Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Story for Christie's About "Heavenly Bodies" at the Met

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened a new show which explores how the Catholic Church has influenced the world of fashion. At the press preview, I had the chance to sit down and talk for a few minutes with the Costume Institute's Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton. You might enjoy my story about the exhibit for Christie's here!

Monday, May 21, 2018

My Architectural Digest Feature on Rosario Candela

In the 1920s and 30s, architect Rosario Candela designed the most elegant apartment buildings in New York City. The Museum of the City of New York has mounted a new exhibition on this important architect and I've written a story about him for Architectural Digest. For the story I got some heavy hitters including architects Robert A.M. Stern, Peter Pennoyer, Paul Whalen, decorator Bunny Williams, realtor Elizabeth Stribling and curator Donald Albrecht to talk about why Candela is still important today. You can read my piece here!
For this exhibition, the museum hosted a talk about Candela with experts Peter Pennoyer, Elizabeth Stribling and Donald Albrecht plus architecture critic Paul Goldberger. It was a fascinating panel discussion and afterwards I enjoyed chatting with architect Peter Pennoyer -

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Colorful 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House

A view down the show house's seven floor staircase, which was decorated in vibrant Memphis Milano style by designer Sasha Bikoff.

TD and I attended the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Opening Night Preview last week and it was an eyeful! Twenty-two talented designers decorated the rooms of the huge, seven-floor mansion at 110 East 76th Street, which is now on the market for $51,000,000. We went up to the top and then worked our way down, it's easier that way, no? There is also an elevator that will take you to the top floor. The house was packed with stylish guests checking out what the decorators had whipped up. Here are some of my favorites –
Blue is a signature color of Mark D. Sikes, who is based in Los Angeles, and his elegant bedroom offered many soothing hues –
(room photos by Nickolas Sargent, room detail shots by me)

A pretty handpainted wallpaper set the tone for the relaxing room –

Mark also decorated a crisp-looking bathroom with blue and white paisley, and arranged some bright tulips in the foyer in front of handsome, striped wallpaper –

A colorful and charming guest bedroom was designed by Katie Ridder, who is married to classicist architect Peter Pennoyer, who I recently interviewed for an Architectural Digest feature about architect Rosario Candela. Katie told me that for this room, she had been inspired by a recent exhibit at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue about the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop), the artist and craftsman collective that thrived in Vienna from 1903 to 1932. Her walls were trimmed with hand-painted stencil borders –

Alessandra Branca told me she didn't really have a theme for the bedroom that she designed, but that she had been thinking about comfort and mixing things up - like the big plexiglass bed with a large Tina Barney photograph on the opposite wall –

On the bedside table I spotted colorful totem sculptures by Ashley Hicks, who is the son of iconic English decorator David Hicks and grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was a mentor to Prince Charles. Alessandra told me that she is honored to be the godmother of Ashley's newborn baby boy. 

Bunny Williams' sophisticated living room, which combined modern furniture with antiques, was covered in pale paneling. She reported that it was faux bois with golden knots for a "tree house feeling." A very elegant tree house indeed –

There is a lot more to see at the Kips Bay Show House, which is up for the month of May, ending May 31st. Proceeds from tickets go to support the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx which provides educational programs for kids. Find ticket information here to enjoy this inspiring, annual New York City rite of spring. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Visiting the 18th Century with Henri Samuel and Christie's

Henri Samuel by Emily Evans Eerdmans on the left and a portrait of Mrs. Louisa Lushington by John Hoppner at Christie's on the right.

After I wrote about how Old Master paintings are coming back into fashion for Christie's online magazine, I was happily invited to a preview of Christies' Old Masters Sale. At the preview, I enjoyed looking at the range of Old Masters, which are works created between 1500 and 1800, plus the nineteenth century paintings on view like this charming scene on a French bus by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse –

The focal point of the preview was a talk given by Simon Goodman (below) recounting the story behind the painting of John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony by Lucas Cranach I who lived 1472 - 1553.

John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony by Lucas Cranach I –

This German Renaissance painting had been owned by Simon Goodman's grandfather Fritz Gutmann who was a wealthy German banker and art collector. In World War II, the Nazi's looted the collection, stole this painting, and Fritz and his wife, Simon's grandparents, perished in concentration camps in the engulfing tragedy.

After the war, surviving family members worked to find the dispersed art collection and reclaim it. Following an approach by persons who had acquired the Renaissance portrait, and who acknowledged and addressed the losses suffered by the family at the hands of the Nazis, Christie’s facilitated a return to the Gutmann heirs, and the family put the piece up for auction in the Old Masters Sale. The heirs continue to search for the grandfather's art works. About one third of the collection is still missing. It was a fascinating and moving story about one family's journey.

Later that same week I was invited to the Rizzoli bookstore on Broadway to hear a talk given by Emily Evans Eerdmans about the book she has just written on the great French decorator Henri Samuel. She was joined on the dais by New York social figure Susan Gutfreund and interior designer Brian McCarthy.

Henri Samuel was very inspired by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and created grand rooms for clients including Rothschilds, aristrocrats, and American magnates like Jayne and Charles Wrightsman, and John and Susan Gutfreund.
Here is the Paris bedroom Henri Samuel decorated for Baron Alain de Rothschild with a deep Louis XIV sofa which functioned as a bed –  

At the talk, Susan Gutfreund reported that Jayne Wrightsman, "who is my son's godmother," introduced her to the great decorator. They worked together on the Gutfreund's apartment in Paris and in New York at 834 Fifth Avenue, which is a building designed by the renowned architect Rosario Candela. Incidentally, the Gutfreund apartment is now on the market for $76 million. Decorator and client created a beautiful and now iconic room - the Gutfreund's winter garden room –

Ms. Gutfreund said that the room was inspired by the eighteenth century hand-painted panels that she already owned, and that she "found the ballroom furniture in a castle in Sweden." Very romantic!

Emily Evans Eerdmans later told me that it took her about three years to research the book. "It was a time period and milieu when everyone was so private," she said. "You just did not talk about your decorator and he did not put himself forward." She notes that Samuel had earlier worked for the House of Jansen, the great French firm that carried on nineteenth century decorating traditions. "Samuel's work was grounded in knowledge and expertise as well as innate genius," said Eerdmans.

Here is Mr. Samuel's own handsome bedroom in Paris with black japonned furniture and fabric-covered walls that match the curtains –

Mr. Samuel in his chic red living room which blended modern art, contemporary pieces, and antiques.

(c) Courtesy of Eva Samuel
This book is very well-written and researched, and I learned a lot from it. It takes the reader back to a beautiful time and offers an escape from current events. And you don't have to be as rich as a Rothschild to be inspired. I myself would like to find some black japonned furniture.

Friday, April 13, 2018

New Online Portfolio

I have updated my online portfolio on a new platform and I like how it looks. You can check it out here!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

My Gucci + Old Masters Feature for Christie's Online Magazine

Alessandro Michele, the wunderkind creative director at Gucci, has created a clever, original Spring advertising campaign that is inspired by Old Master paintings. I wrote about this artistic campaign and other instances where Old Masters are finding a new prominence for Christie's online magazine. Read it right here! I really enjoyed writing this piece, which combines fashion, media and art history, and I hope that you enjoy it too.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Peter Hujar and Tennessee Williams at The Morgan Library

Morgan Library Director Colin Bailey welcomed guests.
TD and I recently headed up to The Morgan Library & Museum for a special event called LGBTQ & Friends Night Out at The Morgan, presented in partnership with Out Professionals, the gay and lesbian networking organization. The Morgan Library is one of my favorite places in New York and I still love the light, airy, modern renovation of The Library undertaken by architect Renzo Piano in 2006.
The evening was organized because The Library is now presenting two wonderful exhibitions of two iconic American gay artists - photographer Peter Hujar and playwright Tennessee Williams. At the beginning of the evening, Director Colin Bailey offered a warm welcome to guests. After a glass of wine in the atrium, TD and I headed off to see the exhibitions.
Peter Hujar Self-Portrait Jumping (1974)

In simple black and white, Peter Hujar photographed the New York City East Village art scene and the worlds of avant-garde dance, music, art and drag in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. At the same time he witnessed the beginning of gay life and gay liberation in New York and then the AIDS crisis. Including 160 photographs, this is the first major retrospective of this artist who The New Yorker says "was among the greatest of all American photographers." Hujar passed away from AIDS in 1987 at the age of 53.
TD and I were moved to see in the exhibit photographs of Peter with our beloved friend Robert Levithan, who passed away about one year ago. 

Robert and Peter had been a couple, and maybe we knew that but we forgot. TD illustrated Robert's children's book about his dog Sophie called Sophie's Story. There were more pictures of Robert throughout the show, which made it especially poignant for us.
In Peter Hujar's words, he took “uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects.” Here is English artist Malcolm Morley in East Hampton in 1976 looking cranky but I like his pea coat –

And artist Louise Nevelson in 1969. TD and I once say a great Off-Broadway play about Louise Nevelson called Edward Albee's Occupant.

The empty downtown streets in Hujar's photographs and the eccentric characters capture a city that I knew once but is gone now. I found the show to be moving and elegiac as it evoked a simpler time in New York before it was a city in overdrive.
Upstairs we went to find a tribute to Mr. Tennessee Williams (pictured here by Irving Penn for Vogue in 1951). Called "No Refuge but Writing," which describes the only place Williams found peace, the exhibition includes original drafts, private diaries and personal letters with paintings, photographs and objects.

I have a great book called Five O'Clock Angel, which is the letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just, the title referring to cocktail hour when a drink would arrive. Williams was such a beautiful, poetic writer. Like Truman Capote, another lyrical, Southern writer, Williams suffered from alcohol and drug abuse. TD once saw Williams in a restaurant near Lincoln Center in the daytime when the playwright was so drunk, he was incomprehensible. He came to sad end, choking on a bottle cap in the middle of the night at the Hotel Elysee on Lexington Avenue at 54th Street in 1983, age 71.
A self-portrait of Tennessee Williams –

What a writer he was. TD and I had the good fortune to see his memory play The Glass Menagerie on Broadway with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto, which was breathtaking. In its first versions, the play was called The Gentleman Caller, and here is Williams' casually elegant description:

"The story is very simple." Ha!
These are two excellent shows housed in a lovely building. Visit The Morgan!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Wondrous David Hockney

Portrait of an Artist (1972)
There is a beautiful exhibition of the work of David Hockney now up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City through February 25th and I highly recommend it. The renowned British artist is now in his 80th year and this retrospective highlights his greatest work over the last 50 years. It's so interesting to view it because one can see, from the very beginning in the Sixties, the themes that run through Hockney's painting - the signature pink and green and blue colors, depictions of water and swimming pools, a chic take on people, and a robust sensuality. He's been consistent.
I've always been a fan of David Hockney's. Many years ago my friend Jim Reginato took me to a party when the artist had a new book out. I bought the book and I wanted Hockney to sign it for me but he was being monopolized by a woman photographer who shall go unnamed. Jim said to me, "Go interrupt them and ask him to sign it. That's what book parties are for." But I didn't and regret it. I wish I had a signed book! New York City is not a place for shy people.
I still love to look at Hockney's work. It's like a trip to a warm, tropical place when it's frigid winter in New York –
The Bigger Splash (1967)

Hockney went to art school in London and then moved to L.A. where he was taken with the nice weather and the beautiful people. With Hockney's work you get happy colors and a joy for living. You can almost feel the warm air.
I love the perspective of this early painting below, from the point of view of the swimmer in the pool as he looks across the rippling water and up the stairs. You see already Hockney's blue, brick, green, and pink –
Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc (1971)

These same colors move inside too with Hockney's large double portraits. Here is on the right Christopher Isherwood, who wrote The Berlin Stories, upon which Cabaret was based, with his younger boyfriend painter Don Bachardy on the left. Interesting how Isherwood is looking at Bachardy and Bachardy is peering out at the viewer.
Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (1968)

This is a small drawing of Hockney's friend the fashion designer Ossie Clark looking chic in a Fair Isle sweater.

Hockney moved back to England but he took his California colors with him. Here is David Hockney's version of winter with wonderful pinks, green and oranges –
A Closer Winter Tunnel (2006)

Summer version of the English landscape - earthy, rich and ripe. This scene reminds me of the farms of upstate New York where I grew up. These paintings were broken into six panels so that Hockney could easily transport them. 

Hockney has moved back to L.A. and is still painting pictures of his residence there.
Garden #3 (2016)

This exhibition makes you want to go home and paint your walls pink and your floors blue.
If you lived with one of these paintings you'd always be happy. Long may Hockney reign.

Friday, December 22, 2017

At Home for the Holidays

TD and I recently put up our Christmas tree, which we always enjoy during the holiday season. My sister Cynthia and sister-in-law Barb are coming from Colorado and we'll be together with my two brothers and their families, which will be great. This will be our first Christmas without our parents; my father passed away in April and my mother passed away five and a half years ago so this will be a first for us.
Getting the tree is a project! The calm before the Christmas tree storm:

We used to live on Jane Street, and we have been getting our trees for thirty (!!) years from Billy Romp and his family who come down from Vermont and set up shop in the month of December at the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue.

We love to see Billy each year. We pick out a tree and he straps it onto a cart that is attached to a bike and he walks with us to our apartment. We set up the tree and have a glass of red wine and catch up on the year.
Soon Billy is on his way and we get to work -- the lights, the ornaments, the star on the top, the cloth  below.
And voila –

I like how the tree adds a colorful glow to the room. Everything on the tree is personal to us. We have collected a lot of antique ornaments –

And a lot are handmade. The ornament in the middle that says "Greetings" was one of the last things that my mother made and sent us. She liked to create cards. TD cut out the paper angel on the left. 

In the front hall I put some evergreens in a glass vase and hung a few ornaments on the sprigs –

Our Christmas decorations include this reindeer on the living room fireplace mantle who has a pretty wreath around his neck. I found the reindeer at ABC Carpet and Home –

The fireplace doesn't work so we put a big candle in it for a warm glow –

I'm so grateful to be seeing my siblings and extended family this holiday season. I hope that your holidays have a warm glow too dear reader and I wish you all the very best for the new year ahead.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Elegant World of Louis Vuitton and the Invention of Travel

A big, beautiful exhibition created by Louis Vuitton is now open downtown inside the American Stock Exchange Building at 86 Trinity Place until January 7th. Called "Volez, Voguez, Voyagez" ("to fly, to sail, to travel"), the exhibition celebrates the history of the French luxury heritage brand and the invention of travel at the turn of the last century. Louis Vuitton has built inside the Stock Exchange a two floor museum with 16 rooms. It's quite a dazzling feat and I highly recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in luxury brands and beautiful things and the history of fashion. I am helping out at Louis Vuitton as a docent giving tours through this show. Admission is free and you can find out how to reserve tickets and sign up for a tour here.

Mr. Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in a small village in eastern France. Both of his parents died, and when he was 14, he decided to walk to Paris. Ambitious boy. The 300 mile journey took him two years, and when he arrived in Paris, he got a job in a wood shop learning how to craft packing boxes and crates. In 1854, at the age of 33, he opened his own house, creating modern trunks for the elite. Indeed, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napolean III was a client. After Louis Vuitton died, his son George and then his grandson Gaston increased the business and the success of the house. Today, 163 years after it was founded, Louis Vuitton is the number one ranked luxury brand in the world.
Curated by Olivier Saillard, each room of the exhibition has a theme. This one below features travel on the high seas –

In the aviation room, a life size airplane soars overhead –

One room with a giant Murano glass chandelier and tented ceiling celebrates the stars of Hollywood who traveled with Louis Vuitton luggage –

A Lartigue photograph captures the chic style of the time –

The trunk of French couturier Paul Poiret, who was the subject of a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is laid carefully with his painter's jacket –

Perhaps my favorite piece is tucked in a corner - it is the trunk of General Douglas MacArthur with his monogram on the top and a handsome stripe down the side –

There is a lot to see here and the show is very popular. I recommend visiting on a weekday, or if you come on a weekend day, come early before the line gets long. And enjoy this elegant journey.