Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On Top of the World

Don, Brian, Mary and Joyce Healy.

Our great friend Don Healy is off to climb Mount Everest! You remember our friends and neighbors the Healys. I took the picture above at Brian's thirtieth birthday, and we traveled with them to Amsterdam.

The Healys are intrepid travelers but this really takes the cake: Don is heading to climb the highest mountain on earth. He and Joyce left in March and are now in Kathmandu. They will start trekking to the Mount Everest Base Camp on Thursday, April 1st and arrive there on the 11th. Then Joyce will head down the mountain while Don climbs to the summit. He hopes to be there on May 18th, his 65th birthday. He'll be back in New York in June – that's one long journey.

Three years ago Don was preparing to climb Mount Rainer in Washington when he had a serious bicycle accident which broke his hip and required a complete hip replacement. Undaunted, he returned to his interest in mountain climbing and seriously trained to get back in shape. When he makes it to the top of Mount Everest, it will be a first for a climber with a hip replacement. Don has a great web site up called Everest Hip Hop which tells his story and also includes a blog which he will be updating so we can follow his adventures.

Mount Everest is more than 29,000 feet high. It's part of the Himalayan mountain range and is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet. Of course it is a perilous journey with inherent dangers including altitude sickness, extreme weather and hazardous wind. All of Don Healy's loved ones say: God speed!

Click on the image below to go to Don's web site and follow his blog:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Glad Tidings for the Metropolitan Opera

Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, and Ann Ziff. Photo from The New York Times.

Comes the news today that Ann Ziff has given the Metropolitan Opera here in New York a gift of $30 million. You may remember Ann Ziff – she is a friend of Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things and a wonderful jewelry designer whose jewelry collection Tamsen Z was featured here on Dec. 3.

The New York Times reports that this is the largest single gift from an individual in the history of the Met, and that Ms. Ziff made it unrestricted, so that the Met can spend it any way it wishes. General Manager Peter Gelb says, "It came at a time when the Met is sorely in need of cash."

Just the other night, TD was marveling at the wonder that is the Metropolitan Opera, an institution which mounts different spectacular world class operas every day, except for Sundays, and sometimes two a day, over its long season, from September through May. We enjoyed so much our trip to the Met in January to see Der Rosenkavalier, and want to return again soon. Ann Ziff says, "I think perhaps the Met is the greatest...arts organization in the world."

Ann Ziff grew up in New York City, and her mother was Harriet Henders, a soprano who performed with conductor Arturo Toscanini, reports The Times. Ann married William B Ziff, Jr., the impresario behind Ziff-Davis Publishing, and they had three sons. William Ziff died in 2006, and now Ann is secretary of the Met's board and will become chairwoman next year.

She is also a gifted jewelry designer who sells her work to a private clientele. She told me that she will be opening a story on Madison Avenue this spring; I want to find out how that is progressing. Her specialty is combining unexpected colors and materials together for striking creations which were exciting to me. Here is a shot of her designs. I think Marella Agnelli would like her work, don't you? (See previous post.)

Ann Ziff is putting her artistic talent, and her money, to good use to create beautiful things. Three cheers for that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marella Agnelli

I was quite taken with the photo above of Marella Agnelli shot by Mary Hilliard at Malcolm Forbes' 70th birthday party in Morocco in 1989. More pictures from the party were recently featured on my friend David Patrick Columbia's New York Social Diary.com which you can see here and here.

You know of course that Marella was married to Gianni Agnelli who was the chairman of Fiat, and as such oversaw 4.4% of Italy's gross national product and 3.1% of its work force. The cultivated man, regarded by many as the "king of Italy," died in 2003. His wife Marella has long been renowned for her great style and taste, which is on display in the photo above.

At the Malcolm Forbes birthday party, which was a major international social event, some guests went all out with big poufy dresses and big poufy hair; a lot of effort is on display. But Marella looks elegant and chic – comfortable in her own skin.

The basis of her outfit is her fantastic jewelry. The necklaces and earrings look as though they are rubies and emeralds, reminiscent of the amazing pieces worn by the royalty of India. The colors are like Christmas – joyful and ripe. Marella wears a simple white tunic which offers a blank canvas setting for the jewels. A pink fine woolen wrap that is edged with silk repeats the colors of the rubies, while her small clutch is emerald green. I imagine that she has on some incredible emerald green slipper. The clothes follow the lines of the body and the ease comes from within her. The whole effect is so effortless and timeless but still dazzles the eye.

Here is Marella in the Fifties photographed in a Balenciaga coat. It's the same idea: a simple, chic column of white. In observing the most stylish women of his time, Truman Capote named his favorite "swans" – those who adhere "to some aesthetic system of thought, a code transposed into a self portrait...Mme. Agnelli is the European swan numero uno."

Marella Agnelli was born in 1927 in Florence into an old Neapolitan family. Her father was Filippo Caracciolo, 8th Prince of Castagneto, and her mother was the former Margaret Clarke of Peoria, Illinois. Here is Marella photographed in 1948, age 21.

Marella married Gianni Agnelli in 1953 and though he was a philanderer, they remained married for fifty years until he died in 2003. The couple had two children. Their son the heir Edoardo committed suicide, leaping from a bridge at the age of 36 in 2000. Their daughter Margherita in 2008 launched a legal battle against her mother and family over her share of her inheritance. Margherita is the mother of John and Lapo Elkan (he of the International Best Dressed List) who continue to work for the Agnelli business. Marella, who will be 83 on May 4, lives in the family villa near Turin.

But let's return for a moment to simpler times. This is the iconic photo of Marella taken by Richard Avedon in 1953. It's all vertical up and down lines, almost unworldly. She is a creature beyond fashion and trends, defying gravity to create her own style and her own self.

European Swan Numero Uno indeed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Am a Camera...

(click photos to enlarge)
...and my camera is broken. My Canon PowerShot is broken AGAIN! It is not even two years old and this is the second time that the lense has gotten stuck out in the extended position. On Saint Patrick's Day I was at the Irish pub taking some jolly pictures of the bagpipers when the lense got stuck out and wouldn't retract. A year ago when the same thing happened Canon fixed it at no cost. This year they said the warranty was over and they would charge me to fix it. I sent it in with a letter asking them not to charge me since it is not even two years old and this is the second time it has broken. We'll see what they say.
In the meantime I'm missing the digital camera, it's become like an extension of my right hand. I was at the Farmer's Market today and saw the most beautiful pink tulips in full bloom, but couldn't get a picture of it.
For now, let's go to the Bart Boehlert Archives for some comfort. Above is a photo of yellow roses which cheered the living room during the recent four-day rain. Below are pink roses which we got for one of the snow storm weekends.

And a single white tulip bows in the spot light.

Let's see what happens with the camera. I might have to buy a new one. But one doesn't want to buy a new digital every two years, does one?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Trip to the Library

I recently went one Sunday afternoon up to the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue to do some writing.
And don't say to me, "That's where Carrie was going to get married!"
There was a long history to the library before the Sex and the City movie.

The library is one of my favorite buildings in New York. While so many things in New York seem to be changing, the library remains the same. The building was constructed on the site of the old Croton Reservoir. It took sixteen years to build and was dedicated on May 23, 1911 by President William Howard Taft.

Architects John Merven Carrere and Thomas Hastings designed the building in the Beaux Arts style, and fashioned everything including its tables, chairs, lamps and chandeliers, and even the hardware and waste baskets.

Its spaces and the details are still beautiful, and as you walk along its quiet, polished, empty halls you feel like you are going back in time.

The library houses the Humanities and Social Science collections, so it is a research library, not a lending library. The most spectacular part of the building is the Rose Main Reading Room which was completely renovated and restored in 1988, due to the generous support of the Rose family.

With a north wing and a south wing, the reading room is almost as big as a football field; it is one of the largest rooms in the country without a dome, interior columns, or steel-inforced walls to support the ceiling. Natural light flows through big arched windows.

I just love its metal lamps, and oak tables and chairs. I think that's why I went to law school for a year before leaving – to sit in a library like this!

This is the north wing. Simply plug in your laptop and you're off.

Library services are offered in the center of the room.

When you look up you seem to be peering into the sky. The writer's imagination can fly freely.

This is truly one of the most beautiful rooms in New York. Thanks to its many creators and renovators, it's a very pleasant place to be on a cold and grey Sunday afternoon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art, Night and Day

Silver entrance hall with silk chiffon pleated lamp shades.

Last weekend TD and I had some fun adventures. On Friday night we went to visit our friend Ellen Peckham who has having a party for Japanese artist Rie Hasegawa who was off to Lima, Peru to show her work in an exhibition. I have written here before about Ellen Peckham who is a great inspiration. Ellen is an artist and poet – you can visit her web site here. She also runs an art gallery, Atelier AE. Her loft is an art studio where she and other artists create their work, and also a gallery where she shows various artists – a wonderful way to live. Wherever you go there are beautiful things to look at. (click on photos to enlarge)

Dragon flies and lily of the valley.

Books, magazines and memorabilia.

There is art everywhere.

And walls of books.

Then on Saturday afternoon, we went uptown to the big Armory Art Show on Piers 92 and 94 at the end of 55th Street with our friend Dick Hofland who was staying with us for the weekend. You remember the Hoflands, they are the friends we visited in Amsterdam. Last year TD and I attended the opening night of the Armory Show, so I wanted to see it again.

It was completely mobbed with people. Hopefully that means the art market is doing well. The show is huge and there is a lot to look at.
These are two watercolors by the German painter Emil Nolde. TD reminded me that we saw a great show of his work at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Nolde never lived far from the sea which he captured so beautifully with transparent veils of thin watercolor washes.

This watercolor titled "Falling Leaves" by American painter Charles Burchfield, who lived in upstate New York, is charming, innocent, nostalgic.

American artist John Marin was known for his abstract landscapes – these two seemingly simple watercolors have a dynamic energy.

This might be the favorite painting I saw, with its jewel tones and joyful shapes.

Often, when I was attracted to something in this show, it turned out to be by Robert Rauschenberg. This acrylic screen print sparkles with silver pigment dust at the top.

It was really a lot to take in, and I sat down for a rest. The walls of the adjacent gallery where covered with vivid faux stones.

Color, optimism, clarity, light: these are things I like to see in art. And life.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Oscar Parade

I can't resist a post about the red carpet fashion on Sunday night. I thought Sandra Bullock's pale glittering gown by Marchesa was very pretty, and that dress looked great when she was holding her golden Oscar statuette! Her sleek hair and red lips were classic Hollywood.

My favorite look was young actress Cary Mulligan in this Prada dress.

It was decorated with little metal forks and knives and scalpels. I love a dress that comes with its own jewelry, don't you? Seriously, it was a chic design but whimsical too and perfect for a young actress, when so many of them dress in boring chiffon gowns.

I also loved this dress on Maggie Gyllenhaal by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. You know I'm a big fan of his. We used to see Maggie in the bakery on Jane Street; I believe she lives with her family in the West Village. She always goes her own way with her clothes, and I love this giant print, the likes of which you rarely see on the red carpet. And you have to stand back so you can see the bottom treatment of the print. This beautiful dress looks like a painting by Dufy.

I think Maggie and Dries are pals – here they are at a recent luncheon at F.I.T where Dries was honored with the award for artistry in fashion.

Chic man.

Overall though, I thought the Oscars were lacking in big time Hollywood glamour. Where were Julia Roberts/Angline Jolie/Gwyneth Paltrow/Reese Witherspoon? I don't think anyone looked as great as Jennifer Aniston did at the Golden Globes in January. Her dress was by Valentino, and it was pretty plain, until she moved:
Those legs.

That hair.

That smile.

The girl was having fun.

It looks kind of like she zipped up a $5,000 dress and ran out the door, although you know it wasn't that easy, with a stylist and hair and makeup experts. I love the cut of the dress and the sexy sandals – thankfully she didn't opt for trendy ginormous platform shoes. What comes through is her personality, a feeling of good health and being in great shape, and a California joie de vivre. The look was kind of simple, it was kind of nothing, "but it was the right nothing" as English writer Patrick Kinmoth once said. That to me is great style.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Christophe Decarnin for Balmain

Ornate textures for Fall 2010 (Runway shots from Style.com)

The fall collections were just shown in Paris; I have for a while been admiring the work of Christophe Decarnin at Balmain.

You know Balmain – the classic French design house. Pierre Balmain was born in 1914 and studied architecture in Paris, but left school to work for fashion designer Edward Molyneux. Balmain founded his own house in 1945 and incorporated his studies into his elegantly shaped and draped designs: "Dressmaking is the architecture of movement" said Balmain. Here is the old boy now, fitting a dress on the actress Ruth Ford in 1947.

(photo by Carl Van Vecht)
Pierre Balmain died in 1982. For nine years, from 1993 to 2002, Oscar de lat Renta designed the Balmain couture collections. Afterwards, the house fell on hard times and had to file for bankruptcy. Subsequently it was revived and investors brought on board French designer Christophe Decarnin, from Paco Rabanne, to resuscitate the label for a younger customer.

For Spring 2009 Decarnin showed great military jackets with exaggerated shoulders and button plackets.

I think a year and a half ago he single-handedly started the military trend that is sweeping fashion this spring.

For Spring 2010, he continued with the military jackets, adding ornate fringe at the shoulder and rows of shiny buttons.

Things got a little rough with ripped t shirts and tight black leather jeans.

The military jacket with its strong shoulder and nipped waist is so flattering, on women and men. It has a tailored, polished line that looks good on everyone. It's a simple way to add a sharp element to the wardrobe. These Balmain clothes are famously expensive, but the look is easy to copy, even at the army and navy store.
Here is Chistophe Decarnin at the end of the Spring 2010 show.

For Fall 2010, just shown in Paris, he toned it down with suits for work. The gold stripes and glossy buttons still have a military feeling.

This suit with a chiffon blouse looks like classic Yves Saint Laurent.

Hard and soft: navy jacket and gold lame jeans.

A slim military-inspired navy wool jacket with gold buttons is a good idea for spring and something I am seeing already on guys on the street in New York City.