Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Antique Garden Furniture Fair Preview Party at the New York Botanical Garden

With Designer Chairman Fen Fulk.
After my recent trip to the beautiful Orchid Show, I made a return trip to one of my favorite places, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, with TD to attend the Antique Garden Furniture Fair Preview Party and Collectors' Plant Sale. The Preview Party kicks off the weekend-long Antique Garden Furniture Fair when leading antique dealers offer furniture, art, and accessories inspired by the garden for sale. I'm a big fan of garden antiques used indoors; I love things that bring nature and flowers inside and give a room a natural, relaxed feeling.

At the Botanical Garden, the Antique Fair was set up in a spacious tent next to the stunning glass Enid Haupt A. Conservatory. In the courtyard between the Conservatory and the tent, Elle Decor, one of the event sponsors, presented a glamorous garden vignette created by the magazine's interiors editor Robert Rufino. Mannequins languidly dressed in ballgowns made out of Chinese newspapers and covers of Elle Decor were posed around the latest Roche Bobois furniture collection. 

The Collectors' Plant Sale was well underway. Collectors arrive early to scoop up treasured plants. Martha Stewart and Bette Midler had already come and gone by the time we arrived.

Inside the tent, the party was in full swing with about 500 guests in attendance. We chatted with Michael Boodro, Elle Decor Editor in Chief and Honorary Chairman of the event, and then ran into Ken Fulk (pictured above) who we had met at John Derian's opening for artist Hugo Guinness. The celebrated San Francisco-based designer, who was resplendent in a green, floral, bell-bottom Gucci suit, was the evening's Designer Chairman. Ken told me that jeweler Mish Tworkowki, an event Chairman, had first enlisted him to get involved. "Gregory Long [the longtime President and Chief Executive Officer of the Garden] gave me a beautiful tour proving that this is the most important garden in the world," said Ken. "I love the Botanical Garden."

Ken came up with a yellow and black bumble bee theme to give the party a fun, "buzzy" flair that ran though out with fabrics, napkins and accessories. To enhance the theme, Ken told me that three giant bee hives were constructed in San Francisco and shipped to New York. The gorgeous L.A. DJ Kiss spun records inside one of the big bee hives –

We strolled around and perused the offerings. It was a chic, good-looking crowd  – a favorite ensemble among the women guests was a simple, short evening dress with a short matching evening coat with bracelet sleeves plus slingback shoes. I love that kind of style that is polished and elegant but also easy and effortless at the same time.
There were handsome urns at Finnegan Gallery from Chicago –

and a wall of colorful watercolor botanical paintings at Earl Vandebar of Knightsbridge –

These metal garden hoops hung on a charcoal wall looked like a modern abstract painting, like a Cy Twombly –

Buying and packing at Withington & Company Antiques from Portsmouth, Maine –

At the end of the party, on the way out, candles lined the Conservatory courtyard reflecting pool - 

and dusk was falling on the Conservatory.

It was a lovely night in New York.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Manus x Machina at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Chanel Haute Couture Winter 2015 wedding gown is the centerpiece of the exhibit.
I had the pleasure this week of attending the preview of the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Manus x Machina, Fashion in an Age of Technology" and was produced by Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton. Given the title, I thought this show would be about modern technology, and many of the women who attended the Met Ball Gala later that night wore silvery metal robot-like dresses, but to me that missed the mark as this show is more about processes and techniques, and how the handmade (manus) can combine with machine-made (machina) in clothing. The show celebrates how technology carries craft into the future - kind of like a digital blog about beautiful things.

For the preview on a day when the museum was closed to the public, guests were directed to the Robert Lehman Wing, where I have never seen a costume show staged before. This wing consists of a two-floor circle that visitors walk around but for this show the center was ingeniously filled in with a temporary floor creating an inner gallery where the Chanel gown pictured above was housed. OMA, the architectural firm, did an amazing job designing a cathedral-like environment for the show with gauzy white scrims complete with arches and alcoves. The mystical "An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno played overheard. The whole setting was very serene and ecclesiastical, which I thought was a striking juxtaposition given the machine technology theme.

The Chanel wedding gown provided the inspiration for the show. It's made out of a scuba knit synthetic material and is machine sewn. The pattern on the long train in the back was digitally manipulated to make it look pixelated. But then the gold metallic pigment was hand-applied, and pearls and gemstones were embroidered by hand, thus illustrating the marriage of the machine-made and handmade.

I circled around the exhibit, trying to take in the 170 garments, dating back to the early 1990s, on display.
Shimmering Louis Vuitton dresses were shown next to turquoise Norman Norells -

and artificial flowers in pretty pastels were applied to Prada dresses (center) -

I walked down to the lower level and while I was admiring jewel-tone Mary McFadden pleated gowns, New York Social photographer and writer Jill Krementz snapped this pic of me - 

You can read Jill's very thorough report on the preview and show here.

Is was time to hear the prepared remarks in the stunning Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court. Thomas Campbell, the director of The Met welcomed the crowd, and then Jony Ives, the chief designer of Apple, which sponsored the show, spoke. Andrew Bolton (pictured below) said that the show is "a celebration of the art of making, using hand and machine," and offered "a temple to the beauty and artistry of fashion." Anna Wintour, resplendent in a colorful Prada dress and coat, sat with her three British compatriots in the front row as well.

After the remarks I returned to the galleries to look at more of the garments.
In a gallery devoted to tailoring, a small team of Chanel suits proved their timelessness –

This dress that looks unconstructed is actually a Dior haute couture ensemble by John Galliano designed to appear dramatically unfinished -

A jacket by John Galliano for Maison Margiela is hand-trimmed with black lacquered toy cars. He really is a genius.

A dress by Gareth Pugh is hand-embroidered with clear plastic drinking straws around the neck. The see-through scrims and shadows created an ethereal setting.

It was hard to leave this show that really offers an escape from the reality of the street. But soon it was time to go. On the way out I passed empty halls of marble sculptures -

and the majestic Greek and Roman Gallery.

It really was a dream.

Blog bonus: Hear Andrew Bolton talking about the new exhibit in this video:

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Design on a Dime Benefit

The Elle Decor vignette, above, and Elle Decor Editor in Chief Michael Boodro with designer Robin Baron, left.

The other night TD and I walked up three blocks in Chelsea to the Metropolitan Pavilion to attend a wonderful annual event - the Design on a Dime Benefit where you can "design on a dime," thanks to the great deals to be had. The event was founded in 2004 by designer James Huniford to benefit Housing Works, an  organization in New York that provides services and housing to the homeless and those living with HIV/AIDS. Top designers create inspirational room vignettes, and at the VIP Opening Night Reception that we attended, guests can shop the vignettes for merchandise that is discounted up to 80 percent off retail prices with the proceeds going to support Housing Works.

Elle Decor magazine was one of the sponsors and Editor in Chief Michael Boodro was one of the co-chairs, along with Alessandra Branca, George Oliphant and Nicole Gibbons. This year, almost 1,300 attendees were on hand to shop vignettes created by 68 designers. The event is quite a scene as stylish guests rush to get first dibs on furniture and accessories in the chic vignettes. Guests jostle and rub shoulders good-naturedly to peruse the offerings. Bars located strategically throughout the immense space plus great music playing overhead add to the festive atmosphere. Triumphant shoppers carry their new purchases to the cashier and out the front door.

TD and I roamed the aisles and caught up with some friends. It's always a fun event with a well-dressed crowd and a lot to look at. This year, its twelfth year, the Design on a Dime Benefit raised $1.2 million for Housing Works. That's what I call style with substance. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

(click on photos to enlarge)
I went recently with my high school friend, Suzy Ferenczy MacEnroe, to the New York Botanical Garden located in the Bronx to see the Garden's annual Orchid Show. What a treat it was. I had previously been to the gala dinner which launches the Orchid Show but not to the Show itself.

The New York Botanical Garden is situated on 250 acres where over one million living plants grow in extensive collections. Besides its different gardens, it's a major educational institution dedicated to conservation and research, employing 80 Ph.D. scientists. The Garden was created at the end of the nineteenth century and was inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London. The great New York financiers of the day funded the Garden which was designed by Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park with William Olmstead. At the end of the nineteenth century, New York City was becoming a great world capital, with a new library and a new art museum, and the Botanical Garden was part of that development, as it brought plants and the beauty of nature to the city and its urban dwellers.

The jewel of the Garden is surely the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, which is the largest Victorian glasshouse in the United States. Opened in 1905 and recently renovated, the glass and iron marvel includes ten glass greenhouses where all kinds of plants are displayed. Suzy and I took the MetroNorth train together to the Botanical Garden stop and headed straight to the Conservatory to see the Orchid Show.

Inside, we followed the signs to the Orchid Show. We filed through the various plant exhibitions - the rain forest garden, the desert garden, the water lily garden. It felt like we went through all ten greenhouses! "Where are the orchids?" we thought, "Did we miss it?" We kept following the signs. Finally, we came upon it - an explosion of orchids -

The Orchid Show was in two rooms and there were orchids everywhere - sprouting out of rocks, hanging from trees, lining a waterfall, displayed on tables. It really was an eyeful.

On the clear sunny day, outside the glass windows, the beautiful garden was in view and the blue sky beyond.

There was Debussy piano music playing in the background which added to the delight -

Suzy and I paused in front of a orchid-covered waterfall for a pic -

Orchids were crowded onto tables - what luxury.

Boxes of orchids packed in a crate on the floor were ready to be displayed. It would be nice to have just one!

We kept walking around looking at everything. There were so many flowers to take in. Each petal looked like it was handpainted.

Finally we left, satisfied that we had found it. We walked to a nearby cafe and sat outside and ate lunch. Inside the gift shop, an array of orchids were presented for sale - smart!

A ride on a tram offers a tour of the full Garden and all that it includes. As it was early in the season, there was not a lot in bloom on our view from the tram as it rolled up and down the verdant hills -

but I know from experience that the Garden is glorious in season. Go in June to see the rose garden in bloom! The Brooklyn Botanic Garden also offers a rapturous rose garden in June. Suzy and I were so glad to see the annual Orchid Show, which ended on April 17. Coming up May 14 - Sept. 11 is an exhibition called Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas, which sounds wonderful too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Trip to Murray's Cheese

Murray's Cheese, at 254 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
My brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen invited family over for dinner on Easter and I thought it would be nice to bring some cheeses so I headed down to Murray's Cheese on Bleecker Street, which is a delightful destination. Murray's Cheese was founded by Murray Greenberg in 1940 so it has been in institution in the Village for more than seven decades. Rob Kaufelt bought the business in the early 90s, and has expanded it with a branch in Grand Central Station and shop-in-shops in local grocery stores across the country. Additionally, the store is committed to education, offering cheese classes and a cheese bar next door.

It's always fun to go and shop there. The people who wait on you - yes, they are called cheesemongers - are very helpful and knowledgeable, and they give you little tastes of the cheese. And there is a huge case of selections to choose from –

Ok, so I have read in magazines that for a cheese platter, you offer a soft cheese and a hard cheese and something in between, which is what I told the guy who was helping me. I think it was his first day on the job. But he was very eager to please. We started with the soft cheeses. He suggested a brie and gave me a little taste of it on a small wooden knife. It was ok. He offered a taste of another, and I asked for something not so soft. The young woman working next to him suggested the Fromage d'Affinois, which was creamy and mild and buttery. Wonderful. He took out a big knife and cut off a piece and wrapped it in paper and attached a detailed and descriptive label of the cheese.
Then we moved to the hard cheeses –

A customer standing next to me was tasting a hard cheese and she said, "It's like golden light." I said, "I'll have what she had." It was Beaufort Alpage, which an eighteenth century gourmand named the "Prince of Gruyeres." The descriptive label on this cheese said, "Enormous 85 pound wheels are trundled down from the Savoie Alps at the end of fleeting summers where indigenous cows have feasted on sloping meadows of flowers and grass." Delightful!

We moved on to blue cheeses. I tasted a couple. Another cheesemonger suggested Chiriboga Blue, which was moist and earthy and a little mineraly. I got a wedge and as I was waiting, more of it was sold - it must be a popular blue. Then I got some crackers to accompany the cheeses. I picked up Firehook Sea Salt Mediterranean Baked Crackers, which are crisp and dry and speckled with sea salt. I like a little fruit with cheese so I also got dark Kiwi Natural Artisan Crisps with Date, Walnut and Fennel.

At the party, I put the cheeses and crackers on one of Karen's platters with cheese knives.

We drank a cold pale pink rose wine. It was all delicious. Stop by Murray's in New York or one of the branches if you can. The service and the product are great. It's a wonderful local business, which is getting rarer and rarer here in New York City. Many of our neighborhood pleasures have been crushed by escalating New York City rents (Restaurant Florent, Camouflage, Mxyplyzyk, our sushi place) and our neighborhood grocery store is closing because the landlord is TRIPLING the rent. Hopefully Murray's Cheese will be around for a long time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ernest Heminingway at The Morgan Library

Ernest Hemingway in Paris in 1923.

"You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true. You have to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and also have it seem normal and so that it can become a part of the experience of the person who reads it."
Ernest Hemingway

So begins the exhibition on Ernest Hemingway now up at The Morgan Library on Madison Avenue, which we went to see on Sunday, the day after the big blizzard here in New York City. Like many, I am fascinated by Hemingway, particularly during the Paris years in the 1920s when he was hanging out with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Juan Gris, Diaghilev from the Ballets Russes, Gerald and Sarah Murphy, and many more. One of my very favorite books, which I have read numerous times, is Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which is about this period and, which I learned in this exhibit, was published posthumously. This one-room show at The Morgan focuses on Hemingway's work between the two world wars, presenting early manuscripts, galley proofs and letters. 

Hemingway was raised outside of Chicago and eshewed college to work for a short time as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star newspaper where he adopted his writing style from the newspaper copy guide: Use short sentences, use vigorous English, eliminate superfluous words. He was enlisted to the Italian front in World War I and so began Ernest Hemingway's adventures, far from the American Midwest. In Paris, he and F. Scott Fitzgerald really invented a new American literature. 

Hemingway in uniform in 1918 -

There are many interesting documents in this simply mounted show including an interview with George Plimpton at The Paris Review in which Hemingway reveals that he wrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times. "Was there some technical problem there? What was it that stumped you?" asks Plimpton. "Getting the words right," replied Hemingway.

Hemingway at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris in 1923 -

Also presented is a reading list which Hemingway gave to a young writer - Flaubert, Tolstoy, E. E. Cummings and Henry James make the cut (click to enlarge and read) -

The exhibit notes that Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954. This show steers clear of Hemingway's personal life - there is no mention of his four wives or his suicide by self-inflicted gun shot wound in 1961. (Hemingway's father also committed suicide and his granddaughter, the stunningly beautiful American model Margaux Hemingway, died of a drug overdose at age 41 in 1996.) I think some personal context would have been helpful and that The Morgan might improve the design quality of its installations. But I really enjoyed this up-close look at an American genius, there until January 31.

Afterwards we wondered around the museum and into Mr. Pierpont Morgan's libary, which was completed in 1906 and is one of the great rooms in New York -

Then we repaired to the Cafe in the sunny glass atrium where we sat under a green leafy tree and ordered lunch and a glass of Chardonnay. It was a lovely way to spend the day after the blizzard.

Blog bonus:
Read Lillian Ross's profile of Ernest Hemingway in The New Yorker from 1950.
Read George Plimpton's interview with Hemingway in The Paris Review from 1958.
(Don't you love the internet?)

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Night at the Opera

The cast of La Bohème takes a bow in front of the golden curtain.
The other night TD and I went to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to see La Bohème. I always love going to the Metropolitan Opera. Everything is dark red velvet - the seats, the carpeting, the walls - it's like being inside a jewel box. Also people really do dress up to go to the opera so it's good people-watching and you don't see the casual, sloppy clothes worn to Broadway theaters. I've always wanted to see La Bohème, which is the Met's most performed opera. There is that great scene in the movie Moonstruck where Cher and Nicholas Cage attend a performance of La Bohème at the Met. And of course it's fun to go at Christmastime as there is a beautiful snowy scene. You can read all about the production here.
Operas are interesting for me too because they are like art history come to life. La Bohème debuted in Italy in 1906, though it is set in Paris in 1830. It was written by Giacomo Puccini, who lived from 1858 to 1924. Here is Mr. Puccini, a dapper fellow -

I like his double-breasted coat and bowler hat.
La Bohème is of course the story of a group of artists, or bohemians, in the Latin Quarter in Paris, and a love affair between two of them. The arias in this opera are some of the best known in the classical world - it's one hit after another!
The Met's production, designed by Franco Zeffirelli in the 80s, is a splendor. It starts out in an intimate garret in Paris and then moves to a joyous parade in the street with a cast of seemingly thousands (photos from the Met web site) –

Act 3 is the snowy scene. It is set outside a small inn where the lovers meet. Snow falls and darkened figures travel along a road in the background. It really is like a painting.

Act 4 finds us back in the Parisian garret. I won't tell you how it ends.

The music is glorious and the visuals divine. It was such a holiday treat here is New York City.
Blog bonus - an excerpt from Act 1 -

I am wishing you dear reader a holiday season of beauty and love –