven!”