Friday, September 28, 2012

Beauty Endures

Beauty Endures: the Dazzling Artistry of Cathleen Naundorf
and Paul Cesar Helleu

By Brook S. Mason

Just when Thakoon, Tory Burch and Michael Kors were strutting their fashion togs on the runway, Trinity House gallery in collaboration with Bernheimer Fine Art debuts "Beauty Endures "a captivating exhibition devoted to contemporary fashion photography and 19th century art as well, both grounded in the haute couture. The gallery setting, the piano nobile of the former Pucci mansion on East 64th Street could not be more apt.

Élégante á la chaise lyre by Paul Cesar Helleu; crayon on paper.
Front and center at Trinity House is the work of the avant-garde fashion photographer Cathleen Naundorf paired with the stylish images of society painter Paul César Helleu (1859-1927). Blanca Bernheimer presents Naundorf, who ventures into distinctive fashion photography. "Her work has been compared to that of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Horst P. Horst, all of whom shot for Vogue," says Blanca Bernheimer, whose father Konrad commands major league galleries in both London and Munich and also is a founding member of Maastricht's acclaimed The European Fine Art Fair.

For her creatively conceived images, Naundorf gained exclusive access to the haute couture archives of designers Valentino, Armani, Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Her settings range from the chic apartment of Coco Chanel in the Paris Ritz and the Grand Palais to the Musée Rodin, to name but a few. Then lending their jewels for Naundorf's images are Boucheron, Buccellati, Cartier, Chanel and Chaumet. She turns to both hair and makeup stylists used by the fashion designers. She emphasizes the lavish embroidery, exquisite beading and rich satins of couture along with the surrealistic hats of London milliner Philip Treacy but in new and novel ways.

"I've spent close to eight years collaborating with the fashion houses and always design my own sets," says Naundorf, who always injects a sense of the unexpected. For her "My Little Darling", she captures a model clad in Dior in the kitchen of the swank Hôtel Plaza Athénée with the tiled floors coated in grease to create a glistening effect. Sheathed in an elegant gown and standing at a restaurant stove, the model is about to plunge a crab into a cooper cauldron and Naundorf drenches that image in a sense of the steam like heat of the kitchen. At the same time, she emphasizes the lavish embroidery, exquisite beading and rich satins of couture along with the surrealistic hats of London milliner Philip Treacy.
Homage to Horst P. Horst, Chanel – HC winter 2006, Appartement Coco Chanel rue Cambon, Paris 2008 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ). Camille, Dior – HC summer 2005, Musée Rodin, Paris 2010 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ).
The Crying Game I, Dior – HC summer 2008, Atelier d'artiste, cité Jandelle, Paris 2008 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ).
For her large format images in both color and black and white, Naundorf uses a Polaroid camera. However, she avoids digitalizing her work. "I'm always looking for something magical, to capture an unexpected mood on my own," she says.

Taking in the opening were interior designers Mario Buatta and Ilene Wetson. "All you need is style and these photos epitomize a highly sophisticated style," says Wetson, who worked under Peter Marino. Also admiring the artistry of Naundorf was Gabriele Frantzen who turns out jewelry for Saks.
Untitled, Dior – HC summer 2007, Atelier d'artiste, cité Jandelle, Paris 2009 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ). La fille en plâtre VIII, Dior – HC summer 2007, Atelier de moulage du Musée du Louvre, Paris 2009 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ).
Valentino en rose, Valentino – HC winter 2007, Atelier d'artiste, cité Jandelle, Paris 2007 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ). La fille en plâtre IV (Version 1), Dior – HC summer 2007, Les ateliers du Style, Paris 2009 (© Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf Bernheimer Fine Art Photography ).
The German trained and Paris based Naundorf is no stranger to the ranks of high placed photographers. Her images have appeared in eight books no less. Since 2005, she has been working on her haute couture series "Un rêve de mode". Beginning in 1997, Naundorf tackled commissions for Vogue.

Then the work of Paul César Helleu is hardly in the shadows on these shores. Helleu is responsible for the still spell binding constellation mural ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. He created portraits of the leading society swans of his day including those of Nancy Astor, the Duchess of Marlborough, Marchesa Casati, and other members of the aristocracy, all of who are dressed in the couture frocks of their day. "His clientele was everybody who was anybody," says Simon Shore, who heads up Trinity House. Today his collectors have included such luminaries as the late Pamela Harriman and his work can be founded in the Brooklyn Museum, the Morgan Library and the Fogg Art Museum.
Trinity Gallery's Simon Shore & Davina Peace, Photographer Cathleen Naundorf, and Blanca Bernheimer of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography.
Cathleen Naundorf autographs her book "Haute Couture" for Brenda Waites Bolling and Mary McGavin. Donna Leatherman, Biff Elrod, and Trinity Gallery's Meghan McGavin.
Tina Jones, Irina Zavino, Connor Williams, Dounya Discana.
Bassist Everett Boyd and his Trio provided the music.
Trinity House is making waves in the high-powered art world here even though Shore opened his Manhattan premises last October. In England, he has wooed clients in the fashion and art set such as Stella McCartney and Damien Hirst. So dealing with celeb clients is par for the course for this Shore who also has galleries in London's swish Mayfair and in the Cotswolds as well.

Besides his acumen in dealing, Shore practically qualifies as a top tier interior designer. Both his London and Upper East Side premises boast stunning grey chic Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Noguchi furnishings. Paintings in his vast inventory include those by Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, George Stubbs and John Singer Sargent.

While he and his partner Steven Beale cut their teeth at a small Victorian paintings gallery and only six years ago, a London banker backed their new enterprise. From the small village of Broadway (population: 2,500) it was only a hop, skip and jump to launching a Mayfair premises and Manhattan one, too.
Meghan McGavin, Mary McGavin, and Davina Peace. Nicholas Bloom and Davina Peace.
Blanca Bernheimer, Tim Gaylord, Irina Zavina, A J diScala, and Dounya Discana.
Susan Cushing, Cathleen Naundorf, Melissa Olcott, and Kristen Kelly Fisher.
Ilene Weston and Mario Buatta. Michael McConkey and Cathleen Naundorf.
But it hasn't always been smooth sailing for Shore and his partner Beale, when news of the Madoff scandal hit, the course looked rocky. But in no times, their trading course changed dramatically. By 2009, they were turning over 40 pictures.

NB: If you can't make this exhibition, which closes September 29, 2012, grab Naundorf's book Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf. The images and text are beguiling.
Gabrielle Frantzen, Blanca Bernheimer, and Elisabeth Möhlmann.
Terry Greenberg with Cathleen Naundorf and Kristen Kelly Fisher.
Lindsay Byron Smith, Vanessa Noel, and Peter Pizzino.
Graciela and Alberto Liberman.
"Beauty Endures" until September 29, 2012
Trinity House and Bernheimer Fine Art Photography
24 East 64th Street
New York, New York 10065
Tel: 212 813 0700

Opening night photographs by Ric Kallaher Photography