Friday, January 22, 2010

The talk

Looking west across Central Park from Fifth Avenue and 73rd Street. 10:40 PM. Photo: JH.
January 22, 2010. Beautiful day, yesterday in New York; sunny and mild.

The talk down at Michael’s was about Scott Brown in Massachusetts. My luncheon partner was impressed by his “story” of wayward youth in multiple marriage homes. I think Michael Wolff on his got it right: It was about the Kennedys.

The little town where I grew up in Western Massachusetts was a good example of the social/political divide that existed in that commonwealth (it is not a “state”) when the Kennedys were emerging politically. The Protestants vs. the Catholics. The Irish Catholics particularly were socially aggressive in raising themselves up from their immigrant bootstraps. And they were tough and crude compared to the milk-skinned Brahmins. That was not necessarily true, even absurd, but that was the general perception.

The legacy of Rose Kennedy’s father Honey-Fitz Fitzgerald was remembered as that of a saloon keeper and a politician in 19th century Boston. Backroom politics. His legacy, however, was all over the state (excuse me, Commonwealth) by the mid-20th century, and his daughter was well on her way to becoming a social dowager of the first order. Despite this, the Irish RCs (or mackeral-snappers, as some of the smart aleck WASPs liked to call them) often had a chip also.
Brian Snyder/Reuters
In my hometown the WASPs, the Mayflower set (every good town had one) were the establishment. It was a small mainly middle-class working-class town with the wealth in the hands of the bankers, the lawyers, the businessmen. The judge when I was growing up was Irish Catholic. A very successful lawyer, a supporter of Jack Kennedy, lawyer for the local papers (later purchased by Newhouse) and a mafia lawyer too. Big Nose Sam, Ice Pick Louie. They were clients. The judge who always had an almost finished cigar in the side of his mouth wherever he went, drove a very nice late model grey Cadillac sedan too. This made a very good impression on everyone. A Caddy was the ultimate and fairly rare. The judge was also an elegant, well-read man who like any good Irishman liked a tipple or two. Or three. And a good conversation.

The local establishment, those Mayflower ancestors, didn’t think so much of the judge (who had replaced a recently deceased member of their crowd with a good old New England name like Parker or Putnam). But they allowed him his: they respected him. He had power and money also. Very respectable no matter what town you’re in.

Joseph P. Kennedy, then Ambassador to the Court of St. James.
The Kennedys, firstly in the person of Jack Kennedy came into this atmosphere with a different sway. They were polished, manicured, pedicured, sun-kissed all year round, The old man was rich, a banker, a former Ambassador, an owner of a movie studio, big real estate, a rumored fortune borne of Prohibition. The story always was that Joe Kennedy shorted the top of the market in 1929 and cleaned up. Everyone liked that rumor. Style with balls.

The Kennedys were New Yorkers, despite their Massachusetts residences. They were worldly, educated, witty. They kept their Bay State connections for political reasons, like a lot of politicians in this country. That aside, they lived a big life in Hyannisport, Bronxville and New York. This was not generally known to the Massachusetts citizenry, the voters. They knew the Kennedys through the old man’s bank and the grandfather’s backroom politics days. To New Englanders, New York was like a foreign land where kings and hucksters and sharpies met and meted. The New York air was good for the Kennedys. Their self-confidence, elan, was alluring. Although there were many who suspected them also. Of anything and everything.

The emergence of Jack Kennedy as a national figure, however, was a decisive moment in the image of Irish Roman Catholic heritage, up from nowhere-mobility. The Kennedys wore their wealth like rich American aristocrats. This was very impressive to everyone. The new wife Jackie Kennedy was a beauty, like a movie star in her bearing. Or a princess. This was also very impressive to everyone.

That impression gilded their power in Massachusetts. Their wit and ambition infused it. That was a hard act to follow for any politician. Say what you will about Teddy Kennedy, he cut a wide swath of international proportions. That is important in the world of human relations. They were beloved. The martyred President and the martyred Senator’s little brother was the standard bearer. It lasted 65 years for many good reasons. A very hard act to follow in politics, national or local.

Brown’s accession is historic for that reason alone, if no other. It’s the world moving on to its destiny.
The opening night of The 56th Annual Winter Antiques Show.
Last night was the benefit preview of the annual Winter Antiques Show at the armory on 67th and Park. This is the 56th annual, benefiting the East Side House Settlement in the South Bronx. The East Side House Settlement benefits from the net proceeds of all preview parties and all general admission receipts from the show.

The East Side House Settlement is located in one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States, the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. East Side House provides educational services, computer technology training, counseling and other forms of assistance.
Also jammed were the stations of hors d’oeuvres and finger-foods laid out by Taste Caterers. I took some pictures although the camera can’t possibly explain how Taste turns a ham and cheese on whole wheat (some mustard I think, not sure) into something you can’t stop eating. The soggy looking watercress and goat cheese on rye is soggy and melts in your mouth like the best chocolate. I know, it sounds like hype, but I had to tear myself away and get back to the job at hand.
Peter Brant, the well known art collector, was Honorary Chairman of the evening. Arie Kopelman is Chairman of the Winter Antiques Show Committee and Sallie Krawcheck, President, Global Wealthy & Investment Management of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was Opening Night Party Chair.
Hyde Park Antiques. New York, NY.
Elliott & Grace Snyder. South Egremont, MA. Macklowe Gallery. New York, NY.
Conru Primitive Art. Brussels, Belgium • Devon, England.
Barbara Israel Garden Antiques. New York, NY.
Keshishian. London, England.
Cohen & Cohen. London, England. Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc. New York, NY.
Georgian Manor Antiques. Fairhaven, MA.
Carolle Thibault-Pomerantz. New York, NY • Paris, France.
Old Hope Antiques, Inc. New Hope, PA.
Frank & Barbara Pollack. Highland Park, Illinois. Safani Gallery, Inc. New York, NY.
Liz O'Brien. New York, NY. Claude Lalanne for Winterthur.
David A. Schorsch • Eileen M. Smiles American Antiques. Woodbury, CT.
Michel Beiny, Inc. New York, NY.
Schwarz Gallery. Philadelphia, PA.
Dillingham & Co. Springfield Center, NY.
L'Antiquaire & The Connoisseur, Inc. New York, NY.
Peter Petrou. London, England. Arader Galleries. New York, NY. • Philadelphia, PA.
Philip Colleck, Ltd. New York, NY.

Charlie Scheips who often writes Art Set for NYSD came along to have a look at it from a curator/art historian’s point of view. He went off on his own exploration and I took in the aisles and the stalls with the digital:

People think that when they go to the Winter Antiques Show that they are shopping for antiques. Every year the style changes even in the antiques world. For the savvy among us, it also reveals something new.

Going to the show I was staggered by the unbelievable riches in sculpture -- an under-appreciated world by "modern art" standards -- unless you count Jeff Koons as a real "sculptor."
The first ravishing sculpture I saw was of a very ambisexual American idea of a Roman emperor at the Peter Pertrou gallery, by Waldo Story -- an American ex-pat who lived in Rome in the late 19th century. It is so beautiful!     Then I discovered the gorgeous plaster portrait of painter Antoine Watteau by Jean-Babtiste Carpeaux -- a unique object and only $150,000 at Danny Katz's booth!
The portrait of Beethoven by Franz von Stuck at Katz for another mere 150K was amazing also, but really the piece de resistance was the bronze bust  of Edgar Degas by Paul Paulin that is a mere $100,000!  I used the word “mere” to emphasize its value. The bust was given to the painter by the artist during his lifetime! I reminded the gallery staff of the aloof Degas's response to the idea of the new fangled telephone. When told that you had a mouthpiece and an ear piece to speak to one another -- Degas commented: "ah, like a servant."  The portrait looks just like he was saying this!
Hirschl & Adler had an amazing portrait in marble by Jean-Antoine Houdon of Robert Fulton (he created the steam engine in case your readers don't remember) from 1803-04, that if I were a current robber baron I would buy in an instant. I wonder what artists are going to document today's gazillionaires? Robert Fulton was lucky! He's in the same league as Washington and Jefferson thanks to Monsieur Houdon!
The only booth that didn't have sculpture per se that caught my eye was my friend Gerard Widdershoven of Maison Gerard. The art deco desk he had installed made me want to sit down and write checks or make luncheon reservations--so innately glamourous as Gerard tends to find objects like no one else.

Hans Kraus Gallery had a truly museum quality show of artifacts and photos by the legendary "inventor" of photography, Fox Talbot. Museums of photography could not match this installation. Though each photo is exceptional -- don't miss the archive of family ephemera that is in the vitrine at the booth.

If I were you, I would make another trip to the Armory this weekend. Believe it or not--sculpture is this year's black!
Foster • Gwin, Inc. San Francisco, CA.
Giampietro. New Haven, CT. Associated Artists, LLC. Southport, CT.
Taylor B. Williams Antiques. Chicago, IL.
Alexander Gallery. New York, NY.
Clinton Howell Antiques. New York, NY.
At Roger Keverne of 16 Clifford St, London, Mr. Keverne and associates enjoying the
evening's champagne.
They were successful; it was a big crowd. The doors opened before 6 and at 9 the aisles were still jammed. It’s always a beautiful show, and this year the aisles seemed more vibrant and the stalls more intriguing. Beautiful, fascinating stuff.

The show is open until Sunday the 31st.
Reed and Delphine Krakoff. Mario Buatta. Mary's wearing a New York cockroach earring that Mario gave her. Lovely.
Chris Martin, Jim McGuigan, Ryan McGuigan, Ann Rapp, and Jean Shafiroff. Ken Rendell, Tom Savage and friend.
Kathy Steinberg on right. Nancy and Jimmy Glaser. Cheri Kaufman and Bill Sclight.
Tom Gates and Martha Glass. Gates' vintage tie. Egan Seward and Tom Jayne.
Mark Maresca, Lauren and Kathryn Maresca, and Jamieson Clair. Jayne Michaels.
Polly Onet and Bronson van Wyck. Chris Leasure, Alison Minton, and Michel Witmer. Michael Henry Adams taking a picture of DPC taking a picture of Michael Henry Adams.
The future as past, the Warhol Factory 21st century later, Brigid Berlin (of Chelsea Girls) and Andy's Diarist, Pat Hackett with DPC at Patrick McMullan's dinner at the East Side Social Club last night after the antiques show, along with Nicole Miller, Polly Onet, Sam Bolton and Charlie Scheips.
Brigid Berlin, DPC, and Pat Hackett.
The East Side Social Club opened around Thanksgiving at 230 East 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. This was my first time there, and I knew in a minute it wouldn't be the last. Homey, cozy but hip and sophisticated, laid back with a great bar area. A classic. Loud, lotta talk, mixed crowd age-wise; and casual.
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