Thursday, March 7, 2019

Andy Warhol at the Whitney Museum of American Art



Yours truly in front of Andy Warhol's colorful silk screen of art collector Ethel Scull. 
TD and I headed over to the Whitney in the Meatpacking District to see the Andy Warhol retrospective up until March 31. I think the new Whitney is great; I like it much better than the old Whitney uptown designed in the brutalist style by Marcel Breuer. The new version created by Renzo Piano is lofty and airy with super-high ceilings, and the gallery walls can be reconfigured for each show. The Warhol exhibition takes one whole floor and it's spaciously mounted.

I found the show to be very interesting and surprisingly serious. I thought it would be more colorful and jazzy and celebrity-driven since Andy was best know for his portraits of famous people - Liza! Liz! Farah Fawcett! But this show was toned down and quite rigorous as it explored Warhol as an artist. One also got the sense of what a hard worker Andy Warhol was as he produced art works, films, tv shows and Interview magazine.
I liked these delicate gold leaf shoe paintings --


I think I was expecting more razzmatazz because of The Andy Warhol Diaries, the very entertaining book that was published in 1989 following Warhol's unexpected death in 1987. Andy was out on the town socially in New York City practically every night and at the end of each night he dictated notes to a friend. He was a sharp observer and the book is an amusing account of New York in the '80s with appearances by Halston and Liza and Mikhail Baryshnikov, etc, etc. Andy talks about how hard he worked to get commissions for those expensive portraits which kept his whole operation running. I, incidentally, am a big fan of diaries - Leo Lerman's diaries called The Grand Surprise is wonderful, and Tina Brown's The Vanity Fair Diaries is wickedly humorous.

I personally did not know Andy Warhol as others in New York did though I did see him out at the night clubs Area and Palladium. The exhibition includes a big painting with "Paramount" splashed across it and notes that it may refer to Andy's boyfriend Jon Gould who worked at Paramount when Barry Diller was running the studio and hiring handsome men. When I worked for a small magazine company my boss was Katy Dobbs, whose best friend was Jon Gould. They had met at the summer Radcliffe Publishing Course. I remember seeing him a couple of times - a super-chic man. Jon Gould died of AIDS. Katy spoke at his funeral and said it was the hardest thing she ever did.

Then Andy passed away in 1987. That was a shock. He went into the hospital for a routine gall bladder operation and died the following morning.  It was one of those moments when you hear the news about someone and remember exactly where you are standing - I saw it plastered across The New York Post at the neighborhood corner magazine store. Besides being a prolific artist, he was a great connector of people in New York and it was a big loss for the city. Now with this exhibition at the Whitney, Andy was gotten his due.

One of the favorite things I saw at the museum was on another floor - this portrait of Andy Warhol on the right with his friend Ted Carey painted by Fairfield Porter from 1960. Ted Carey also died of AIDS.


I love the easy elegance of Fairfield Porter paintings and how this portrait captures a young Andy Warhol before all of his big success.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Celebration of the Life of Mario Buatta


Writer Emily Evans Eerdmans (center) speaking at the event. 
Now that's what I call a memorial service. On Monday night I was invited to attend a celebration of  the remarkable life of American decorator Mario Buatta who passed away in October. The event was hosted by Emily Evans Eerdmans, Patricia Altschul, Anne Eisenhower and Hilary Geary Ross, and held at the Park Avenue Armory where The Winter Show (previously called The Winter Antiques Show) is now in session. Mario is an old pal who Ted and I had known for years. Besides his talent for creating beautiful rooms inspired by the English country style, he was indeed a larger than life character with an ebullient personality and a mischievous sense of humor. When Mario received an honor from the New York School of Interior Design, we did a video interview with him on the blog - you can watch it here.

On Monday night it was 11 degrees out, RealFeel negative 9, or something like that. I bundled up and headed uptown. When I arrived the place was already packed! There must have been 300 people already sitting on gold gilt chairs so it was standing room only. I stopped at the bar for a glass of red wine to fortify myself. A man said to me, "Mario would have loved this."

I inched through the crowd and secured a place to stand along the back wall where I noticed how beautiful the renovated, ornate Veterans Room is with its carved wood paneling and green-painted walls. Glass globes holding lights dangled off of exotic metal chandeliers overhead. The program began with a tv interview with a younger Mario. Then there were nine speakers in the program, commencing with Mario's friend Hilary Geary Ross. The pretty and blond Ms. Ross noted that Mario and she "were like brother and sister though he always introduced me as his mother."

I think every single speaker mentioned Mario's insect gag which I witnessed myself one day when we went to a lunch at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. Suddenly on the white linen cloth was a big, ugly, brown cockroach jumping across the table. There were shrieks all around, but the cockroach was a plastic fake on a fishing wire tugged by Mario himself.

His cousin Anne Newgarden reminisced about growing up on Staten Island with Mario. Designer Christopher Spitzmiller recalled how Mario told him his pants were "like a cheap mansion - no ballroom." Editor David Patrick Columbia observed that though Mario was fun and jolly, there was a darker more complicated side to him and I think that is correct - Mario talked to me about being single and his frustrations with dating.

Towards the end of the event a diminutive lady in the back row stood up and left her seat - I thought she might be looking for a restroom. But she walked to the front and picked up a microphone and started singing; it was the great cabaret performer Marilyn Maye who then offered moving renditions of "Secret of Life" and "Here's to Life" followed by loud applause. It was one of those moments when you think, "New York is so amazing." After the event was over, it was back out into the cold night but the warm affection that was in the room stayed with me. It was a lasting tribute to Mario; indeed he would have loved it.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas at Home



The holidays are upon us (how did that happen!) and it's time to get out the Christmas decorations. We always enjoy the tradition of buying our Christmas tree from Billy Romp on Jane Street. We pick out the tree and Billy delivers it and we sit and have a glass of wine and catch up on the year.


Our Christmas decorations are largely white and green with a little pale color; it's soothing and calming. At the end of living room we have an Empire table that belonged to my great grandmother in upstate New York. At Christmas it gets a holiday make over. Holidays bring up a lot of memories and this table is loaded with them.


Last year after my father passed away, five years after my mother, I couldn't get this stuff out but this year I did. Over the table where we usually hang an oil portrait goes a Christmas figure that my mother painted when I was young –


In Utica, New York, my creative mother liked to go to our museum, the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, where members could borrow paintings on a rotating basis. When I was a boy I enjoyed going with her and we would thumb through the available paintings. At Christmas she chose holiday scenes but one year she decided to paint her own. This was from a postcard or picture she saw, and it's sweet with a green and white scheme, and red ribbon and holly berries.
On the table sits a gingerbread house that I made out of clay in high school as a gift  –


I can't remember where I got this idea but I made it in my high school art class, building the house out of clay, firing it in the kiln and painting it, complete with an "Antiques" sign over the front door. My father put a little light bulb inside it and my mother got it out every Christmas. When my parents passed away their home was emptied and this gingerbread house was left behind but my very smart sister-in-law Tracy rescued it for me for which I'm very grateful.

The table was itself, I was told, given to my great grandmother, Bessie Crinnion, and great grandfather, Dan O'Donnell from Sligo, Ireland, on their wedding day in 1886 at 611 West German Street in Herkimer, NY. I really like its shape and how you can see the silhouette of it at the end of the room. On top of it sit other gifts and favorite objects. 

My great grandfather Dan O'Donnell was a railroad engineer in Herkimer and we have his big wooden tool chest on an adjacent wall in the living room, also in a dark brown color but it is rough and rugged. I like how my great grandparents' pieces are similar and different.

My mother created the painting and years later I made the house but they go together and share a sensibility. I love having these family mementos, which speak to me, together in a corner of our apartment. It's pretty too at the end of the day when it gets dark and the light fades –


I hope you are enjoying the season and I am wishing you and yours very happy holidays, merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Carolyne Roehm's Constant Thread



With Carolyne Roehm at her book party in Susan Gutfreund's Fifth Avenue home, and the cover of her gorgeous new book.
     Carolyne Roehm, a longtime friend of this blog, has a new book out called Design & Style: A Constant Thread. Besides being impressively large and heavy (you could do bicep curls with this thing), it's unusual for Carolyne, who has produced twelve books, because this one is largely autobiographical.
     We caught up with Carolyne a few years back at home and did two video interviews on the blog when she published her book A Passion for Interiors. Her living room, with its double height ceilings and brown velvet walls, is I think the most beautiful I've been in. Two years later we did a video with Carolyne in the New York City flower district for her book Flowers.
     Throwback to a book party past –


   For this book, Carolyne's friend Susan Gutfreund hosted a party in her renowned apartment on Fifth Avenue, and that was a real treat. The Fifth Avenue building was designed by architect Rosario Candela, who I recently wrote about for Architectural Digest. The stunning apartment was decorated by Henri Samuel, who was the subject of a book by Emily Eerdmans Evans, which I wrote about here on the blog. Candles flickered in the long salon facing Fifth Avenue where the party was held, and we had the chance to duck into the celebrated Winter Garden room, which is decorated in tones of yellow and green and pink.
    Carolyne is dedicated to beauty and her books have been about her expertise and passions in decorating, gardening, fashion and entertaining. With this book she combines them all and explores how everything she does, from her fashion designs to setting a table to arranging flowers, is inspired by her consistent taste and style - her constant thread. This book is unique too because she writes about her personal life experience. 
Carolyne at home in the 80s and her gorgeous peonies –


Joyful tulips inspired this Roehm design –


     Carolyne Jane Smith grew up in a Missouri farm town and was called Janie Smith until she decided to go by her first name and married Axel Roehm. She later married Henry Kravis, the Wall Street financier, who invested in her designer fashion collection. For ten years at the height of the rollicking 80s the couple were the toast of the town. But in the early 90s came divorce, her decision to close her fashion company and an unsuccessful attempt to start a catalogue business. Carolyne writes that, "there were moments in which I genuinely believed I wouldn't find the strength or the will to continue."
      As an escape, she decided to go to a college in England to study Shakespeare's tragedies, thinking that "the Bard might help me understand what the hell had gone wrong with my life." She tells a funny story about being locked out of the college dorm while taking a shower and hanging naked by her fingertips off a windowsill three stories above ground. There were regrets about her decision to close her fashion business and walk away from her catalogue venture. In Paris she had an unpaid internship at the legendary flower shop Moulié Fleurs and had the idea to create an everyday, how-to-book about flowers.
     In one of her designs –


Carolyne in Chanel and one of her creative gift wrappings –


    Carolyne returned and writes, "...now three years after I'd slunk out of New York, feeling in every meaningful way a failure to myself, I was back. At my lowest moment, I had gotten off the floor and taken a baby step, one that liberated me to move on to a new, and very rewarding enterprise. Once that happens, you never lose the faith that no matter how difficult life becomes, if you just take that step, things will get better. That was the great lesson of my wilderness years."
     Hers is a wonderful story of resilience and strength, and how creativity, beauty and art can rescue a person. A Passion for Flowers was the first of a dozen books. Carolyne is also an accomplished watercolor painter and she announced on Instagram (@carolyneroehm) that she has just launched a collection of Chinoiserie jewelry on her website. She designs and creates boundlessly without fear or limitation. I think these traits are in fact her constant thread. Cheers to Carolyne Roehm, a great inspiration.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Art of Gray Foy



     Up right now through November 16th at the Francis Naumann Gallery on West 57th Street is an exhibition of the work of artist Gray Foy, who worked in pencil, creating incredibly finely nuanced and shaded drawings. In fact, when you go into the gallery, they offer you a magnifying glass so you can inspect the drawings closely. One of the drawings is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which lent it for this show. I knew Gray and the show was a revelation to me.
     This drawing is called Abandoned Nest, and you can see how expertly he rendered the natural subject – 


    TD and I had the pleasure of meeting Gray, who passed away in 2012. He was the lifelong partner of the great Condé Nast magazine editor Leo Lerman, and we were introduced to the couple by TD's friend Richard. Leo was a larger-than-life personality who was an editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and ran the arts coverage at Vogue. Leo and Gray lived in one of the most amazing apartments I have ever been in, in The Osborne on West 57th Street. After Leo passed away, selections of his journals were published in a book called The Grand Surprise, which is a fun, jolly read that I highly recommend. When I knew Leo, he was walking with a cane and later was in a wheel chair. Coming behind and helping him always was his partner Gray.
     It turns out Gray himself was a fine artist. I had no idea. The gallery materials state that Gray was born in Dallas and worked as an artist in Los Angeles and New York. Using standard issue No. 2 pencils, he created surrealist scenes of figures and body parts inspired by Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. Later he moved on to plants and botanical subjects, and these are my favorite in the exhibition. The gallery notes that, caught up in the active social life he shared with Leo, Gray stopped producing his art in the mid-70s.
    When I entered the gallery I was the only visitor so it was a very quiet and peaceful trip. The exquisite drawings pull the viewer in for closer examination.
I think my favorite was Uprooted Plants from 1955 –


Here is a close up. It's hard to believe all of the shadings and gradations are rendered in pencil; it looks more like a print – 


So delicate and serene. There were many other works to explore in the jewel-box of a gallery. It was a pleasure to visit the still and tranquil world of Gray Foy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ellen Peckham at Home on the Hudson



A view up the Hudson from Ellen's terrace. 
TD and I recently headed up to Spuyten Duyvill which is just north of Manhattan and perched along the Hudson River for the birthday party of our great friend, artist Ellen Peckham. I wrote about Ellen before on this blog in 2008, ten years ago (!). I won't repeat here what I already wrote about Ellen except to say that it is always an inspiration to visit her, wherever she is.

At that time Ellen lived in a loft on West 23rd Street in a building where Robert Mapplethorpe once lived and worked. Before that she and her husband Anson had lived in a wondrous townhouse on West 22nd Street. Now Ellen has escaped Manhattan's rushing crowds and moved to an apartment over the Hudson River. In this sprawling apartment she can live and work on her printing press making prints and put up guests.

Located in a modern high-rise, Ellen transformed the space with her mix of antiques and art and books. What draws you through it once you pass through the front door is the incredible view of the Hudson River outside the wall of windows. Running along the length of the apartment is a terrace which Ellen has expertly planted with a range of foliage. 

The wide Hudson River stretches out below with the undeveloped Palisades beyond –  


Ellen told me she likes green and white and red plants on the terrace - nothing too bright or jarring. Silver galvanized buckets hold the plantings –


In a corner of the long terrace, plants grow from a giant clam shell resting on a weathered case that also displays twigs and drift wood –


Ellen says she put sea shells in the plant boxes to provide minerals for the soil but I just think they look good –


The terrace is like a seashore garden that has swept up onto a modern high-rise. It's a very restful, soothing place to sit and look at the river below.
While the terrace relaxes with the rustic beauty of nature, the interior is filled with cultured art and antiques, which is a combination that I love.
At the front door, sophisticated metallic walls and a lush orchid welcome visitors –


There are beautiful things to look at everywhere –


And wonderful things to read – 


As twilight fell, it grew darker inside the apartment but outside the sky and the river still glowed. Neighboring lights came on nearby.


There was some music - a guitarist played and singer sang some poetry he had set to music. Birthday toasts to Ellen were made
Ellen grew up in Rochester, New York, in upstate New York, and came to New York City to go to art school. As an accomplished artist and poet, she has led a fascinating life story with many adventures near and far, and has recently written a memoir, which TD has designed. She's shopping it around with publishers now.
Ellen works tirelessly on her art with an indefatigable spirit. Besides her prints and poetry, to me she is an artist in everything she does - the way she gardens, decorates, entertains, lives. She was a young girl from upstate New York who came to the city and created an artful life. I've always been greatly inspired by her and was very lucky to meet her through TD and our neighbors on Jane Street years ago.
Here I am with the lady of the hour –



Long may she reign.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

My Article about Wendy Goodman and Her New Book for Architectural Digest

With New York magazine design director Wendy Goodman at her book party at Roman and Williams Guild and the cover of her new book published by Abrams. 

     You might enjoy my latest article for Architectural Digest! It's a feature on Wendy Goodman, the design and decorating editor extraordinaire who has produced a new book entitled May I Come In? which includes 70 of her favorite interiors.
     I follow Wendy on Instagram where she often posts pictures of her subway trips to check out homes to publish, and I thought it would be interesting to tag along with her on a subway journey for this story. So one morning Wendy and I met on the corner of 14th Street and 7th Avenue, and headed down into the subway station for a trip to Brooklyn. It was a swell adventure and you can read all about it here.
     This week TD and I attended a big party Wendy had to celebrate her book at Roman and Williams Guild, which is a striking, newish store downtown in Soho on Howard Street. In the front of the space is an elegant restaurant called La Mercerie and in the back is a sprawling retail store selling furniture and accessories by the great design firm Roman and Williams, plus other artisans. The fun, lively party was packed with editors and artists and creative types plus bona fide celebs like Caroline Kennedy and Julianne Moore - a fitting celebration for a wonderful book and a magazine editor who has long been passionate about discovering and sharing beautiful things.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"My Fair Lady" on Broadway at Lincoln Center




Last week TD and I went up to Lincoln Center to the Vivian Beaumont Theater to see My Fair Lady and it was a big treat. It runs almost three hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. My Fair Lady stars Lauren Ambrose (below) as the transformed flower girl Eliza Doolittle, Harry Hadden-Paton from Downton Abbey as Professor Higgins, Diana Rigg, who I remember as Emma Peal on The Avengers tv show (!) as Professor Higgins' mother, and Norbert Leo Butz as Eliza's father. 


(photos from the Lincoln Center website)
Lauren Ambrose, best known from Six Feet Under, was famously cast to star in Funny Girl on Broadway but that production was canceled for lack of funding. Now she has her chance on Broadway and she is wonderful. She is of course a great actor plus she can sing too!
     The real revelation was Norbert Leo Butz who is a two-time Tony Award winner, but I had not seen him on stage before. He is magnetic and you can't take your eyes off of him. The rip-roaring number "Get Me to the Church on Time" (below) had people clapping in their seats and stopped the show with thunderous applause.


Mr. Harry Hadden-Paton as Professor Higgins was a no-show which was initially disappointing but we saw a tall and handsome understudy named Tony Roach who did a great job and thoroughly inhabited the role. This production is elegantly directly by Bartlett Sher. We saw his production of The Light in the Piazza, also at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and that too was a memorable play.
     My Fair Lady has the most wonderful set piece, which is Professor Higgins' Edwardian London house. On stage it dimly advances forward out of the darkness and lights up. Then it spins around to reveal different rooms - the library, the front hall, a bathroom or hall. Characters go through doors of the rooms as it spins and then it recedes back into the darkness at the end of a scene. It was beautiful how it was done, somehow evoking its own emotion.
     And of course there is the swelling Lerner & Loewe music thanks to a full orchestra playing away. It's one hit after another - "Wouldn't It be Loverly," "With a Little Bit of Luck," "The Rain in Spain," On the Street Where You Live."
    I was so happy to see this production because I have a long history with My Fair Lady. When I was young, the movie came out over Thanksgiving weekend, which is when my birthday falls so for my birthday I wanted to go see My Fair Lady. I was seven.
    We were visiting my grandparents in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and my mother and my grandmother and brother Thom and I took the "high speed" train into Philadelphia and saw the picture in a grand old theater that I'm sure is no longer there. I, of course, loved it all - directed by George Cukor, costume design and art direction by Cecil Beaton, and starring the stunning Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. The movie images have become iconic.
Eliza at Ascot –



Eliza at the Embassy Ball –



After seeing the movie we got the soundtrack record and I listened to it at home every day after school, oh yes I did.



When my family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, while I was in college, I was home working one summer and volunteered to do props for a production of My Fair Lady presented at the Fort Wayne Civic Theater. There were some cast parties and it was a fun way to make some friends, and after hearing the show every night I grew to know it by heart. For me My Fair Lady is a beautiful, lyrical Edwardian dream. What a long-lasting gift its creators gave.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Lovely "Public Parks, Private Gardens - Paris to Provence"



Camille Monet painted by Claude Monet, 1876
Downstairs from the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Robert Lehman Wing is another beautiful show that I really enjoyed called "Public Parks, Private Gardens - Paris to Provence." In the nineteenth century, Paris was transformed into a city of tree-lined boulevards and parks, and in the country gardeners cultivated their private lands. The Impressionists, who were renowned for recording the fleeting moment, were the perfect artists to capture this combination of nature and refinement. This show is made up of art from the museum's permanent holdings, and it's like a vacation to floral France.

Below we have Adolphe Monet Reading in a Garden by Claude Monet from 1867. Adolph is Monet's father and this bucolic scene is set in his aunt's garden on the coast  of Normandy –


The elegant father is dressed in the men's fashion of the day including black jacket, white shirt, dove grey trousers and straw hat with a black band. This is a good look to copy!


Here is the detail of another Monet painting in the same garden and same gentleman from a different view. I like this outfit –


This is an 1884 study for Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Seurat's final masterpiece hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago and inspired Stephen Sondheim's breathtaking musical Sunday in the Park with George, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985. In a shimmering pointillism style, this painting illustrates how much the Parisians enjoyed their city parks –


Manet painted this vision of his wife Suzanne in a garden in 1880. Manet renders his subject in broad, joyful, energetic brush strokes. As Madame Manet rests under the shade of her hat, the green verdant garden behind her comes alive –


I particularly like the paintings where the people seem to blend into the flowers, like the painting at the top of this post of Mrs. Monet who fades into the sun-dappled garden.
Below is the Garden at Vaucresson by Edouard Vuillard from 1920. In a garden in front of a pale pink house with a bright red roof, the woman on the right appears to bloom out of the roses –


The garden come inside in Degas' A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers from 1865. The sitter seems to be enveloped by the arrangement and appears to be one of the blooms.


The beauty on view shows a lovely style for living that still inspires. See it if you can - this show ends July 29.

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!