Sipping in the Surroundings at Sotheby’s

 Henry Hudson’s Sun City Tanning Exhibition
All photos by Laurel Marcus

You’ve heard of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but how about cocktails at Sotheby’s? The auction house has become my Cheers — (“You want to go where everybody knows your name”) — I actually joked with one of the event organizers that they must be sick of seeing me (anyway, I hope it was a joke, Lol). I always enjoy going there because a) I need to educate myself a lot more about Art (with a capital A), b) they have many interesting events if you are lucky enough to become a Sotheby’s Preferred member and c) their headquarters are in easy walking distance from my home.

Sun City Tanning Exhibition Second
Second to left — Henry Hudson, Dee Occleppo, Tommy Hilfiger

Tuesday night was an open house of sorts with multiple galleries on multiple floors on display, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a live band. On the second floor I checked out a featured exhibition (until October 14) entitled “Sun City Tanning,” artist Henry Hudson’s New York debut exhibition of eight unique jungle inspired works. Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Occleppo Hilfiger were the hosts for Brits Henry and brother Richard Hudson (who made the accompanying equally colorful and interesting pottery).

Sun City Tanning Exhibition

Henry (who has no bridge he can sell you) described these enormously intricate works made of “hallucinogenic,” three-dimensional, multi hued, custom colored plasticine (a Play-Doh-like material) and wire, as a 24-hour representation of the same scene. Each piece features a two-hour time window which the artist seeks to recreate from daybreak, dusk and finally, nightfall. The name “Sun City Tanning” apparently refers to his UK studio geo-tag location, right next to a tanning salon on the outskirts of London. In these works, the jungle is meant to evoke “the human condition, creating an Edenic environment that challenges the viewer with a tantalizing dilemma of danger and desire.” (See pictures)

Personal Art Collection of David Bowie

At the other end of the second floor is another fascinating exhibition: Bowie/Collector, The Personal Art Collection of David Bowie which is on tour featuring some of the items to be in the Sotheby’s London three part auction on November 10th and 11th. Musician/Actor/Icon David Bowie kept the fact that he was a collector of art mostly private (much like the fact that he himself was a painter), yet his collection benefits from his vast “knowledge and understanding” as well as a “good eye.”Unsurprisingly for someone who took on many different personas in his lifetime, Bowie’s collection is quite diverse.

Damien Hirst with David Bowie, beautiful, hallo, space-boy painting, 1995

It includes a few relatively obscure British artists of the 20th Century (who he liked to promote) as well as others of international renown some of whom he collaborated with either in film, music or painting such as Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1984

His collection includes paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture and accessories, the latter include selections from Architect Ettore Sottsass, an early proponent of the 1980’s Memphis movement. (View slideshow)

The panel of “Women in Fashion” — Lauren Covello, editor of Fortune Venture,
Nanette Lepore, Rachel Antonoff

On the 10th floor, along with the band and a very colorful candy bar, was the multi-room gallery of Contemporary Curated artists (the auction was yesterday) which I breezed through. (Click here for more informationAs part of the first ever Fortune’s Women of Influence Week at Sotheby’s, I frequented a few events last week, including one for “Women in Fashion” featuring guest speakers Designers Nanette Lepore and Rachel Antonoff. Here we were privy to a conversation on coming-up in the fashion industry from Lepore’s first shop on the Lower East Side located between a soup kitchen and a gas station to having a national brand sold at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom; to moments when they knew they’d “arrived” such as Antonoff seeing her dress on Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) on the “Sex and the City” movie (it’s the striped dress in a scene in Mexico when she throws her cell phone into the ocean).

Lepore gave advice to those starting out in the fashion biz (“start small…don’t do a runway show…do a trade show,” adding that she didn’t do a runway show until she was in business for 10 years). Antonoff spoke of how she is thankful that social media didn’t exist when she was really beginning her career (“If I had had access to the cast of “Rent” on Twitter I would have embarrassed myself.”)

Antonoff recounted how she had become rather inadvertently entered in the 2016 political fray by creating a take-off of “I’m with Stupid” (which became “I’m With Her” to support Hillary) with slogan t-shirts back in 2011 or 12. “Someone (from Hillary’s campaign) called and said ‘heads up'” was how she eventually found out that her slogan had been adapted by the candidate herself. She also makes a “Not with Him” shirt which she admits is not selling as well — “Which is nice — people are positive,” she quips. Other topics included trying to keep  manufacturing in New York as opposed to overseas (Lepore feels that the ability to control the product is worth the greater cost); gender equality (male designers are generally promoted by the CFDA over women designers); and dealing with the onslaught of fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara “exploding onto the scene.” (Lepore handles these “monsters” by using “dialogue to find your customer and keep her engaged.”)

During the pre-talk cocktail portion I told Ms. Lepore that I had given most of my “Nanette” to my corporate-job-holding-daughter (I had since purchased and was wearing Nanette’s shoes which she immediately recognized); the designer mentioned that there is a “generational response to my brand” even attributing it to Millennials watching “The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” reruns. Lepore’s lovely daughter Violet Savage, walked the runway at her mom’s show for the first time in 2014 when she was 16 years old — a moment her proud mom marks as one of her favorite memories.   Another example of youthful appeal and memory-making included a girl who got emotional during the Q&A thanking Lepore for making her “beautiful Bat Mitzvah dress.”

Lepore, whose Spring 2017 collection was inspired by artist Laurie Fields’ mythical and mysterious paintings, lives surrounded by art. She is married to artist Bob Savage who introduced himself to me as “the pushy husband” (she spoke of how he pushed her to go into business) but now expresses remorse because she is so busy that it’s hard to find time to visit their Hampton’s house. The couple is about to open up their NYC home as an art gallery for a second time — a symbol of how the worlds of fashion and art enjoy their symbiotic relationship.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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