Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Morgan Library & Museum for New York Cottages & Gardens



For the "Divine Design" column for the March issue of New York Cottages & Gardens magazine, I was happy to write about The Morgan Library & Museum, which is a favorite spot of mine and a treasure of New York. For the story, Christine Nelson, the Library curator, took me through the building on a private tour, which was such a treat and so interesting. Check out the March issue and learn about this museum, which Mr. J. P. Morgan built to house his personal book collection. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Winter Show for Corcoran's Online Magazine Inhabit




You might enjoy reading my article for Corcoran's online magazine about the Winter Show, which is happening now here in New York City. Previously known as The Winter Antiques Show, the fair has a new shorter name and a more electic range of offerings. Read all about it here!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Mario Buatta Auction for Corcoran's Inhabit magazine




You might enjoy my new story for Inhabit, the online magazine from Corcoran, about the upcoming exhibition and sale at Sotheby's of the collection of the late decorator Mario Buatta. As you may remember, Mario was a friend and we did a video interview with him here on the blog when the New York School of Interior Design renamed its library the Mario Buatta Materials Atelier. That was a hoot. Sadly, Mario passed away in 2018 and now his collection of more than 900 items is coming to auction next week. You can read my story here -- one last tribute to Mario.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Queen of Spades at the Metropolitan Opera




     For my birthday recently TD and I went to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to see Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. It is a less well-known opera but it happened to fall on my birthday and I love Tchaikovsky so we said, "Why not!"
     I always love to go to the Met. As we approached the opera house through the Lincoln Center Plaza enjoying the Marc Chagall paintings that glow from inside, I remembered the time I saw Jackie Onassis outside at intermission eating an ice cream cone. Inside, the Met is all red velvet. Red velvet lines the stairs and the walls, and the red velvet seats are comfortable and cushy. Even the bar in front of each seat which carries the subtitles is covered in red velvet. Some people dress up for the opera, with women in sparkly dresses, which I like to see. I find the whole experience very plush.
   I enjoyed the opera a lot although the plot is simple and grim, essentially about a man who loses everything and goes mad due to his addiction to a card game. However, the production is beautiful. Set in 18th century aristocratic Russia, it features the big wigs, big dresses and dazzling jewels of the era. I just loved the ball room scene pictured above (photo from the Met website) at the beginning of the second act. Highly stylized in dramatic black and white, it reminded me of the famous black and white Ascot scene that Cecil Beaton created for the 1964 My Fair Lady movie.
     The music is glorious. The opera premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890, after Tchaikovsky composed many of his most famous works including Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, and Symphony No. 5, though The Nutcracker came later in 1892. The composer died suddenly in 1893 supposedly of cholera but now it is said he committed suicide because he was gay. What a tragedy, how many more masterpieces could he have created?
    Fortunately the seats are comfy with plenty of leg room for a tall guy like me because the opera was more than four hours long. But it was all enjoyable and such a pleasure to be there listening to the music.
    I took this photo of the curtain call --


   And then it was back out into the night and down into the subway and home to bed with visions of eighteenth century aristocratic Russia dancing in my head.
   Happy New Year and all best wishes for 2020!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Jacqueline de Ribes in New York Cottages & Gardens



I hope you can check out the new December issue of New York Cottages & Gardens magazine to see my latest "Divine Design" column, this one on Jacqueline de Ribes, "the last queen of Paris," who is now 90 and recently auctioned much of her family's collection of antiques and art at Sotheby's in Paris. I believe I met Jacqueline de Ribes in New York in the '80s or '90s when she worked as a fashion designer because I think she was a client of Eleanor Lambert, the fashion PR powerhouse, who often had parties in her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Jacqueline de Ribes certainly was a French style icon who was always covered in the fashion press. When I saw this auction coming up on the calendar I thought it would make for a good story.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A New Museum of Modern Art



Matisse sculptures in front of the Matisse painting Dance (1) at MOMA.
     I recently had the pleasure of visiting the new Museum of Modern Art in midtown, which opened recently on West 53rd Street, and it was a very successful trip. The museum recently underwent a big renovation and expansion overseen by the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the architecture firm Gensler. The expansion vastly increased the size of the museum. At the same time it offered the museum an opportunity to reconsider how the art was presented and installed, and create an alternative to the story that modern art has been created by white men from the Western world.  "The real value of this expansion is not more space, but space that allows us to rethink the experience of art in the Museum," Director Glenn D. Lowry has said. To that end, separating galleries by artist or by media has been done away with in order to blend everything so you'll find paintings and sculptures and videos all presented together. Galleries will continually change and performances are offered throughout the day. "At any given moment there will be something new to see," said Lowry. Which is all to say there was a lot to take in! 
     I did my trick with large spaces, which is that I took the elevator up and started at the top, the 6th floor, and worked down. The floors are much larger, longer, than they used to be so there was much to see. The juxtaposition of the art was interesting, like the Matisse sculptures and paintings above, or the futuristic Umberto Boccioni sculpture in front of a Robert Delaunay painting –


I found a cherished favorite - Monet's Waterlilies and they looked good in their new home –


As I made my way down I could see a dance performance happening on a floor below –


Around every corner was something new to discover. This wild room by David Tudo called Rainforest V was constructed of sculptures and found objects out of which came eerie sounds –


     Honestly I didn't make it through the whole museum - it was so big. I want to go back soon and see more. I loved the unexpected surprises throughout. The large, spacious, elegant galleries reminded me of those at the Whitney Museum downtown. And like the Whitney, a lot of the galleries had videos playing in them so you heard the noise or the music or the talking of the videos. They were not quiet, silent galleries like at the Met. It's interesting how museums change.
    The juxtaposition of different art and media was provocative, though I was wondering if all the visitors would understand the comparisons and combinations. And of course it opens up lots of room for debate.  I heard one woman say to her companion, "Some of the choices I question."
   A unique aspect of the MOMA is that it's smack dab in the center of midtown and you can see the city through the museum's windows unlike other institutions which are insulated from the outside.  On one high floor I stopped at a window to peer out. Across the street in an old apartment building a giant tv was broadcasting colorful cartoons in the dark. Next to the apartment building was an office building where workers toiled at desks in front of bluish white computer screens. Down below, the canopy of Connolly's Irish Pub was strung with colored lights and on the sidewalk two small Christmas trees flanked the front door.

Monday, November 4, 2019

John Singer Sargent Drawings at The Morgan Library & Museum



John Singer Sargent double self-portrait from 1902 when Sargent was 46.

   The Morgan Library and Museum, originally built by financier J.P. Morgan in 1906, is one of my favorite places in New York, and now it's featuring on exhibition on one of my favorite artists – what's not to like?
    I admire the refinement of John Singer Sargent's art, and the Morgan has mounted a show of  his charcoal drawings. But this isn't just a bunch of drawings!
     Sargent is of course famous for his large portrait paintings, like the striking Madame X and the gorgeous Wyndham sisters, which both can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But by 1907, Sargent had grown tired of producing these large, elaborate paintings, which could require up to more than ten sittings with the model(s). His portraits were still in demand however, so he turned to charcoal drawings, which were quicker and more spontaneous.
    For the first time ever, this show at The Morgan focuses on Sargent's charcoal drawings and gathers together 55 examples, some of which have never been exhibited before as they are in private collections. Walking through the gallery, I enjoyed the easy, breezy nature of the drawings. They seemed so fresh and spontaneous, almost like photographs capturing the subject, instead of the studied grandeur of Sargent's oil portraits. And though of course I'm sure they weren't, they appear to be effortless. The drawings possess that combination of ease and elegance that I love.
    At the top of this post is a double self-portrait by Sargent, who rarely produced a self-portrait. Good-looking chap.
      Here we have Sybil Sassoon from 1912. Sargent said she was the most beautiful woman he ever drew –


    This is Sargent's friend artist Paul-César Helleu – I like his charcoal grey clothes and his casual, relaxed posture as he reclines in a low armchair.


    Handsome Italian model Olimpio Fusco looks like he just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue -


    I was so happy to see one of my favorite portraits of all time -- Sargent's drawing of Irish poet William Butler Yeats –


    I love everything about this portrait, including the floppy bow tie and shawl-colored jacket. Yeats is from Sligo, Ireland, which is where my great-grandfather Daniel O'Donnell hailed from before he landed in Herkimer, New York. Yeats wrote the most beautiful poem about Sligo called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." I hope to get to Sligo some day. In the meantime, I recommend a trip to The Morgan to see John Singer Sargent. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Personal Stylist at Your Service



    I've always enjoyed helping family and friends style their homes, wardrobes, clothes, and events/flowers. Having worked for years as a writer for fashion, decorating and lifestyle magazines and brands including Ralph Lauren and Architectural Digest, I've learned a lot about design and have been fascinated by personal style. Now in addition to writing and editing, I am happy to offer my services as a personal stylist!
     Above is a quote from a client whose home I styled. For Katherine and Jim, I chose new paint colors for their walls, re-arranged their furniture and bought new pieces, re-hung their art work, and did an overall edit. After I was done, Katherine said to me, "Now when we walk in, we look at everything and smile." I wrote all about the project on the blog here.



    Here we have my cousin Uma Deming who is a young ballerina with the New York City Ballet. I recently dressed Uma for the red carpet at the Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala, which was a lot of fun. Tory Burch graciously agreed to loan Uma this gorgeous, sequinned, midnight blue gown which fit her to perfection. I worked with Uma to choose her hair and makeup and accessories, and I think she looked beautiful. After Uma walked the red carpet, she danced in the first ballet of the evening in a piece choreographed by Lauren Lovette with costumes by Zac Posen.
   If you or anyone you know needs a personal stylist, please email me at bartb3@gmail.com!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A New Magazine Column




I'm happy to say that I am now writing a monthly column about antiques called "Divine Design" for New York Cottages & Gardens magazine! The first one, in the September issue, is about the Lee Radziwill auction coming up in October here in New York City at Christie's, which already has people clamoring. One of the lots for sale is a pair of japanned tables that were designed for her by Renzo Mongiardino, one the greatest decorators of the last century. Read all about in the September issue -- and we have a good one coming up in October too!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Memories of Summer in Upstate New York



I always feel a little melancholy when summer draws to a close because I enjoy summer so much - the light, the warmth, the easy cotton clothes. People say, "I am ready for summer to end," but I never am. I wish it stretched on longer.

TD likes the summer too and we both enjoy the beach. We traveled to a lot of beautiful beaches and visited friends and family this summer. We've been to the Jersey Shore, Fire Island, Southampton, Jones Beach and Rockaway Beach. The photos above and below are from Rockaway where we were this Saturday. The photo above is from the ferry ride home across the New York Bay. At the end of the day walking from the beach to the ferry we can stop at a deli and pick up two cold cans of Montauk Ale and then drink them while sitting on the top deck of the ferry on the boat ride home.


I grew up in a small town, New Hartford, in upstate New York, next to Utica, where the winters were long and harsh so when school let out when I was young and summer came it was a great joy. My parents liked summer too and we were outside all season long. This was before air conditioning was common. My brother Thom and I shared a bedroom on the top floor of our Cape Cod house, which was beastly hot. So outdoors we went. We had a wooden picnic table in the backyard and my mother and father and Thom and I and Cynthia and Eric often ate dinner there. My mother made cold salads - tossed iceberg lettuce salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad - and my father piled charcoal briquettes in the round charcoal grill and barbecued. My mother got ripe cantaloupe melon from a farmer in Clinton along with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

There were limited options for swimming in our vicinity but on summer mornings during the week my mother would pack up a lunch and we'd get in the station wagon and maybe stop and pick up a friend and visit a local swimming hole for the day. There was a lake near Rome, New York, the Delta Reservoir Park, that we went to. My mother was good at entertaining us and keeping us busy. I think she enjoyed being the mother of small children.

My father liked summer too and he wanted to be outdoors at night after he came home from work. He didn't talk to me much; he showed his affection by doing things. After dinner at the picnic table, he played hide and seek with us in the yard. Green shrubbery branches scratched my arms as I hid inside bushes that lined the yard. Sometimes after we ate we got in the car and drove to a park to play. Utica had many nice parks, and this was a very pretty park that we went to. It might have been Proctor Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who created Central Park in New York City. We could really run free through the woods and lawns knowing that our father was nearby.

Baseball was a favorite sport of his and he enjoyed going to see the Utica Blue Sox minor league baseball team play so after dinner we drove down to Murnane Field in South Utica. I couldn't have cared less about baseball but I got to bring my friend Patty Parker who lived next door and it was pleasant to sit outside on a cool summer night under the big, bright, white lights of the baseball field. There was a small swimming hole in New Hartford called Power Dam and my father sometimes took Thom and I there on the weekend. We played together in the shallow water and he let us climb all over him. His skin was oily. My father was distant from me growing up so it felt nice to be close to him at Power Dam. 

In the summer we saw lots of cousins in upstate New York -  on my father's side we visited Boehlert cousins in Rochester and Noonan cousins at Oneida Lake. On my mother's side, the Border girls came to 611, my great aunts' house in Herkimer, and we got together there. It was always jolly to see my cousins. Summer was a happy time, a holiday, then and I like it still. On a cool summer morning when I am standing in the kitchen with the window open, it feels like when my mother was making lunch for a day of adventures ahead. And I when I go to the Olmstead-designed Central Park (thank you Mr. Olmstead), it's like I'm with my father again in south Utica.