Monday night was Retrospective night in New York town
Winding our way up The Guggenheim through a retrospective of James Rosenquist's work. 7:55 PM.
Down at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, at the Community Access 2003 Gala they honored the brilliant and renowned American fashion photographer, Francesco Scavullo, and sixty blocks north on 89th and Fifth Avenue, in a house Frank Lloyd Wright designed, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, they honored the internationally famous pop artist James Rosenquist with a brilliant retrospective of his work.

They were somewhat different crowds, both glamorous in their own New York way, and both reflections of a sensibility that I am old enough to remember as brand new, yet still astonishingly fresh and compelling to the eye.

At the Gugg it was the Pop Art Ball
with the guest of honor James Rosenquist, Jim to his myriad friends. Mr. Rosenquist was there wearing a copper colored paper suit. Yes, paper. It looks like rumpled sharkskin. His Retrospective exhibition was up for the guests to see, bright and vivid and sunny. Yes, sunny and fun and irony everywhere.
Cocktails in the rotunda of The Guggenheim
They set up a big dining tent on the sidewalk in front of the museum. There was a special performance by Bjorn Again, “a tribute to ABBA.” There were auctions, live and silent. The “live” was presided over by Simon de Pury. Mr. de Pury who is regarded as one of the greatest auctioneers in the world, was with Anh Duong who is now often seen on his arm at these events.

The menu for the evening was created by star chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, the dress was “Pop Glam.” Howard Lutnick of Cantor Fitzgerald was the dinner chairman, and Hugo Boss sponsored the evening.

I love the Gugg. The space itself continues, for me, to intrigue, amuse and awe. The cocktail reception was held in the rotunda which is generously towering but not so vast when filled with bars, tables, electronic equipment and people. The crowd was a kind of hip uptownish/part Euro/part Wall Street, peppered with the presence of some famous artists and famous faces. Dennis Hopper, now more famous as a collector than an actor, was there taking pictures of the artists, including Mr. Rosenquist, Julian Schnabel, and Jeff Koons.

A table setting at The Gugg
The Breughelian-looking Mr. Schnabel, who can appear to be quite phlegmatically bored at these affairs, looked conversely boyish and enthusiastic (and rather humble) to be in the company of Mr. Rosenquist. Or was I just imagining it?

The enormously successful post-Pop artist Mr. Koons, if you’ve never seen him, looks a little like Tommy Hilfiger’s younger brother who went to Harvard Law, makes a fortune giving legal advice to Silicon Valley firms and narrowly escaped dorkdom by marrying a beautiful statuesque blonde who looks like she gave up a movie career to be a cool housewife. His manner is bright and friendly and he was very neighborly gracious when JH asked him to pose.

Forty years ago, at about this time of the year, Andy Warhol had one of his first uptown, bigtime exhibitions in three small rooms in a ground floor gallery in a brownstone in the East 70s. One room was Brillo boxes, one Campbell soup boxes and the other Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. To the world beyond the art world, this was nothing less or more than a hoot. I know because there I was, as I continue to be, not of the art world.

Afterwards there was a party at Warhol’s loft, which at that time was on East 46th Street. The big, gritty loft was painted silver, with foil wrapped around the poles and columns of the room. Even the dangling, bare overhead lightbulbs were silver. The party was bankrolled by a woman named Ethel Scull who with her husband Robert, owner of a fleet of taxicabs, had begun to make a name for themselves as collectors of art that was still selling in the hundreds (and only occasionally in the thousands). A lot of the “pop” artists were present, and in retrospect, it turned out to be one of the first art/media events that personified the era now remembered as “The Sixties.”

At the bar
The fashion magazine photographers were there taking pictures. Many of the artists, mostly men, are now household names although then still a lean, sometimes scraggly, often a scruffy looking group. They lined up for a group shot with Jean Shrimpton, the hottest fashion model of the time. Ethel Scull, furious that she wasn’t asked to be in the picture, stood in the middle of the huge space and shouted: “I’m paying for this fuckin’ party, why aren’t they taking pictures of me?” Mrs. Scull was taken only semi-seriously at the time. Not because of her forthright self-presentation but because Pop Art was still to many, just a gimmick, a novelty and she was writing checks.

Mrs. Scull’s collection, if it were assembled today would probably be worth a fortune that could buy all the taxicabs in New York three times over. Andy Warhol is now immortal, and James Rosenquist is a rather handsome, slightly funky looking and youthful eminence gris of the art world and modern art history, whose appearance last night at the Guggenheim was not dissimilar in feeling to that of a movie star at a premiere of his latest spectacle.
Pre-dinner under the tent. 8:10 PM.
Lietta Joannou, Jeff Koons, Dakis Joannou, and Justine Koons
Eli and Edyth Broad
James Rosenquist and Dennis Hopper
Pucci Pop
Lisa Dennison, Simon de Pury, and Anh Duong
Julian Schnabel, Mimi Thompson, and James Rosenquist
Allison and Howard Lutnick
Philipp Wolff in Hugo Boss
Mary Cronson and Denise Saul
Lisa and Julian Niccolini
Michael Carl and J. Errico
L. to r.: Thomas Krens and ladies in red; Dennis Hopper records the scene on camera.
Ralph and Ala Isham
The man and Yung Hee
Henry Buhl and friend
Lothar Reig and Vanessa von Bismarck
Dennis Hopper photographing the guest of honor
Meanwhile, down at the National Arts Club (which back in the late 19th century was the private house of Gov. Samuel Tilden, the ill-fated Presidential candidate in 1876 who won the popular vote and lost the election): Co-chaired by Carole Darden-Lloyd and Norma Jean Darden. Senator Chuck Schumer was Honorary Chair. Committee members and guests included Marisa Berenson, Anne Dexter Jones, Cornelia Guest, Elsa Peretti, Gloria Vanderbilt, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Felicia Taylor, Carroll Petrie, Sean Byrnes, Hon. Gifford Miller, Jill and Andrew Roosevelt, Elle MacPherson, Valeria Mazza, Helen Gurley Brown, Amanda Hearst, Karen Bjornsen, Jo Hallingby, Joanna Bennett, Patricia Duff, Patrick McDonald, Alden James, Tina Louise, Gato Barbieri, Lisa Jackson, Catherine Aaron, and Bradley Bayou. Quite a picture.

Francesco Scavullo
Emcees for the evening were Andre Leon Talley and Robert Verdi. Francesco, still a very familiar personage on the fashion scene in New York, has many many friends and acquaintances after a distinguished career of more than fifty years as one of the world’s top fashion photographers. Like the others whom Community Access serves, he’s also lived and worked with a psychiatric disability for most of his adult life. At the age of 21, he suffered the first of a series of nervous breakdowns and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Since that time, his photographs have graced hundreds of covers and pages of magazines including Rolling Stone, Life, Time, Esquire, Allure, Self, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Cosmopolitan, whose covers he photographed for more than 30 years. He has published six books. His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Last night he was recognized for that highly successful, career, notwithstanding his bipolar disorder.

It was a very artsy and-fashion-y evening.
The old Tilden residence is tall and elegant but also funky with its Victorian design influences. It’s like a big-old relaxed club where you could imagine the scent of good cigars permeating the atmosphere. Add a highly eclectic, glam, early 21st-century crowd and you get New York as vintage champagne. The only one missing was CZ Guest who passed away last Saturday night.

There was an informal showing of the designs of another of Scavullo’s old pals, Stephen Burrows, a video tribute by Claus Eggers, a champagne reception (Veuve Cliquot being the bubbly of choice), an open bar, a light buffet, a silent auction and hundreds of the man’s clamoring friends.

Isabella Rossellini in a dress by Halston, gold-mesh earrings by Elsa Peretti, photographed by Francesco Scavullo for Harper's Bazaar July 1982. From Tiffany In Fashion by John Loring (Abrams 2003).
The silent auction included Scavullo’s first portfolio, released this fall, “Song” which includes original shots of Mick Jagger, Sting, Janis Joplin, Cher, Diana Ross and Pavarotti. Also in the auction: two Stephen Burrows gowns, and a hand-engraved glass portrait of Scavullo's famous photos of Brooke Shields and Elizabeth Taylor by artists David Sugar and Carol Iselin.

Francesco Scavullo graced the evening with his presence to attest to the capability of people with psychiatric disabilities to lead productive, creative lives and successful lives. Community Access, for whom the gala was staged, provides safe, affordable housing and support services that have helped thousands of New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities to move from institutions and shelters to independent living.

How far we have come in one lifetime in addressing and accepting the realities of mental health. In Francesco Scavullo’s lifetime disorders were once regarded as secrets, even shameful, pitiable ones whose victims were often hidden from the light of life. Francesco Scavullo was our witness to courage, determination and creative genius last night at the National Arts Club. Up at the Gugg James Rosenquist was doing the honors.

I was thinking again of John Kander’s remark the other night at the Living Landmarks: “Everybody lives here – everybody from everywhere – and they don’t kill each other.”

No, they affirm life instead.

Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/


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