Artists Take the Soccer Field in a ‘Drunk vs. Stoned’ Grudge Match

A bunch of artists, along with some friends and family members, said goodbye to summer by playing soccer in Montauk, N.Y., on Sept. 17.

It wasn’t the usual game. The participants split into two teams, Drunk and Stoned, and conducted themselves accordingly.

The madcap sporting event went along with an exhibition, “Drunk vs. Stoned 3,” in which the works of 70 artists were displayed at a Montauk gallery and the Ranch, a 26-acre horse farm and exhibition venue owned by the art dealer Max Levai.

The first “Drunk vs. Stoned” was held in 2004 at a gallery in Greenwich Village. The critic Jerry Saltz called it “one of the most diverting group shows of the year,” adding that it was “also one of the daffiest.” There was a sequel the next year, along with a soccer game at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. Legend has it that the Stoned team lost that contest because it didn’t notice that Drunk had added three players after halftime.

Cannabis and hashish were available at a table near the field. A tall water pipe was an attraction for many participants.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

It’s no secret that painters and poets have long sought inspiration in altered states, and the show notes for the third “Drunk vs. Stoned” event compared and contrasted works seemingly informed by alcohol and cannabis. Viewers were encouraged to ponder just how, as the organizers wrote, “the lowered inhibitions and impulsive decisions of drunk stand in stark contrast to the heightened sensitivity and methodical meandering of stoned.”

Artists who took part in the exhibition included: Rachel Harrison and Laura Owens, who have been the subjects of full-scale surveys at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Katherine Bradford, who has works in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum; Jamian Juliano-Villani, whose paintings were featured in last year’s Venice Bienniale; and Nate Lowman, whose works have appeared at the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

On the morning of the game, which was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., Mr. Levai, 35, was not pleased to see a black Hyundai parked in the gravel area near one of the goals. The car spoiled the tableau he had hoped to establish on the property and detracted from the five grand sculptures by Matt Johnson, each strategically placed near the undulating expanse where the game would take place.

“A lot of the sculptures here are pink and white, and the barns are white,” Mr. Levai said. “The black Hyundai is a big interruption in this aesthetics trajectory.”

A “Drunk vs. Stoned” cozy commemorated the event.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times
Players pick up their game shirts.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

The car also didn’t fit in with the recreational zone that would include a massage table and two makeshift bars. Mr. Levai said he would have moved the vehicle himself, but it was locked, and he couldn’t track down the person who had parked it. He repaired to his hilltop residence, where he hit upon a solution: toilet paper.

It seemed that Mr. Levai — who struck out on his own after he was ousted from the presidency of the Marlborough Gallery in 2020 — had ordered far too many rolls of industrial-grade Scott, which he was keeping in his pantry. Now he had a use for them.

He enlisted two children, the sons of people involved in the exhibition, and together they covered the eyesore, using shaving cream as a binding agent. When the job was done, the Hyundai could almost pass for an art installation.

Mr. Levai, the son of the former Marlborough Gallery director Pierre Levai, has not always had a smooth time on Long Island’s East End since becoming the owner of the Ranch in 2020, according to reports in local news outlets and art publications. In July, there was an altercation with a neighbor, the gallerist Adam Lindemann, who owns the adjacent estate, Eothen. Last month, a supervisor for East Hampton, which contains Montauk, said the town could seek an injunction against Mr. Levai over how he is using land that has been set aside as an agricultural preserve. (Mr. Levai had no comment on his dealings with the town or his plans for the Ranch.)

The artist Scott Reeder, a curator of earlier “Drunk vs. Stoned” exhibitions in Manhattan, was at the event in Montauk.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

As game time approached, the artist Scott Reeder, a curator of the first “Drunk vs. Stoned” shows, said that Mr. Levai had mentioned the idea of reviving the concept about a year ago. “I said, ‘If you were going to restage it, do it here,’” Mr. Reeder recalled.

As the Stoned players began warming up on the field, several Drunk team members downed shots and beer. Both teams had uniforms made for the occasion, with “Stoned” or “Drunk” printed across the back. The referee, Jose Martos, an art dealer, suggested he was open to bribes, telling players, “One hundred dollars, if you want to win.”

In the game’s opening minutes, Stoned was lively and focused. It had youth on its side: The two boys who had helped TP the Hyundai, ages 11 and 12, were in the lineup. (They did not partake of anything on offer at the makeshift bars.)

Spectators cheered for Drunk as it scored one of its five goals.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Drunk was sloppy, but it had a secret weapon in its goalkeeper, Paololuca Barbieri Marchi, a filmmaker and a founder of the art collective Alterazioni Video. Without his shot-blocking prowess, the game might have been a blowout.

The 12-year-old player scored the first goal. The artist Borna Sammak, a member of the Drunk team, collapsed to the field, though he was not injured. He spent 10 minutes lounging in the grass, sipping a tequila drink.

Esteban Chacon, a surf coach in Costa Rica and Montauk, had the second goal for Stoned. “This is vengeance,” said Mr. Reeder, who had played for the losing Stoned squad in 2005 and was on the same side again.

A Drunk player took part in the action, drink in hand.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times
The Drunk team gave a cheer after its victory.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

“Come on, Drunk, you got this!” said the Drunk coach, Ellie Rines, who runs 56 Henry, a gallery in New York’s Chinatown. Seconds later, Alex Hubbard, a mixed-media artist, kicked in the team’s first goal.

In the first half’s final minutes — with Stoned leading, 4-3 — the players could hear the sounds of Big Karma, a Grateful Dead cover band that had set up about 100 yards from the field. As the musicians went into an extended jam, the Stoned team seemed to fall under a spell.

Large sculptures by Matt Johnson were positioned close to the playing field at The Ranch in Montauk.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

At halftime, a tow truck was rolling in reverse toward the Hyundai. Devin Troy Strother, a painter, confessed that he had left it in the gravel lot. The keys had ended up locked inside after a series of mix-ups, he said.

Nearby, Stoned players were making use of a hookah-like bong. The Drunk team was huddling with Coach Rines, who was in pep talk mode. “We’ve got grit!” she said. “I think we can take this!”

In the second half, many Stoned players were moving with a kind of contented aimlessness. They seemed to wither when Billy Grant, an artist playing for Drunk, engaged in some aggressive trash-talking. “I thought, ‘Just start screaming, to scare them,’” he said. Drunk won, 5-4.

Massages were on offer for participants and spectators.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

The next day, in a phone interview, Mr. Levai offered the opinion that the Grateful Dead cover band was a factor in the outcome. “Some people thought it would be an advantage for the Stoned team,” he said, “but my feeling was that it might have ended up being a distraction.”

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