A foggy New York Wednesday
Edward and Theresa O'Toole Medical Services Building on 12th Street and 7th Avenue. 9:30 PM.

Believe it or not. And then in the early evening the fog turned to a light rain. I’m one of those old-fashioned types who longs for the snows of wintertime blanketing our city.

I went over to the Guggenheim for the closing night of their fabulously successful show “Russia!” which opened last September (and which I had not seen). The evening was hosted by the beautiful Irina Dvorovenko, prima ballerina of the American Ballet Theatre and Alexandre Gertsman, President of the Trustees of the International Foundation of Russian and Eastern European Art.

The exhibition was the most comprehensive and significant exhibition of Russian art outside of Russia since the end of the Cold War. It included more than 250 artworks, many of which have never traveled abroad. It also included a selection of first rate Western European paintings and sculptures assembled by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great and Nicholas I in the 18th and 19th centuries as well as some pieces collected in the early 20th century by Moscow merchants Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov.

The Gugg’s exterior is undergoing some kind of refurbishing, giving it a kind of a post-modern look, surrounded as it is by scaffolding that reminded me of the high-tech art we saw a couple of nights ago at the Parsons exhibition from the 70s and 80s.

The exterior of the Guggenheim at 9 PM.
On the ground floor (the Ronald O. Perelman Rotunda) the reception had a very busy bar (serving woidka no doubt) as well as two different groups of tall and lithesome fashion models looking bored beyond belief in their million-jillion dollar Helen Yarmak Furs, and a spiffier looking group of live mannequins dressed in creations of a young Russian born designer Natasha Ulyanov who’s now a New Yorker.

I’d expected a gaggle of the bold-faced names you see on these pages but alas, evidently they had better things to do. Most of them anyway. I caught a few shots of some friends and familiar faces and once I knew that was it, I decided to take the time to see the exhibition.

The Guggenheim exhibitions are,
if you didn’t know, an effortless walk up the ascending rotunda levels (there are six). They are spacious and bright and for those who love the thrill of heights and views of ground (I’m not one of them), they are sensational. Someone mentioned to me the old song that the trouble with Frank Lloyd Wright’s museum is that it is the main artistic attraction. Maybe, maybe not. It certainly is a thrill that gives one the sense of being in tomorrow’s world, of having left the burdens of the past behind.

Last night it was also a walk through the history of Russia because of its art from the 13th to the 20th century and within seconds I could see why this exhibition was so popular with vast crowds.
Models on stage and off in their Helen Yarmak furs.
Although most of it is quite familiar to the Western eye, it is impossible to view Russian art without regard for their long and bloody and totalitarian history. So as one approaches the upper levels and the art of the 20th century one is excited by the changes that were slow in coming but nevertheless occurred. After the fall of the Romanovs and the take-over of the Bolsheviks, it was the art, the artists who were able to reflect the slow progress of Russian society. This wasn’t easy of course.
Walking up the rotunda at the Guggenheim
Politicians large and small, powerful and not-so always use the newness of art (rejecting it, that is) to expedite their own stupidity and prejudice. Not only politicians, of course. Stalin was no exception. There was what they called “The Thaw” after his death when Krushchev came to power. However, it wasn’t long before old baldy wanted the artists to clam up and go away. Or paint “nice” pictures. His successor Brezhnev was of course even more repressive. Nonetheless, time has marched on and the artist’s sensibility continues to reflect the reality of the human experience.

By the time one gets to the Kandinskys and the Malevichs (early 20th century) in the exhibition, there is a strong sense of liberation proliferating despite its walls and borders and it was apparent in the reaction of the crowds on the upper rotundas. Lots of young people who were very vocally excited and stimulated by the art. It was a great success and the fact that it was exhibited in this astonishingly glamorous structure that has a life of its own outside of its art exhibitions made it even more exciting.

(I loved it; you gathered?)
From the Deesis tier in the Cathedral of the Dormition at the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery, circa 1497. Museum of History, Architecture, and Art, Kirillo-Belozersk.
Barge Haulers on the Volga, 1870-73. Oil on canvas by Ilya Repin. State Russian Museum St. Petersburg.
Collective Farm Worker on Bicycle, 1935. Oil on canvas by Alexander Deineka. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
Builders of the Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Station. Oil on canvas by Viktor Popkov 1960-61. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Vladimir and Rogneda, 1770. Oil on canvas by Anton Losenko. State Russion Museum, St. Petersburg.
Unknown Woman, 1883. Oil on canvas by Ivan Kramskoy. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Black Square, circa 1930. Oil on canvas by Kazimir Malevich. State Russian Museum St. Petersburg.
Errol Rappaport and Catherine Saxton
Brooke Mason and Heather Cohane
Alexandre Gertsman
Jill Brooke
Vaiva with Lana Klakotskaia
Alice Judelson
The place began to empty out about nine. Still raining, I grabbed a cab home thinking about the excitement and the newness (to the American sensibility) of that exhibition. I was reminded of a dinner I had a couple of weeks ago with Boaz Mazor who is the sales director for Oscar de la Renta. Boaz had just returned from a triumphant sales trip to Moscow. He could hardly contain the excitement of his voyage. He, as representative of Oscar, had been invited by a young woman named Aizel Guseinova who owns a store (named Aizel) which caters to the wives of Russian oligarchs.

Ms. Guseinova is only 28 and is one of the top retailers in Russia. Her shops also carry Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Chloe, Stella McCartney, Nancy Gonzalez and Collette Dinnigan. This year was the first time that she bought the Oscar line with commitment. Her hunch was on the money: she sold 70% of the line almost immediately, before Christmas.

Boaz Mazor had already been selling a lot of the Oscar line to Russian women at Harrods in London when Aziel invited him to do a show at her shop. He was surprised when Ms. Guseinova (who is now going to open an Oscar de la Renta boutique in partnership with de la Renta in Moscow) ordered only what for Americans are the smaller sizes – 2 through 10 and wasn’t interested in the 12s and 14s. Boaz was a little nervous about that until he saw her clientele – long, tall, and thin as their stilettos.
L. to r.: Boaz and Aizel Guseinova; Boaz with Aizel's models (courtesy of WWD).
Aside from the great sales he made, however, the city of Moscow (which he’d visited several years ago) was a fantastic (and new) experience (I wanted to get on the next plane just listening to him). The money is everywhere and palpable: the people are spending on the high life. The restaurants, he said, have some of the best food he’s ever tasted anywhere in the world. The nightlife is rampant and glamorous. Women go to dinner in evening gowns. New York hasn’t seen anything like that since the 1930s. Turandot, the latest, largest and most sensational restaurant in Moscow is open 24 hours a day and is filled with this crowd who love the nightlife and the social life. Siberia where the gulags existed has become a chic getaway area for the rich with their massive dachas. One American interior designer is doing a 180,000 square foot house for some Russian billionaire. In Moscow, its luxury retail district already has Hermes, Dior, Ferragamo.

Boaz was knocked out by the entire trip. His hotel (a Marriott) was beautiful with extraordinary service. After his long days with his new customers, he was wined and dined nightly with truckloads of Beluga and buckets of champagne (not to mention the shots of Russian vodka) by his hosts and hostesses. Boaz who definitely has an epicurean streak is nevertheless, although not a teetotler, very moderate in his consumption. The caviar, the pure volume and quality, however, was irresistable and he was still laughing two weeks later in recounting those Moscow nights.
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Just before the holidays, Henri Barguirdjian and Mr. Craig Miller of Graff Jewels hosted a cocktail reception at the Graff Worth Avenue store in honor of the Norton Museum of Art’s Bal des Arts 2006: An Evening at La Vie En Rose, which will take place at the Museum February 4th. Graff is Grand Jewelry Sponsor of the Bal des Arts 2006.

The guest list included Bal des Arts Chairman Nancy Raquet and her husband Walter and Vice chairman Kathryn Vecellio and her husband Leo. Other guests included Ellen and Bob Jaffe, Cathleen McFarland Ross and Walter M. Ross, Petra and Stephen Levin, Melinda and Butch Trucks, Annette and Jack Friedland, and Jodi and Holden Luntz.

The guests were all practically gasping when Graff unveiled a spectacular 33.84-carat emerald-cut white diamond on a platinum band with tapered baguettes. The Bal des Arts 2006 theme is inspired by the spectacular special exhibition French Impressionism and Boston: Masterworks from the Museum of Fine Arts. Ticket levels range from $1,000–$25,000. Contact Jenny Bunker at 561-832-5196 ext. 1116 or e-mail bunkerj@norton.org for additional information. The Bal des Arts will benefit the Museum’s exhibitions and education programs.
Henri Barguirdjian, Nancy and Walter Raquet, and Craig Miller
Christina Orr-Cahall, Nancy Raquet, Katie Vecellio, and Henri Barguirdjian
Lisa McGowan, Jeanne Marie Anderson, Bridget Rooney Koch, and Mimi Jannetty
Christina Orr-Cahall with Butch and Melinda Trucks
Bill and Regine Diamond
Ashley and Joe Maguire
Steven and Petra Levin
Robert and Ellen Jaffe
Jack and Annette Friedland
Paul and Roberta Kosloff
Last month Phoenix House board member Beth Rudin DeWoody and Annette Tapert hosted a reception at The Core Club to celebrate Christopher Kennedy Lawford's new best-seller, Symptoms of Withdrawal. Mr. Lawford whose father was the late actor Peter Lawford and whose mother is Pat Kennedy has written a book which deals realistically with the struggle to overcome addiction, a challenge many of the young men and women at Phoenix House also face.
Beth Rudin DeWoody and Dr. Mitch Rosenthal
Christopher Kennedy Lawford, Annette Tapert, Dr. Mitch Rosenthal, and Beth Rudin DeWoody
Beth Rudin DeWoody and Debbie McEneaney
Henry Kissinger, Robert A. Caro, and Dr. Mitch Rosenthal
Margaret Carlson, Sarah Sims Rosenthal, and Ina Caro
Paige Peterson and Shirley Lord Rosenthal

January 12, 2006, Volume VI, Number 7
Photographs by DPC (Gugg); Lucien Capehart (Graff).


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