Friday, July 13, 2007

Marriage of Life and Art

Nina Griscom with her daughter Lily and new husband Leonel Piraino. Photo: DPC.
Yesterday was a really beautiful summer day in New York, from early morn till late in the evening. Summer temperatures from mid-80s midday to mid-60s at night. A slight breeze, a beautiful light, bright, brisk. This is gratitude weather. Very important; not available everywhere in the world.

Last Monday night I was having dinner with friends at Amaranth on East 62nd Street. On our way out we ran into Nina Griscom and Leonel Piraino sitting on a bench in front of the restaurant having a drink with their friends Sandy Hill and Tom Ditmer. “I hear you two are getting married,” I said to Nina who grinned and blushed and finally said, “I’ll call you.” I took that to mean what I’d heard was true.

The newlyweds
Then she did call me this afternoon about 3 to tell me what was about to transpire, which was the following: Nina Griscom married her devoted companion Leonel Piraino yesterday early evening about 7 o’clock, in the Fifth Avenue apartment of her mother and stepfather, Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn. The ceremony was performed in the presence of family and several close friends by former Mayor David Dinkins. The wedding dress was done by Nina’s friend Vera Wang. Mary Hilliard recorded it for the family with her camera. Afterwards the wedding party went down to the Knickerbocker Club for a wedding dinner. The couple plans to hold a reception for all their friends in the Fall. In the meantime, they plan to stay put, spending their weekends in the country.

One of the city’s great beauties, and not without her copious charms, Nina has been a star in the social firmament for quite some time – about three decades -- and by nature is one of those girls that men think of writing novels about. Etcetera. And women befriend. (For more on that, go to NYSD HOUSE “The Way They Live”). This is her third trip down the aisle and it may be her husband’s first. He is Argentinian. They are not a new couple but have been dating and sharing living space for the past two or three years, or maybe more.

When they were first seeing each other, it was generally perceived as another of Nina’s romantic forays, a relief from a stressful divorce and other relationships. Furthermore, Leo is quite a few years younger than she. Would he match her personal charisma or fade into the shadow? Inquiring minds tended to guess. Add to that the dramatic perceptions that beauty also attracts -- and there certainly have been a lot of those about Nina.

After all these years, however, the perceptions of those around them have changed too. This is a couple who have a good time in each other’s company; who both complement and compliment each other. They share mutual cultural and social interests, and those interests which they don’t share, they accommodate in one another. They share similar ambitious drives. Very important in the rarified orbits of the metropolis. In the picture I took last night, with Nina’s beautiful daughter Lily Baker, they also appeared to share a family also.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Last night, after getting a picture of Nina and Leo and Lily, I went down to the Core Club where they were screening a new documentary “Who Gets To Call It Art” directed by Peter Rosen with Beth DeWoody as executive producer. The film is about the life of Henry Geldzahler, the now legendary premier curator of Contemporary Art at the Met. Mr. Geldzahler came of age with the great American contemporary artists of our time – Frank Stella, Larry Poons, David Hockney, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, Johns, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Rothko, Jackson Pollock, de Kooning, Mark di Suvero, Franz Kline, John Chamberlain, Andy Warhol, and on and on.

Peter Rosen, director of "Who Gets To Call It Art?"
As Peter Rosen explained to us before the screening, there is now a whole generation of art lovers who don’t know about this amazing man, who was as much a part of the movement as the artists. New York born and bred, who through his passions and his position at the Met, starting in his mid-20s, he raised up an entire generation of artists to the level of legitimacy they enjoy today.

Although never a real connoisseur of art I recall those early days of those men and women in the mid- to late-1960s when the world appeared to be transforming or transmogrifying, and “revolution” was a word popping up and lingering through conversations, popular music, literature and the arts. Everyone was aware of it on some level; it was in the air.

This riveting documentary, stoked by that nostalgic, filled with first-time understanding of what was really going on around us, expressed by some of the now great names in American art. It runs for 90 minutes and it seems like ten. When it’s over, you kinda wish it would continue so that maybe we could learn some more about who we are here. Or something. It is the best expressed, most articulate piece on that time in New York that I have ever seen. Much was learned then, some maybe much of which now seems to have been forgotten.Other parts of which will remain forever.

I went a little nuts with my camera sitting in the screening room, finding myself wanting to photograph the whole film so that I could go back over it and think about what all of the principals (many of the artists) amd the main character had to say about the age and the man. It will be screening on the Sundance Channel, “Who Gets To Call It Art” can be seen this coming Monday night.
The preppie Henry Geldzhaler, the young curator & The Met's Henry Geldzhaler, the first curator of Contemporary Art at the Met.
Henry contemplating ...
Early Contemporary collector Ethel Scull with young James Rosenquist & Rosenquist today recalling Henry.
Andy Warhol in his Factory studio.
David Hockney in his studio remembering his friend Henry.
Henry gazing at his portrait in larger Hockney painting of the great curator.

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