Two Ways to Enjoy the Spectacular Beauty of a New York Summer

This week I finally got around to viewing an exhibition and a show that were on my summer to-do list On Tuesday night I attended a Sotheby’s Preferred tour of Cooper Hewitt’s Triennial Exhibition “Beauty” which opened in February and closes on August 21. After a cocktail reception held indoors (unfortunately the beautiful garden was closed that night however it is open on Thursdays for cocktails and performances for info ), we were introduced to Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, and Mary Bartow, SVP Head of Department, Prints, at Sotheby’s. These are two highly-credentialed experts in their fields: Lupton is the author of 13 books, a writer/curator/graphic designer/educator while Bartow has appraised countless art collections including those of Bill Blass and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis.

Mary Bartow of Sotheby’s and Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt

Lupton, appropriately wearing a newsprint skirt, began by saying that she enjoyed the opportunity to “be with real people and do a tour.” She also mentioned that as of the day of our tour, the Museum had met its targeted number of visitors, which is exciting (she didn’t reveal what that number was).

Giambattista Valli skirt and top — Fall/Winter 2014-15

The exhibition seeks to quantify seven different categories of beauty with 250 works by 63 global designers: Extravagant, Intricate, Ethereal, Transgressive, Emergent, Elemental and Transformative. The first room of the two floor exhibition showcases everything extravagant: “Ballgown, hair, makeup, nails, adornment itself,” said Lupton. The Giambattista Valli gown shows “gradient color being embraced which becomes this whipped cream that hits the floor.”

Mary Katrantzou Pangea dress Spring/Summer 2015 and Dan C coat
Fall/Winter 2015

The Intricate displays include a dress by Mary Katrantzou, one by African designer Vlisco, knitwear by Swedish designer Sandra Backlund, a woven textile by Columbian designer Hechizoo; all of which incorporate color, dense pattern, tattoo art and an elaboration of surfaces. The ethereal space includes Finnish designer Tuomas Markunpoika’s contribution — a wood cabinet that the artist covered in steel rings and set on fire — thereby symbolizing the “ephemerality of memory,” and “poetry in furniture,” according to the curator.

Maiko Takeda “Atmospheric Reentry” headgear

Two of Maiko Takedo’s “Atmospheric Reentry” prickly-looking-but-actually-quite-soft headpieces (the designer wore one to the press preview for the Met’s Manus x Machina exhibition, causing a media frenzy) are here.

“Architecture is Everywhere” by Suo Fujimoto

Two other ethereal highlights include Japanese architect Suo Fujimoto’s display which “invites you to enter the landscape and a window into the mind of the architect.” Lupton spoke of her pine cone revelation here: a pine cone was the inspiration for a photo of the amazing looking building hanging here behind its inspiration from nature. If you like smell-a-vision don’t miss the Sissel Tolaas (a pioneer in smell molecules) Central Park aromas wall where you can apparently sniff the scent of rotting leaves, runners sweat, horse droppings and whatever else Central Park smells like.

The Haas Brothers and Haas Sisters of Monkeybiz

Onto the third floor where The Haas Brothers designed some “super fun and emotionally satisfying creatures,” (Lupton again), which are hand beaded by African beaders. I would categorize them a little differently: they’re like a Unicef/Ikea/Dr. Seuss baby — not sure why they occupy such a prominent place in the exhibition either.

 Iris van Herpen Wilderness Embodied dress of resin and iron fillings;
 Jolan van der Wiel Gravity stool in background

Also part of Transgressive: a collaboration between Jolan van der Wiel and designer Iris Van Herpen with some sort of extruded magnetic metal material visible on his small stool and her skeleton-like dress and shoes.

Gareth Pugh black plastic straw designs

There are also interesting jewels by Delfina Delettrez, creepy wrinkle jewelry by Noa Zilberman (we are told her husband hates when she puts this on and I can totally see why!), the unisex clothes of Rad Hourani, as well as black plastic straw couture by Gareth Pugh which can also be seen in the Met Museum’s Manus x Machina exhibition.

Jenny Sabin cocoon

The highlight of the Emergent space includes Jenny Sabin’s cocoon-like 3-D knitted pavilion made out of Nike Flyknit material. Lupton calls this structure “the lungs of the show” and points out how it changes color via lights taking it from sunrise to sunset.

Neri Oxman 3D printed molten glass lights

Israeli Neri Oxman’s vibrant colored glass sculptures are actually 3-D printed wearable devices for extraterrestrial explorers… whaat? Oxman is the head of Mediated Matter at the MIT Media Lab which is at the juncture between technology and biology — these “sculptures” are some sort of suggested replacement organs for use outside the body.

Wall hanging and mobile by Formafantasma

The Elemental section includes Formafantasma’s “Iddu Mirror” lava mobile — the lava was taken from an active volcano and baked in a kiln which was destroyed afterwards. The Max Lamb cast molten metal and sand tables (made by pouring metal into holes that were dug at the beach) also involve an interesting process.

Melitta Baumeister garments

Transformative items include German designer Melitta Baumeister’s oversized glossy vinyl bonded garments with graffiti or catchphrases written on them, Laduma Ngxokolo’s “circumcision clothes” inspired by African bead work, The Unseen finned leather jacket — color sensitive to heat and wind pressure causing it to change hues,

Brunno Jahara’s recycled plastic

Brunno Jahara’s recycled plastic cap lights and Jantje Fleischhut’s jewelry made up of sponge, concrete resin and other natural and man-made materials. The entire exhibition seems to be on the cutting edge between design, innovation and science and is worth checking out if you’re into that sort of thing.

Rockettes perform “A Chorus Line” number

The second event I attended was the New York Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes (until August 7). I guess the Rockettes need something to do in the warmer months as this is the third season (and from what I’m hearing the best) that a summer show has been presented. As part of a Chase event (they sponsor the show) we were invited for a pre-show buffet dinner in the Roxy Suite where my husband’s night was made when he got to pose in leg-up formation with two Rockettes.

Laurel and Joel Marcus with the Rockettes
in the Roxy Suite

Be warned: this presentation has an incredibly cheesy theme (“It’s All About the Love”) and involves a family of midwestern tourists who get separated from each other on the subway.  To make matters worse, (and to add a modern day twist) the daughter — an angsty phone obsessed 14-year old concerned only with how many DM’s she receives from a crush (at least it’s not Pokemon Go) — has just had her phone taken away by her mom moments before they are separated. Her precocious younger brother can hear the paintings in The Met talking to him, ditto the statues of New York, however his mission is to reignite his sister’s lost imagination so that she can hear them too. The two young-uns go on a seemingly never-ending quest (actually it’s 90 minutes) uptown, downtown, no geographic strategic planning involved here– to find their parents based on Big Apple tourist spots that they had planned on visiting.

Singing in the Rain number

The best things to see here are the amazing special effects — the recreation of the Grand Central stop of the subway, The Met, Wall Street, New York Public Library, the Alice and Wonderland statue in Central Park, and of course, The Rockettes can’t be beat particularly “Singing in the Rain, “42nd Street” and “A Chorus Line” renditions.

Costume designer Emilio Sosa for the Rockettes

There are at least two direct fashion references: one is a Rockette fashion show set to Madonna’s “Vogue” on Seventh Avenue (all 36 Rockettes wear a different outfit!), the other is a joke about Anna Wintour which I will not spoil. I was pleased to note that Bronx-born “Project Runway” and “Project Runway: All Stars” designer Emilio Sosa is the costume designer for the show. In the show’s program Sosa claims “I cry tears of joy every time” he sees his work on the Rockettes. “When you’re interacting with people who had those same dreams you had and they are coming together in one of the most iconic venues in the world, and you are responsible for what they look like…I can’t put that into words.”

At the conclusion of the show my husband was also having trouble putting his thoughts into words. Wishing to find a take-home trophy he ambled over to the souvenir shop only to leave empty handed. Of course, they weren’t selling what he really wanted to take home — a real live Rockette! For tickets click here.

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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