The 2018 Art Show Gala Preview Benefit

As a college art history major (with a sister who is an accomplished painter and sculptress), I can honestly say that the only thing I love as much as fashion, is art. If not more so. Indeed, looking around, it IS all about art these days and I was especially looking forward to the 2018 Art Show Gala Preview Benefit which was held on Tuesday evening at the Park Avenue Armory. All proceeds benefited the Henry Street Settlement, the peremptory social service, art, and health care organization which is celebrating its 125th year. Over 2000 people attended and approximately $1 million was raised but because general admission to the fair also goes to the Henry Street Settlement, this number will have grown by the end of the week. The show runs through Sunday, March 4th.

The Art Show is the nation’s longest-running fine art fair and continues to set the standards of excellence with its museum quality exhibitions of Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary works. Organized by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), this prestigious show, (now celebrating its 30th year), has afforded collectors, art professionals, and the public an opportunity to engage in a variety of carefully curated exhibitions representing a selection of works from 72 of the nation’s leading art dealers, dating from the 19th century through today.

The lead sponsors for an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres (both provided by Canard, Inc.), and art, were AXA Art Americas Corporation (which specializes in protecting art and collectibles) and Renate Hofmann Article 3 Charitable Trust. Diamond Circle sponsors were Bloomberg Philanthropies, Scott and Evette Ferguson, Ian and Lea Highet, Pilar Crespi Robert and Stephen Robert, Harry and Laura Slatkin, and Lily Safra. Among those in attendance: Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, the actor Steve Martin, the actress Stephanie March, legendary photographer Roxanne Lowitt and philanthropist, art patron, collector Agnes Gund, and art critic Jerry Saltz.

I was bombarded with visual stimulation everywhere I looked and among the standouts that grabbed my eye:

Richard Avedon’s photograph  at Pace MacGill Gallery

Richard Avedon’s riveting black and white photograph, “Jesus Cervantes and Manuel Heredia, prisoners, Bexar County Jail, San Antonio, Texas” on view at the Pace/MacGill booth.

Nairy Baghramian’s “Stay Downers” polyurethane and silicone sculptures, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.

Jackie Saccoccio’s visceral, expressionistic, abstract paintings at Van Doren Waxter Gallery.

Marc Janssens’ ribbed glass paintings (he uses two sheets of glass) at Bortolami Gallery.

Dotty Attie’s statement making feminist art.

As for the fashion, unsurprisingly many attendees were in minimal New York black, particularly the artists, who I assume, did not want their outfits to distract from the often graphic, colorful artwork on display (it worked!)

 Luhring Augustine wearing Dries Van Noten

One noticeable exception was Luhring Augustine, a standout among her wonderful small scale sculptures, clad in a printed Dries Van Noten dress, which she perfectly accessorized. FYI, when I mentioned that the Dries show was the next day in Paris, Ms. Augustine said she knew and was looking forward to viewing it. And yes, the collection did in fact, have an artistic slant. In fact, it was inspired by art brut (‘raw art’). Invented by Jean Dubuffet, it is meant to describe art such as graffiti or naïve art, made outside the academic tradition of fine art.

A guest wearing a graphic color block coat

There were a number of other women who dressed colorfully and graphically, seemingly with an art show in mind: some in Pucci-esque prints, a few in color blocked coats, a smattering in florals, and a handful in leopard (leopard, which has been all over the runways, is the ultimate neutral and goes with everything, including art!) There were several male peacocks as well: Sanford Smith was in an embroidered iridescent lavender dinner jacket with matching scarf and Christopher Mason wore a colorful scarf and bow tie in different patterns to accentuate his colorfully patterned pants.

Calligraphy artist Wang Dongling with  Marilyn Kirschner

I opted for a colorful, beaded vintage 80’s ‘Miro’ jacket by Jeanette Kastenberg for St. Martin which echoes Oscar Wilde’s notion, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art”. Of course, Gertrude Stein also said, “You can either buy paintings, or buy clothes.” Do I really have to choose?

Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress

There is no question that the connection between art and fashion is a strong one regardless of whether or not you think fashion can actually rise to the level of art (as it assuredly does at Comme des Garcons). What cannot be denied is that art (in all its forms) has served as major inspiration for fashion designers through the years and continues to do so. Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian homage is one iconic example that immediately comes to mind and just think about all the graphic color blocks, stripes, splatter paints, abstract patterns, artful patchworks, and florals that take a page from the impressionists, not to mention all the contemporary poster art, some of which has been plastered on the walls of show venues (notably at Prada).

Art galleries and iconic art museums are periodically chosen as show venues. To wit: Carolina Herrera staged her last show at the Museum of Modern Art (she has also shown at the Frick). Proenza Schouler and Tory Burch have shown at the Whitney. The Olsen twins emphasized the sculptural purity of their minimal designs for The Row by filling their downtown studio with a number of sculptures from the Noguchi Museum (including several pieces which had not been seen before).

Ralph Rucci Twombly Swan dress in cotton gazar

It’s impossible to talk about the connection between fashion and art without mentioning couturier Ralph Rucci. Not only has his work been inspired by Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, and Louise Nevelson (among others); he is also an accomplished artist with a number of one man shows under his belt.

Then of course, there is Raf Simons who has stated that art is more important than fashion; and he keeps proving it. Who could forget his Picasso themed collection for Jil Sander in spring 2011? But perhaps most convincing is his long running and highly successful collaboration with California artist Sterling Ruby. Mr. Ruby has designed prints for Raf’s first Christian Dior Haute Couture collection, spring 2012 (the traditional Bucol silks were woven to represent a painting, drips and all), as well as for his eponymous men’s collection in Paris (2014).

Calvin Klein artful show venue fall 2018 Ready-To-Wear

He is now a major part of his widely acclaimed re-invention for Calvin Klein, down to the show venues and settings. For fall 2018, their show venue was a completely transformed American Stock Exchange, recreated as a post-apocalyptic barnyard/art gallery complete with gallons of popcorn, Andy Warhol photographs, and Sterling Ruby sculptures hanging from the scaffolding.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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