Adrian Dannatt is not a man easily persuaded to perform manual labor, or labor of any kind. Anything that requires physical effort usually elicits from him an expression of mild horror and incredulity, as though you'd asked if he'd like to stroke a pet cockroach.
Therefor it was a memorable occasion when I came upon Dannatt carrying a night table, mid century modern, down a flight of stairs and walking it to the curb. He set the table down with a bump and stood over it for a moment, exhausted from the shock of having had to lift something.
It was the spring of 1994 and Adrian Dannatt was moving out of his apartment on Fitzroy Square in London, England. This was not an easy task. The apartment was a rental, but it had been in the family since the end of the Second World War when his father, the architect Trevor Dannatt, made it his home after getting out of the army.
The rent was cheap, and the place had stayed in the Dannatt family long after Trevor moved on to other arrangements, a pied a terre for successive generations of Dannatt, a foothold in striking distance of Soho's French House, which was a fifteen minute walk away at the other end of Charlotte street.
Adrian had lived there himself for a while, and the place was filled with his books and artworks and records and furniture, which co-mingled with his father's books and artworks and records and furniture.
The situation may have gone on forever but the bank on the ground floor, which owned the building, was evicting the residents in the upper floors, whose character seemed pretty much unchanged since those post-war years-- there was only cold water in the flat. The toilet was down the hall.
That evening there was going to be a party at the apartment, and it seemed like a good opportunity to empty it out and make the necessary abandonements. He had already made a pile on the curb of things to be discarded, to which the night table was the latest addition.
"You canˆÇ’Äôt throw that out," I said to him, standing there next to his multi-generational debris. "It's too nice."
"You think so?" he said.
"Totally. It's an amazingly cool looking night table. You should keep it."
Dannatt wavered and then picked it up with one hand and, with the same Chaplinesque strain with which he had brought it down, hobbled with it all the way back up to the flat.
"This is insane!" he said as soon as he got there. "I'm moving out! I can't keep it!" and then picked it up again and, visibly panting, brought it all the way back down to the curb.
The party was crowded with people; in addition to Dannatt there were two other hosts ( which makes three!) and many of the guests were heard saying things like, "I knew I recognized him from somewhere!" and "Oh my God you're right it's him!" The person they were recognizing was Adrian Dannatt, who had been a child television star of a program called Just William. His character, as far as I could tell, was a kind of English Dennis the Menace, an impish but lovable trouble maker.
This all seems worth reporting in light of, and in introduction to, an art exhibit Dannatt has "organized," featuring work by "The Three."
There are probably few shows currently on view in New York, or anywhere, that require less heavy lifting on the part of the artist, the organizer, or the gallerist. In having the artwork's manifestation be composed entirely of other people's coverage of the three women who Dannatt has Malcolm McClarenishly selected (and at at times replaced-- Diana Ross is positively sentimental about the original Supremes compared to Dannatt's love them and leave them attitude to his model/artists), the former Just William has made a self sustaining homage to ease. It's driven by solar power, with the media functioning as the sun.
I had the chance to talk to one of the The Three, a woman named Nikki Nez.
"Adrian called me and was really vague about what the shoot was going to produce," she wrote in an email. "He mentioned the basic concepts of "the three," but didn't lend any specific ideas about who they might be. I think that was part of his vision."
Nikki Nez hadn't met the other two of "The Three" before the photo shoot that produced the one object Dannattt had to produce himself, a press photo, but she seemed to have an intuitive grasp of Dannatt's Modus Operandi.
Asked what about her own influences as an artist and a person she wrote:
"I am influenced by a lot of memories of people from my childhood. My parents are artists and growing up there where a lot of characters hanging around. Some where super talented artists who never got their shit together to make it happen. I remember them for their creativity but also their foibles."