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Preview: Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things

Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things

A style diary of life in New York City

Updated: 2018-03-14T19:26:50.889-04:00


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 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 William's casually elegant description: "The story is very simple." Ha!These are two excellent shows housed in a lovely building. Visit The Morgan! [...]

The Wondrous David Hockney


Portrait of an Artist (1972)There is a beautiful exhibition of the work of David Hockney now up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City through February 25th and I highly recommend it. The renowned British artist is now in his 80th year and this retrospective highlights his greatest work over the last 50 years. It's so interesting to view it because one can see, from the very beginning in the Sixties, the themes that run through Hockney's painting - the signature pink and green and blue colors, depictions of water and swimming pools, a chic take on people, and a robust sensuality. He's been consistent. I've always been a fan of David Hockney's. Many years ago my friend Jim Reginato took me to a party when the artist had a new book out. I bought the book and I wanted Hockney to sign it for me but he was being monopolized by a woman photographer who shall go unnamed. Jim said to me, "Go interrupt them and ask him to sign it. That's what book parties are for." But I didn't and regret it. I wish I had a signed book! New York City is not a place for shy people.I still love to look at Hockney's work. It's like a trip to a warm, tropical place when it's frigid winter in New York –The Bigger Splash (1967)Hockney went to art school in London and then moved to L.A. where he was taken with the nice weather and the beautiful people. With Hockney's work you get happy colors and a joy for living. You can almost feel the warm air. I love the perspective of this early painting below, from the point of view of the swimmer in the pool as he looks across the rippling water and up the stairs. You see already Hockney's blue, brick, green, and pink –Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc (1971) These same colors move inside too with Hockney's large double portraits. Here is on the right Christopher Isherwood, who wrote The Berlin Stories, upon which Cabaret was based, with his younger boyfriend painter Don Bachardy on the left. Interesting how Isherwood is looking at Bachardy and Bachardy is peering out at the viewer.Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (1968) This is a small drawing of Hockney's friend the fashion designer Ossie Clark looking chic in a Fair Isle sweater. Hockney moved back to England but he took his California colors with him. Here is David Hockney's version of winter with wonderful pinks, green and oranges – A Closer Winter Tunnel (2006)Summer version of the English landscape - earthy, rich and ripe. This scene reminds me of the farms of upstate New York where I grew up. These paintings were broken into six panels so that Hockney could easily transport them.  Hockney has moved back to L.A. and is still painting pictures of his residence there.Garden #3 (2016)This exhibition makes you want to go home and paint your walls pink and your floors blue.If you lived with one of these paintings you'd always be happy. Long may Hockney reign. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" src=""> [...]

At Home for the Holidays


TD and I recently put up our Christmas tree, which we always enjoy during the holiday season. My sister Cynthia and sister-in-law Barb are coming from Colorado and we'll be together with my two brothers and their families, which will be great. This will be our first Christmas without our parents; my father passed away in April and my mother passed away five and a half years ago so this will be a first for us. Getting the tree is a project! The calm before the Christmas tree storm:We used to live on Jane Street, and we have been getting our trees for thirty (!!) years from Billy Romp and his family who come down from Vermont and set up shop in the month of December at the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue. We love to see Billy each year. We pick out a tree and he straps it onto a cart that is attached to a bike and he walks with us to our apartment. We set up the tree and have a glass of red wine and catch up on the year.Soon Billy is on his way and we get to work -- the lights, the ornaments, the star on the top, the cloth  below.And voila – I like how the tree adds a colorful glow to the room. Everything on the tree is personal to us. We have collected a lot of antique ornaments – And a lot are handmade. The ornament in the middle that says "Greetings" was one of the last things that my mother made and sent us. She liked to create cards. TD cut out the paper angel on the left.  In the front hall I put some evergreens in a glass vase and hung a few ornaments on the sprigs – Our Christmas decorations include this reindeer on the living room fireplace mantle who has a pretty wreath around his neck. I found the reindeer at ABC Carpet and Home – The fireplace doesn't work so we put a big candle in it for a warm glow – I'm so grateful to be seeing my siblings and extended family this holiday season. I hope that your holidays have a warm glow too dear reader and I wish you all the very best for the new year ahead. [...]

The Elegant World of Louis Vuitton and the Invention of Travel


A big, beautiful exhibition created by Louis Vuitton is now open downtown inside the American Stock Exchange Building at 86 Trinity Place until January 7th. Called "Volez, Voguez, Voyagez" ("to fly, to sail, to travel"), the exhibition celebrates the history of the French luxury heritage brand and the invention of travel at the turn of the last century. Louis Vuitton has built inside the Stock Exchange a two floor museum with 16 rooms. It's quite a dazzling feat and I highly recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in luxury brands and beautiful things and the history of fashion. I am helping out at Louis Vuitton as a docent giving tours through this show. Admission is free and you can find out how to reserve tickets and sign up for a tour here.Mr. Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in a small village in eastern France. Both of his parents died, and when he was 14, he decided to walk to Paris. Ambitious boy. The 300 mile journey took him two years, and when he arrived in Paris, he got a job in a wood shop learning how to craft packing boxes and crates. In 1854, at the age of 33, he opened his own house, creating modern trunks for the elite. Indeed, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napolean III was a client. After Louis Vuitton died, his son George and then his grandson Gaston increased the business and the success of the house. Today, 163 years after it was founded, Louis Vuitton is the number one ranked luxury brand in the world.Curated by Olivier Saillard, each room of the exhibition has a theme. This one below features travel on the high seas –In the aviation room, a life size airplane soars overhead – One room with a giant Murano glass chandelier and tented ceiling celebrates the stars of Hollywood who traveled with Louis Vuitton luggage – A Lartigue photograph captures the chic style of the time – The trunk of French couturier Paul Poiret, who was the subject of a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is laid carefully with his painter's jacket – Perhaps my favorite piece is tucked in a corner - it is the trunk of General Douglas MacArthur with his monogram on the top and a handsome stripe down the side – There is a lot to see here and the show is very popular. I recommend visiting on a weekday, or if you come on a weekend day, come early before the line gets long. And enjoy this elegant journey. [...]

Meet Miguel Flores-Vianna and the Haute Bohemians


With photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna at his jam-packed book signing party at Creel and Gow.The fall season has brought the most wonderful new book from Vendome Press by my friend photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna called Haute Bohemians – In the book, which begins with a foreward by Architectural Digest Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley, Miguel presents 23 of his favorite homes from around the world that he has photographed. The theme that runs through them all is their very eclectic and personal decorating style, which the homeowners have uniquely created. The book is peopled with artists and writers and collectors who have produced their interiors to perfectly reflect themselves with a profusion of flowers, art, books, and antiques. All of that speaks to me. Miguel was an early supporter of this blog, which I really appreciated. The Argentine-born journalist was a magazine editor at Town & Country, House Beautiful and Veranda before he became a photographer ten years ago. His partner is European so Miguel now lives in London, but he returned to New York City for a book signing last week, which was hosted by Amy Astley at the chic Upper East Side shop Creel and Gow where proprietor Jamie Creel greeted guests. On a hot, steamy September night last week, a crush of editors and decorators crowded in to congratulate the author.Later, Miguel told me that his favorite things to do are travel and read. "Now I like to see nature more and more rather than historical monuments. I like experiencing other cultures, that is my idea of luxury - to be in a country where I don't understand a word they are saying and to somehow find my way."  He hopes his book inspires readers. "We live in a world that changes all the time, too fast for my taste, and I love that all these characters stick to what moves them, what touches them, and that is why they are able to live in such soulful places."The walls and headboard of Nathalie Farman-Farma's London bedroom are covered with the same romantic fabric – Marion McEvoy's dining room is perched above the banks of the Hudson River –Carolina Irving's dining room in Paris doubles as a library –Perhaps my favorite is the Canary Islands home of Min Hogg, the renowned founding editor of The World of Interiors. Its graceful simplicity is so serene – "All the houses in these pages are poetry," Miguel observes in his evocative book. And he is right. English interior designer Robert Kime once said, “A room should represent the absent owner, its arrangement is the owner's memory.” With his book, Miguel captures those memories.[...]

October Architectural Digest


I'm delighted to have written a piece for the beautiful October issue of Architectural Digest, and you might enjoy picking up a copy! For this assignment, the magazine asked me to write about the talented artist Marc Hundley who had designed a furniture collection inspired by an important beach house owned by his friend Justinian Kfoury in the community of Water Island on Fire Island. The beach house was originally owned by Morris Golde, who hosted an array of writer and artist friends at his island home including Edward Albee, W. H. Auden, Ned Rorem and Frank O'Hara. One day in June I took the train out to Sayville, Long Island, and then a bus to the ferry dock where Marc Hundley picked me up in a motor boat and we sped across the Great South Bay to Water Island where I visited the house and viewed Marc's beautiful handmade furniture. It was a lovely day. The October issue is filled with stylish stories including a feature on the gorgeous Southampton home of fashion designer Tory Burch who is pictured on the cover looking super-glamorous atop a ladder trimming her hedgerow. Check out the October issue! (image)

A Summer Trip to Cape May, New Jersey


Last week TD and I had a delightful trip to Cape May, New Jersey, which is at the southern end of the state and definitely worth a visit. First we stopped in Ocean City, New Jersey, which we always enjoy, and visited TD's jolly and hospitable relatives. Then we drove further on down to Cape May, which we had not been to before. The town was a very popular seaside resort in the nineteenth century, but in 1878, a devastating fire that lasted five days destroyed 30 blocks at its center. When the homes were rebuilt, they were designed in the style of the day - Victorian. In 1976 the entire city of Cape May was declared an historic district and so today visitors stroll along block after block of beautiful Victorian houses painted and trimmed in a range of delightful colors. Picket fences run along the sidewalks, and the streets are draped with tall shade trees. "I feel like I'm in Meet Me in St. Louis," said TD. Luckily he had found a room in a charming B and B called Twin Gables where we unloaded our bags. The house is owned by the friendly and warm innkeeper Regina, who reminded me a little of my mother. Coincidentally, the B and B turned out to be around the corner from the home of TD's distant cousin Mary Ellen, who arrived at cocktail hour on the porch with her husband Joe. After a glass of wine, they took us on a quick walking tour of Cape May. Street after street of the prettiest houses and inns stretched out before us. The town reminded me of Cooperstown, New York, which is also an historic district, and of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. Red, white and blue – A cool porch under shade trees –I liked this handsome chocolate brown Cape Cod house with turquoise blue trim – A great spot in Cape May is the Congress Hall hotel. The large resort hotel was rebuilt in brick after the big fire in the nineteenth century. It was fully restored in 2002, and now it's a beautiful destination with enticing restaurants and bars. The striking main thoroughfare at Congress Hall features American flags and Victorian light fixtures –  The hotel lobby was decorated dramatically with green walls plus red and black accents. Someone who knew what they were doing did a good job designing this hotel – One night we ate outdoors at an excellent Mexican restaurant called La Dona. Many of the restaurants are BYOB so we picked up a small bottle of tequila and the restaurant made the most delicious orange, lemon and lime margaritas. The best I have had! The food also was delicious and excellent. Later, we walked to the big, old Chalfonte Hotel, which was built in 1876. Simple and authentic, the rambling place has an old-school charm. There's a little bar on the side, and we sat and enjoyed a night cap on the long, wide porch, like that at the Sharon Spring Hotel in upstate New York. Families and friends who seemed to be there on an extended holiday pulled up rocking chairs and talked in intimate groups.One day it rained, not a beach day alas, but afterwards a rainbow shone bright. A fitting end to a fun adventure in Cape May – [...]

Henry James and Friends at the Morgan Library


An Interior in Venice (The Curtis Family) by John Singer Sargent, 1898. The Morgan Library and Museum is one of my favorite places in New York, and the arts at the turn of the last century is an era I love so I has very happy to visit a new exhibit at the Morgan called Henry James and American Painting. The great American writer Henry James, who lived mostly in London and Venice, was fascinated by artists and sculptors; in fact earlier in his career he had dabbled in painting and went to law school before he became a writer.While he worked as a writer, he remained influenced by artists, and painted his scenes with words instead of brushstrokes. The exhibition at the Morgan explores James' friendships with artists and how they affected him. The show is co-curated by Irish author Colm Toibin, who wrote one of my very favorite books, the novel The Master, which is based on Henry James. Displayed in one room at the Morgan, the exhibit includes approximately fifty objects including paintings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures and manuscripts by artists John La Farge, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and more. Sargent painted this 1913 portrait of James upon the occasion of the writer's 70th birthday – I also liked this portrait of James in a snappy polka dot bow tie by Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand from 1900 – Delightfully, James and Sargent were close friends. The writer and the artist shared much in common too; both were born in the United States and lived in Europe, captured the wealthy society of the day elegantly and deliciously in their respective media, and hid their homosexuality.The connection between James and Sargent is evident in the gorgeous painting pictured at the top of this post. Sargent painted his cousin Daniel Sargent Curtis and his wife at home in Venice in the Palazzo Barbero where James was a guest. In fact, James wrote some of The Aspern Papers at a desk that is still housed in the palazzo today. James was a big fan of the palazzo's stunning Baroque interior and included a description of the salon in his novel The Wings of the Dove. The writer loved Sargent's romantic portrait of the Curtises, and wrote that he "absolutely and without reserve adored it." Alas, this gorgeous painting was not successful at the time. Mrs. Curtis felt it made her look too old and that her son was posed too casually so she did not accept the gift of the painting from the Sargent.Can you imagine?This and more stories abound in this entertaining exhibition. For a gentle trip back in time, visit the James exhibit at the Morgan Library, through September 10th.[...]

Design Plus Art at the Decoration & Design Building


Artist Cy Twombly's apartment in Rome photograhed by Horst in 1966 – Art and design – two of my favorite subjects! A couple of weeks ago I attended Spring Market Day at the Decorating & Design Building here in New York City. The handsome D & D Building on Third Avenue houses over 130 manufacturers' showrooms, which are open to-the-trade and welcome design industry professionals from around the world. The day was called Art X Design, and was dedicated to exploring how art and design work together in interiors. Showrooms were open to visitors, plus there were three keynote speaker panels, 14 in-showroom programs, three cocktail receptions, and more. I started the morning with a panel on "How Art of the 20th Century Shapes Design" which was moderated by Town & Country Editor in Chief Stellene Volandes and included artist Sophie Matisse, who is the great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse; interior designer Stephen Sills (pictured below); and Molly Ott-Amber, Senior Vice President at Sotheby's. In discussing how to decorate with art, Sills warned, "Don't do color schemes or rooms around art, ever." The designer said he is inspired by old photographs of artists' studios. "Great artists were great decorators and very conscious of their environment," he noted, citing Matisse, Picasso and Cy Twombly (pictured above) as favorite examples.With the great American interior designer Stephen Sills at the D & D Building – Next I headed to "Art Smart: A Primer for Designers" with moderator Galerie magazine editor-at-large Margaret Russell and designers Jamie Drake and Robert Stilin and art advisor Lorinda Ash. The panel discussed favorite art galleries to visit in New York which include Gagosian, Marianne Boesky, Chiem Read, Pace and Eleven Rivington. Later I hit "The Curatorial Designer: Interiors for Contemporary Art Collectors" moderated by NYC&G Editor in Chief Kendell Cronstrom with author Alisa Carroll, designers Gary Hutton and Amy Lau, and art advisor Blair Clarke. "A job is not finished until there is art on the walls," observed Amy Lau.The art world can be intimidating place for buyers but throughout the day, discussions offered advice on navigating that world and how to best incorporate art into interior design. "The purpose was to provide a service to the design community and give them access to a variety of vetted experts including art advisors, art galleries, and auction houses," said Liz Nightingale, Vice President, Director of Marketing at the D & D Building, who organized the successful event. After a glass of wine at one of the cocktail parties, my head was swimming with all of the conversations of the day and the power of art to enhance and inspire. As Margaret Russell said during her panel, "Art elevates everything." [...]

Rei Kawakubo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute


I am a little behind since my father passed away but earlier last month I did attend a preview for the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçon: Art of the In-Between." Rei Kawakubo is of course the diminutive, avant-garde Japanese fashion designer who has been creating her artistic collections for her Comme des Garçon label since 1969. Kawakubo has been very influential in the world of fashion; you can see her effect on the work of designers like John Galliano and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. This is only the second retrospective at the Met for a living fashion designer; the first was for Yves Saint Laurent, which Diana Vreeland presented in 1983. In the opening remarks at the preview, the curator Andrew Bolton noted that Kawakubo "blurs the distinction between art and fashion with designs that look like sculpture." Indeed, many of the garments on display defy the traditional norms of clothing with shapes and volumes that don't follow the lines of the body at all but create their own unique silhouette. I tended to like the more classic shapes like the red garments above and these dresses with a lace bodice –The installation itself was very interesting too. I've never seen anything like it at the Met. Displaying about 150 garments, it's a white maze of different shaped modules that was designed by Kawakubo and Bolton together. Costume shows typically focus spotlights on individual pieces but this exhibition features 150 fluorescent lights overhead so it feels like you're in a very bright modern art gallery – An additional treat was hearing Caroline Kennedy speak at the preview as she does not often appear in public in New York. Caroline Kennedy was the United States Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration and so she talked about her friend Rei Kawakubo –  For an exploration of clothing as abstract modern art, go see the new Costume Institute show at the Met, through September 5th. Up now also at the museum, which I plan to see, is an exhibition of photographs by the great master Irving Penn. [...]

A Musical Week in New York in Three Acts


Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater. This photo from The New York Times.Before the sad event described in my previous post, TD and I had a wonderful week in New York when we attended three delightful musical events within seven days.One: First up was the Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater, which was a joy. This musical by genius Stephen Sondheim is about Impressionist painter George Seurat and how he produced his pointillist masterpiece painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which can now be found at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a pleasure it would be to see this painting in person –When I met TD...that would be 32 years ago...he took me promptly to see Sunday in the Park on Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. This new production (which has now completed its run) featured movie star Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford.Here is the charming cast collecting money for Equity Fights AIDS after the show –Jake Gyllenhaal is a wonderful actor, and he brought the rough personality of Seurat alive. And I was particularly taken with Annaleigh Ashford who I thought was sexier and more lively than Bernadette Peters. The show is really about the commitment to creating art and the price it can take on one's personal life. It's breathtaking visually and the music is gorgeous. This is not a new notion, but in creating a show about making art, Stephen Sondheim himself produced a masterpiece.Two: Later that weekend, we headed up to East 128th Street in Harlem to a gala at the Music and Mentoring House hosted by acclaimed opera soprano Laura Flanigan. Laura lives in the oldest nineteenth-century wood frame house in Harlem and it's a beauty – In the house, Laura offers educational programs for singers, mentoring for artists, professional introductions, and a place for artists to train for auditions. At the fundraising gala on a bright spring day, guests sat in the living room as student artists performed to a piano accompanist while sun streamed in through the tall windows of the old house. Laura also offers Saturday Soirees in her garden where guests can meet and hear the students. Afterwards we all walked to a nearby Italian restaurant in Harlem called Barawine for food, wine and more music. On the way, our friend Philip pointed out the gigantic home where actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband and children live. As if on cue, Neil Patrick Harris passed us on the sidewalk with a big smile. At the restaurant, as we ate pasta and salad and sipped red wine, Laura Flanigan herself sang some songs by Rufus Wainwright – Outside, the sun cast its last rays on Harlem's beautiful brownstone row houses. It really was a lovely Sunday afternoon.Three: The following week we were invited to a gala for the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown which is one of our favorite destinations upstate. This annual gala in New York City raises money for the Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists and Summer Internship Programs. Like Lauren Flanigan's Music and Mentoring House, this program helps young artists in opera get to the next stage in their careers. This summer, the 110 Glimmerglass apprenticeships will offer emerging artists, craftspeople, production and artistic personnel valuable working experience and guidance. The event, which we have attended before, is held at the gorgeous Edwardian-style Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue, which was completed in 1894. After cocktails in the Grand Hall – guests progressed into the red and gold gilded salon room to hear performances by some of the young talents who will be singing in Cooperstown this summer. The Festival's dynamic Artistic and General Director[...]

My Father


My father and I at a family wedding a few years ago.I'm sad to say that my father, Bart Boehlert, passed away on April 9 in Colorado Springs. Fortunately he passed away in his sleep in the afternoon just after my sister Cynthia had visited him so he left peacefully and with a loved one near by. My sister called and told us on Sunday the 9th and on Monday the 10th, my two brothers Eric and Thom and sister-in-law Karen and I were on a plane to Denver at noon to be with my sister and her wife Barb to help with the arrangements and clean out my father's apartment. It was really nice to be together for four days and tell some stories and eat and drink and laugh.Blog readers may remember that my mother passed away about four and a half years ago. After that, my father lived alone in the big house in Connecticut for a while but he was lonely, especially at dinner time, so a little over two years ago he moved to an assisted living residence near my sister in Colorado Springs, and we had a good time visiting him in Colorado  – But unfortunately he started to decline pretty quickly with numerous problems until it overwhelmed him. He got wonderful care from my sister and the residence but we were nonetheless stunned by the decline. In the end it was better for him to pass on, but hard for us. My mother had a long illness so we/I were prepared, but this event with my father happened pretty quickly so it was a bit of shock. And when we went through it with my mother, we had our father with us. But now with them both gone there is a sad finality to this.My mother and father –A family photo from a couple years ago in New York –  My father was big, tall man with a reassuring voice, and he was a strong presence in my life. We were very different personality-wise, practically opposites, and there were some conflicts but we never gave up on each other and always reached for each other. He was an ardent supporter of mine. When I told my parents I was gay, age 16 in upstate New York (and it was not cool then, believe me), he immediately supported me without blinking an eye. He liked to do things more than talk, and he was always providing for us - painting, repairing, cleaning, washing, he even liked to polish shoes. As I get older I find myself more and more like him, constantly cleaning, and yes, polishing TD's shoes. My father single-handedly supported his rambunctious, demanding family of six, and when my mother was ill in bed for sixteen months, he devotedly took care of her, providing three meals a day, and cooking was probably his least favorite thing. But I never heard him once complain.  He was a big, generous, supportive man who would do anything for you. I will miss him always. [...]

Celebrating "Signature Spaces" at Gerald Bland


Yours truly with decorators and authors Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino at Gerald Bland. My friend Michael Boodro, the editor of Elle Decor, recently invited me to celebrate the publication of a sumptuous book called Signature Spaces - Well Travelled Interiors by the London-based decorators Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino –The book party was held at Gerald Bland, which is a well-known gallery on East 59th Street that features a striking collection of furniture and art. At Gerald Bland, guests pressed into a smaller gallery to greet the authors and buy the book –     I had the chance to meet the charming designers and congratulate them on their luxurious book, which was published by Vendome Press. With an introduction by Min Hogg, the esteemed former editor of The World of Interiors, the book includes lavish photographs by Simon Upton of the firm's interiors created for clients around the world. Interspersed throughout the book are arresting images like an iconic photograph of Babe Paley and a favorite Balthus painting, plus inspiring quotes including: "I'm going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life."  - Elsie de Wolfe"Style is a simply way of saying complicated things." - Jean Cocteau "We think the book is a lot of fun," said Paolo, and it is. Since the tome is subtitled "Well-Travelled Interiors," I asked them what their preferred destination is. Marrakesh is their favorite, where they have a home that is easy to fly to from London.      Afterwards, I had a look around Gerald Bland, which is quite a beautiful gallery that I had not visited before. Mr. Bland ran the English furniture department at Sotheby's before opening his own business in 1987. Now his gallery presents an eclectic collection of antique and modern furniture and contemporary art. Just as Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino mixed interiors and portraits and quotes in their book, Gerald Bland arranges furnishings and art from vastly different periods in several large galleries and rooms, and the effect is very sophisticated. You have to know what you're doing to mix it up that well. The lighting throughout was alluring, and many of the rooms and vignettes featured a green plant or tree. A touch of nature is a welcome addition to elegant furnishings and art. Between the book and the gallery, the whole trip was an eyeful. After a glass of red wine, I headed downtown to meet TD at a friend's home for dinner, marveling at the treasures that New York has to offer. [...]

New York City Art Explored in Two Current Exhibitions


Untitled collage by Robert Rauschenberg from 1957There is a never-ending stream of interesting art shows to see in New York, and coincidentally two now explore art produced in almost contiguous periods during the twentieth century. Inventing Downtown at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University on Washington Square is about artist-run galleries in New York from 1952 to 1965, and Fast Forward at the Whitney Museum of American Art is comprised of paintings produced in the 80s. TD and I thought it would be fun to have a look at both. At mid-century in New York City, art galleries were located in midtown on 57th Street. The exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery shows how the art scene was transformed when it moved downtown as artists created their own galleries.The cover of the catalogue pictures artist Red Grooms transporting art downtown in a baby carriage. Ah, those were the days –  At the Grey Art Gallery, admission is free – There was lots to look at. I particularly liked the Rauschenberg collage pictured at the top. The work of this artist has always hit me. It's abstract and a mix of various media but something about it strikes me emotionally. How did he do that? I was also drawn to the painting below of the great American poet Frank O'Hara by Wolf Kahn from 1954. In 1966, Frank O'Hara fell asleep on the beach on Fire Island and was hit by a Jeep in the dark and killed at age 40. A wall was hung with a colorful mix of art – Downstairs was a section devoted to Judson Memorial Church, where TD and I are members. Judson has always been committed to social justice and the arts, and in the 60s, Judson invited artists including Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg to exhibit their work in its basement gallery. It's fascinating history. At the new Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, architect Renzo Piano has designed a wonderful building. I like it much more than the Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney uptown on Madison Avenue, which is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the new Whitney, outdoor decks and stairways offer striking views of the city. The Fast Forward exhibit states that in the 80s when artists were turning to new media like video and art installations, many artists actively embraced painting. As the elevator doors open on the top floor on this exhibit, the visitor is greeted by an eye-popping Kenny Scharf painting layered on top of a Keith Haring panel. On the other side of the entrance, a Jean Michel Basquiat painting is hung on the same. The combination is strikingly graphic. When I moved to New York I once saw Andy Warhol come into the nightclub Area with Jean Michel Basquiat. And the Palladium club had a room painted by Kenny Scharf. This all takes me back. This exhibition was only in three gallery rooms. We were surprised that it was not bigger. Surely a show on 80s paintings could be more extensive. Also, two whole floors of the Whitney are now closed where the 2017 Biennial, which opens on March 17, is now being mounted.The exhibit includes a giant Julian Schnabel painting on velvet, and a serene abstract painting by Ross Bleckner, which looks like lights glowing in the dark.I've always been a fan of Eric Fischl's lush figurative painting, and this very large canvas below depicts contrasting scenes on a tropical island. On the left, a family of vacationers frolic blithely in the sea while on the right a group of desperate refugees arrive on the shore. A timely statement for right now – We headed down one flight of stairs at the Whitney to an exhibition of portraits. We'd seen this show already but we took a quick spin through.A self-portrait of sorts is a painting called Cocktail by Gerald Murphy who is one of my very favor[...]

The Women's March in New York City


On Saturday I had the great joy of marching in the Women's March here in New York City. I have been so extremely upset about the incoming Trump presidency and his racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic policies and his appointments and people from Breitbart, the extreme right wing, white nationalist, fringe site, in the White House. Everything has been such dark, bad news. I signed up to march with our church, Judson Memorial Church, and I made the sign above to hang around my neck. My mother had a slogan, "Love is all," and this seemed like an appropriate twist on the message for the occasion.TD went on a bus with Judson along with our nephew Aaron down to Washington D.C. to march.  He made the sign below to pin on his jacket, dedicated to his mother Edna, a die-hard Democrat who passed away a few years ago. In New York City I made plans to meet up with the Judson group and also invited my brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen to join us and they invited their friend Kathy from Mamaroneck. A jolly group. I rode my bike uptown and we met up with Judson and then all proceeded up Third Avenue. The directions from the march leaders were to enter the march at Third Avenue and 47th Street so that's where we went. And waited there standing and not moving for an hour and half. It was bad planning or too many people but in any case the corner got more and more crowded as people flooded in and nobody moved. The sky was cold and dark. Everyone was peaceful and pleasant but the crowding got dangerous. Finally people moved eastward toward Second Avenue where the march was supposed to start. Thom and Karen and Kathy and I moved with the crowd and we lost the Judson contingent. Then suddenly it became apparent that we couldn't go forward and the crowd turned around about face and started chanting "Go to Fifth!" The crowd was going rogue and not following the march route and doing directly over to Fifth Avenue. We threaded single file across Third Avenue around cars which were stopped in their tracks. On we went over to Lexington where strings of buses were similarly stalled. Thom had enough and went up to the subway. Karen and Kathy stayed but as I filed through layers of stationary buses on Lexington, I lost them. I was by myself.On I went determined to get to Fifth Avenue to join the march. Finally I reached Fifth and stepped on to the avenue which was packed with people shoulder to shoulder. The sun came out, the sky was blue, it was warm! It was like reaching the Emerald City. As far as the eye could see, looking uptown or down, was a sea of people. It really was an amazing sight. I've never experienced anything like it in New York City. The turnout was just gargantuan. And it felt good to be there and participating. The cool, good-looking crowd was a majority of women but a lot of men, and a range of all ages from small children to seniors. People were there with their parents and grandparents. The march site had indicated that we would march past Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street and everyone wanted to get there. But progress was slow. It took about an hour to go one block from 47th to 48th. I decided to peel off and go around up to 57th and Fifth. When I got there, surprise, police barricades. The police were diverting the crowd off Fifth at 55th Street so the march could not pass by Trump Tower. Cowardly. But a lot of people were hanging out at 57th Street and Fifth, in front of Bergdorf Goodman, which was fun. The signs that people carried were clever. My favorite one, which was huge and carried by two people, said "Small march, sad," mimicking Donald Trump's pathetic tweets.People were like-minded and wanted to connect. I started talkin[...]

The Holiday Pleasures of Bergdorf Goodman


Bergdorf Goodman is is one of my favorite places in New York and I wrote a chapter about working for the store in my book How I Look. Last week I stopped into BG, which was recently designated a New York City landmark and is now decked out in its holiday finery. The big holiday windows that glow jewel-like on Fifth Avenue are dazzling at night. This year the theme is adventures and emerald-green tones were prevalent throughout. In the window pictured above, a jungle princess resplendent in a Marc Jacobs gown perched next to an exotic and elegant gorilla that was completely covered in green beads.A damsel wearing a CD Greene sequined gown and carrying a dainty parasol tippy-toed on a tightrope over a river filled with fish below – On the 58th Street side, a holiday reveler was dressed in a colorful Libertine coat –When Bergdorf Goodman was recently renovated, a new window was punched into the wall on 58th Street offering a fresh view from the sidewalk into the store. Colorful dresses by Gucci, Marchesa and Valentino lured the eye in – Inside the main door, event designer David Monn, who we met in November, has constructed a collage-like, pale grey Christmas tree which echoes the tones of the store's interior – Throughout the store, clothes on display, like this Gucci dress, looked like festive Christmas ornaments themselves – One of my favorite corners in Bergdorf Goodman houses the Los Angeles-based label Libertine. The clothes are embellished with all kinds of happy beads and sequins and decorations – The clash of colors and textures at Libertine is delightful – Around the corner, Prada presented a cleansing contrast in sharp black and white – Bergdorf Goodman always offers an entertaining eyeful. But it was a freezing cold night and I was happy to get home to our cozy Christmas tree – I am wishing you all the best for warm and cozy holidays! [...]

David Monn's Joyful "Art of Celebrating" Book and Party


David Monn decorated the extraordinary Rose Reading Room with red-fringed lampshades for a New York Public Library Lions gala (images from the book courtesy of David Monn). A beautiful party can offer an enchanting escape from daily life, and to be able to organize a wonderful party is a gift. Events planner David Monn is well known in New York for the parties he has designed including benefits for the New York Public Library and Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala and a White House state dinner. Now he has produced his first book, The Art of Celebrating, a hefty, over-sized 400 page tome published by Vendome Press that features 26 of his events, and he recently hosted a wonderous book party at the New York Public Library to celebrate its publication (more about that affair below).David grew up in the town of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and he writes in his book about arriving in New York unable to afford college so he educated himself by observing the beauty of the city. After working in interior design and the jewelry business, he started his events planning business in 2004 and quickly got some big commissions. Now his company with 25 employees plans weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, parties and galas. For another Literary Lions gala, David Monn transformed the McGraw Rotunda into a forest with hanging lanterns – At the Metropolitan Museum, a Costume Institute evening in honor of Chanel found David creating a French formal garden with defining boxwood and hedges in the Charles Englehard Court of the American wing. Fragrant gardenias made up the centerpieces, and the facade of the First American Bank, built in 1822, was dramatically lit at the rear  – In Baltimore at a wedding rehearsal dinner held in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, David asked artists to recreate Monet's dreamy water lily paints for a romantic backdrop. Pretty ranuculus flowers on the tables repeated the paintings' pastels – Farther abroad, David designed a birthday party in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice. Cocktails were served in the Grand Salon whose walls are covered in their original fabric – To mark the book's publication, David hosted a party this week at the New York Public Library. As TD and I approached the Library's majestic entrance on Fifth Avenue, we saw that elegant, tall, white candles in glass globes lined the steps of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to announce the party – Inside, the Gottesman Exhibition Hall was decorated with faux apple trees which were strung with white lights that looked like flowers – The scent of jasmine filled the air. Impressionistic Monet water lily-like murals were hung here too, lining the walls over chic seating areas brought in for the party – There were four bars, which was convenient and nice not to have a long wait at a bar. And there were delicious food stands everywhere one looked offering oysters and shrimp, eggplant parmigiana, wonderful pigs in a blanket, sliced jambon serrano ham – The event moved out into the vaulted Astor Hall. David gave his remarks and thanks, and then on the opposite stairway singer Lisa Fischer performed a soaring rendition of "I Dream in Color" – The Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir from Harlem sang some gloriously uplifting gospel music which was especially moving to me after the upsetting and sad political news of the week – Yours truly with Mr. Monn – When finally we peeled ourselves away to leave and return to the world outside, a band from Elan Artists was performing Prince's powerful "Purple Rain." The event was a magical moment of be[...]

Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson


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Watch this video trailer to get a taste of this lively Sense & Sensibility.

Recently my friend Elliott and I enjoyed the Off-Broadway production of Sense & Sensibility that has been created by the innovative Bedlam theater company and is on the boards at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church, which is the theater space in the church that TD and I attend. Though I have not read the Jane Austen book, I am a big fan of the 1995 movie that starred Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and was directed by Ang Lee, so I was looking forward to seeing this show about the romantic plight of the Dashwood sisters who suddenly find their fortunes diminished.

Though the book is set in the refined and proper English Regency period, this adaptation, written by Kate Hamill who also stars as Marianne Dashwood, is a zippy and energetic romp through the 1811 literary classic. The Bedlam theater company is renowned for it's fresh, new productions that dissolve the wall between actors and audience, creating an intimacy and immediacy that draws the viewers in. The show is very inventively staged with furniture on wheels so tables and chairs and parts of the scenery whiz and spin by. Elliott and I sat in the front row and I had to pull in my feet so that my toes didn't get run over as furniture sped past. Some actors play several parts and laugh-out-loud humor leads to quiet, moving moments. In this clever production, the buttoned-up English classic is infused with a modern, airy, breathlessness that is irresistibly entertaining.     
You can get your tickets here – this amusing escapade is up until November 20. 


A Boehlert Wedding at a Vanderbilt Camp


Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake (click on photos to enlarge)A couple weeks ago TD and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Maggie Boehlert, who is the daughter of my cousin Peter, and her beau Adam Blossom. Peter and I are the same age and he was my childhood pal. Growing up, we usually spent a week or more in the summer and the week between Christmas and New Year's together, and we laughed nonstop. This wedding weekend was held at Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and TD and I had a wonderful time.In a rented car we zipped up the New York State Thruway and then the Northway to Lake George where we then drove west into the Adirondack Park for about an hour and half to arrive ultimately at Great Camp Sagamore near Raquette Lake. It was a fascinating place to visit. Camp Sagamore was originally built in 1897 by William West Durant, who designed and built camps in the Great Adirondack Style using native materials like logs and cut stone. Durant was forced to sell due to financial problems, and businessman and sportsman Alfred Vanderbilt (pictured below) purchased the property in 1901. Returning from England in 1915 aboard the Lusitania, Alfred was among the 1,198 killed when the ocean liner was sunk by a German submarine. Alfred's widow Margaret, his second wife and heiress to the Bromo-Seltzer fortune, carried on, expanding the property and entertaining the leading lights of Hollywood, Broadway and Washington, D.C. at the camp in the woods.The Vanderbilts used the camp until the 1950s. It eventually became a non-profit and today Great Camp Sagamore is used for educational purposes as a place where visitors can explore Adirondack culture and nature.  When we arrived we checked in. I loved our big room in the Lodge, which the literature said was the Vanderbilt master bedroom. It had wonderful camp furniture made out of logs and branches, and the old-fashioned patterned wallpaper featured deer in the woods. A big fireplace was made out of locally-cut granite. New York City was boiling hot when we left but up in the Adirondacks the air was cool and Sagamore Lake so quiet and serene.  On Saturday we had fun visiting with my cousins and meeting other friends and family members. TD and I walked around the grounds which was dotted with cottages, a blacksmith shop, school house and carriage house, as well as a real bowling alley. In the morning we took a guided canoe tour of the lake. At one point we passed an overgrown steep incline down to the water which we were told had been a winter snow sledding hill; somewhere in the camp was a photograph of guest Gary Cooper sledding down the steep hill to the lake. Later in the day we had a refreshing swim in the lake out to the raft. On Saturday night at last it was time for the main event. We all gathered in the boat house on the edge of the lake and Maggie processed in on the arms of her mother and father to marry Adam. Afterwords, Maggie and Adam in the center gathered for a photo with my cousin Peter and his wife Lorie on the right and sister Dottie and her husband Bryce on the left - Good looking group, no? Congrats to the newlyweds! Guests filed into the Dining Hall where we sat at great long tables decorated with white country flowers. The delicious family-style dinner was catered by Sisters Bistro, a restaurant in nearby Old Forge. After dinner we headed up to the Play House (yes, the Vanderbilts had a Play House) for locally-made ice cream sandwiches. Peter and Maggie had a father-daughter dance together. And then the DJ [...]

A Breakfast Talk On the Changing Fashion Industry


The discussion at Skylark with, from left to right, Ariel Foxman, Ron Frasch and Gary Wassner.
Instagram influencers, e-commerce, see-now, buy-now collections – the world of fashion, like the world of media, is going through seismic changes, and these disruptions and more were discussed over breakfast recently at the swanky Skylark lounge located 30 floors over Manhattan in the center of the Garment District. The marketing communications agency LaForce organizes Tuesdays at The Skylark, a program series where leaders in fashion, technology and business network and connect, and discuss trends, topics and insights, so I found myself recently perched there enjoying breakfast and coffee and listening to an interesting discussion about fashion in flux.

The breakfast was moderated by Ariel Foxman, the former editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine, who asked smart questions of Ron Frasch, formerly the president of Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman and now a partner at the private equity firm Castanea, and Gary Wassner, president of Hildun which finances young designers and has worked with Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang. At the retail level, the panel noted that while shopping online is convenient, e-commerce has a high rate of returned merchandise. In stores, personal service is very important, and both Frasch and Wassner observed that the new Saks Fifth Avenue at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan has successfully created a compellingly curated merchandise presentation rather than a traditional department store scheme. Fast fashion, offered by the likes of H & M and Zara, has opened up new trends to more people, and made men and women more sensitive to what they wear at a younger age.

Criticism fell on the fashion delivery calendar, which illogically dictates that heavy fall clothes are delivered into stores in August at the height of summer heat. Some August deliveries are now beginning to move to the more appropriate month of September. The panel also had doubts about brands that don't clearly define themselves. Said Gary Wassner, "If you launch a brand, you have to think who are you? What do you represent? What is your story? Most brands don't think about that."

Rosemary Feitelberg from Women's Wear Daily, who reviewed my book How I Look, asked the panel what they were most encouraged about for the future of fashion. "That we are talking about this," replied Ron Frasch. "Appropriate delivery at the appropriate time is very exciting. Now we are listening to the consumer." Gary Wassner was optimistic about "the abundance of talent we have in New York City. It's now possible for young brands to emerge sooner via social media." (image)

In the Summer Swim


The view from the beach house in Connecticut (click on photos to enlarge).TD and I have had a wonderful summer and have been able to get out of town a lot on the weekends. We used to go to visit my parents in Guilford, Connecticut, taking the train out of Grand Central Station on a Friday night after a week of work. But my mother has passed away and my father has moved to Colorado and the family house was sold so TD and I have gotten creative regarding getting out of town in the summer. Also, we have lovely invitations!TD and I both like to be near the water, specifically salt water. Ted grew up in Atlantic City and so he spent his childhood on the beach, and my family took summer vacations on the Jersey Shore on Long Beach Island, which is where my great aunt Margie, who lived in Philadelphia, had a summer beach house. We drove to the Jersey Shore from upstate New York, six of us in the station wagon, and there I was introduced to the ocean and the soothing, calming sound of the waves.Then in college I spent two summers on the island of Martha's Vineyard where I was very close to the ocean. I especially liked the "up island" end of Martha's Vineyard, previously called Gay Head and now called the Indian name Aquinnah, which is very wild and free and feels like the end of the earth to me. I recently came across this photo of my family on the beach there. This is from around 1985 - clockwise from the top, Eric, me, Cynthia, my mother, my father, and Thom. I love to swim in the ocean and float along. When I'm in the ocean drifting I feel like I'm detached from the earth and earthly concerns and in the care of something greater, floating along in my life on my adventures and all is well. The water is a spiritual place for me. One weekend in July, Ted's cousins the Pero's invited us to the Jersey Shore for the weekend and we went to the Ocean City beach, which is huge and wide. We spent a fun week there a couple years ago. It's packed with people as far as the eye can see having fun at the beach - Another weekend, we took a ferry to the Sandy Hook National Park beach in New Jersey. On the boat ride back, this is the view as you return to Manhattan. New York City sparkles - it's like approaching the Emerald City. Our friends Gary and David invited us for a weekend to their home in Fire Island, Pines - With the ferries coming and going in and out of the harbor, carrying passengers to and from, the Pines really is a special place - Southampton was the destination one weekend when we were hosted by my brother Thom and his family. We arrived on Friday afternoon and went promptly to the beach where neighbors had set up camp with billowing umbrellas and sheets for shade. I thought the arrangement looked very "Gerald and Sara Murphy in the South of France." TD and I took a bike ride into the village to pick up some things. With its high green hedges and majestic trees, Southampton really is a beautiful town. One weekend we took a subway and a bus to the beach at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways at the end of Brooklyn, which we had not been to before. Another time, we took the train to Jones Beach. But the best part of the summer was when we rented a beach house in Guilford on the Long Island Sound for a week in August. We came in the back door and walked through the house to find this view of the water out the front (and at the top of this post). It was a wonderful house and we enjoyed being there on the water so much. The view was so beautiful that we could barely close our eyes day or night -T[...]

A Visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden


Surrounded by beauty in the rose garden. Photo by TD. (click on photos for larger, clearer versions)The weekend before last, TD and I took the subway to the wonderful Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which we had not been to in a while. I remembered that June is a great time to visit when the Cranford Rose Garden is in high bloom.  I've done several posts about botanical gardens recently, which offer such bounteous natural beauty inside city limits. A theme that runs through my book is my predilection for a simple, natural country style while living in the city - combining my upstate youth with my Manhattan adulthood. Certainly city parks and botanical gardens, with their rolling green lawns and fragrant flowers, offer the epitome of this appealing combination.The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is a museum of living plants, was founded in 1910 on a 39-acre section of Prospect Park. The Olmstead Brothers, who designed Central Park and the New York Botanical Garden, laid out the original site plan. Now it features more than 12,000 different kinds of plants from around the world and is comprised of all kinds of gardens including a Japanese garden and pond filled with orange koi fish, a lily collection, a daffodil hill, and a lot more.After exiting the subway at the Eastern Parkway stop, we payed at the Garden entrance and walked through the property with our destination in mind - the blooming roses. In the Shakespeare Garden, an artist sketched some plants in the shade - The Conservatory, built in 1917, houses many kinds of indoor gardens like a desert and a tropical garden - In the Cherry Esplanade, visitors lounged under the trees. It looked like an Impressionist painting -  Before we got to the rose garden, we passed this rose-covered arch which gave a taste of the pleasures to come. I love the sweeping movement of the roses clamoring over the arches. "The eye has to travel," Diana Vreeland famously said. At last we reached the Cranford Rose Garden, which was built in 1928 and paid for by subway engineer Walter Cranford who ponied up $15,000 to create it. It features a plethora of all kinds of roses planted in beds in rows so it feels very intimate as the visitor can get up close to the blooms. You just wander up and down the rows and enjoy the beauty and the fragrance. When we visited at the end of June, some of the roses were past their peak and on their way out but the garden was still spectacular. These lovely pink roses edged in red are called Delany Sisters -  These huge yellow roses, called Edina, posed at the corner of a bed. At one end of the garden, pink roses and a bank of lavender offered a dreamy combination. I just love to wander around in this garden, up and down, back and forth. You really don't want to leave. At last we extricated ourselves and walked down a grassy lawn. TD checked the Phillies baseball score on his phone under some shade trees.  We exited out of a different entrance than where we came in, and noticed that the wonderful Brooklyn Museum was right next door rising above the trees. Flowers and art in Brooklyn – a lovely corner of the world. [...]

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. [...]

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 [...]

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.