Giving Mom the Ultimate Art Party

Allen Salkin Turned Her Birthday Into Gallery Opening

Proud Mom Toby Salkin greets well-wishers at her birthday party thrown by son, Allen Salkin.
courtesy of allen salkin
Proud Mom Toby Salkin greets well-wishers at her birthday party thrown by son, Allen Salkin.

By Paul Berger

Published May 13, 2012, issue of May 18, 2012.
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Salkin and his mother share the same birthday, April 2. Apparently, they share the same idiosyncratic personality, too. “To be quite frank, it took me maybe a couple of weeks to get used to Allen,” said Gillian Grogan, a 23-year-old student who was sitting outside with a couple of friends. “But once I did, I am one of his biggest fans.”

“Toby’s off the wall,” said Andrea Raft, one of her Los Angeles friends. Raft motioned to the artwork around the room, painted in vivid reds and yellows and blues. “Look at her art,” Raft said. “It’s very unique.”

The majority of the paintings were portraits: There were two Hasidic men, the Cowboy from the Village People (a guest at one of Salkin’s earlier parties) and a younger version of Allen, with long hair and his head thrown back, that looked a little like Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“The image is grotesque, yet I can’t take my eyes off of it, because it captures the essential madness of Allen Salkin through the prism of maternal acceptance,” Salkin’s friend Gersh Kuntzman said.

“I talk in full quotes,” added Kuntzman, who is an adjunct professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the editor of a hyperlocal website, The Local.

It was perhaps inevitable that at a party full of writers, several tips would be offered for how to approach this story. “I would not lead anecdotally,” Kuntzman advised. “I would go mother-son relationship.”

Salkin advocated a different approach. “It should be a first-person piece,” he said. “Almost a circular thing about your time in New York.”

“Use the skills I taught you,” he added.

But Salkin had bigger concerns that night than how to frame a story.

“It’s funny because when I have a party, I usually end up with five times more wine than I started with,” Salkin said. “But because it’s a gallery show, people didn’t bring wine, and so I had to make two runs [to buy more] already.”

“I made pie,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd. “You would think that would be enough.”

Paul Berger is a staff writer at the Forward.


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