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 had the idea that 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!

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!