For the Love of Art

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Looking across the Hudson River towards the The Erie Lackawanna Railway in Hoboken. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021. A sunny day, yesterday in New York, but cold – mid- to low-30s, with a sharp cold wind slowing your pace when out and about.

Back at the Frick Madison. As I wrote on yesterday’s Diary, I was fascinated by the portraits, and my curiosity led to the actual characters that fascinated. One was the classic Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait of Julia, Lady Peel. She was 32 at the time of the portrait (1827). She was married by then for seven years to Sir Robert Peel, a British politician, mentored by the Duke of Wellington and the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.


Sir Thomas Lawrence, Julia, Lady Peel, 1827.

Entering the House of Commons in 1809 at the age of 21, he was soon a rising star in the Tory Party. In his early 30s he became Home Secretary, and history regards him as the father of modern British policing as the founder of the Metropolitan Police Service. The police terms of “bobbies” and “peelers” (members of the force) came from the founder’s name.

Sir Robert was also the founder of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister twice during the early reign of Queen Victoria. Like many of his peers he collected paintings, and was an avid patron of Sir Thomas Lawrence. He commissioned 15 paintings by Lawrence of family members and others. Many of his collection were hung at Drayton Manor, one of the Peel residences where Lady Peel’s was a focal point in the picture gallery.

He’d also acquired a painting by Peter Paul Rubens in 1823 of Ruben’s wife Helena Fourment, which was a particular favorite. Five years after acquiring the Rubens, inspired by it, he asked Lawrence to paint Julia. When the painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827, one critic regarded it as “the highest achievement of modern art.”


Lady Peel’s portrait was installed at the very end of the picture Gallery in Drayton Manor, one of the Peel’s residences.

Lady Peel was born in India in 1795 where her father served as Colonel (this was when the British ruled India), and moved his family to England when she was five. Her mother and her sister died of Scarlet Fever two years later. Whatever her social personality, the trauma of a loss of parent, particularly the mother, would deeply effect her relationship in her marriage. They were devoted. They had seven children. Lord and Lady Peel were popular as well. No scandals to speak of.

Sir Robert’s death at 62 in 1850 was devastating for his wife. Heads of state paid their respects including a young Queen Victoria, and she was offered a peerage which would have elevated her title and changed her name. Nope. She wanted to keep her husband’s name, saying she wanted to be remembered only as his wife. She died nine years later at 61.

Back out on the street. On my way to Sette Mezzo on Lexington Avenue, a painter named Phillip Michaels has opened a studio/gallery that catches your eye when you pass, whatever the time of day or night. It’s a small boutique-size shop with its walls covered with Michaels’ works. He’s often there, day or night, painting, organizing, conversing with visitors. 


Looking through the window at Phillip Michaels, 979 Lexington Ave, phillipmichaelsart.com

Phillip, I learned, was born and raised in Chicago. He first studied art at Stony Brook and later at Florence University of Art in Italy, and acquired a BFA at Hunter. For the past four years he’s focused on abstract painting. Summers, he works out of a studio in the Hamptons and this past winter he took up professional residence three doors down from Sette, in the heart of the neighborhood, a treat for people passing by, watching the artist at work.



While on the subject of Art. A few week ago, The Museum of Arts and Design’s young patrons group, MAD Luminaries, gathered chicly (and safely) for an insider’s-only private viewing of of one of New York’s hottest shows, Daniel Arsham’s Time Dilation, at Perrotin in NYC.

Terry Skoda, MAD Interim Director, joined Luminaries founding co-chair and MAD Trustee Alexander Hankin for the intimate experience which included a tour given by the gallery’s Matthew McCardwell. Skoda said, “We think it is critical that the art community draws together to support our artists and help NYC recover. Collaborating with Perrotin to share these important new works by Daniel was just the first of our organized outings planned for MAD Luminaries this spring.”

Also in attendance MAD Luminaries co-chair Christina Senia, committee members Andrew Puopolo and Jaime Weinberg, artists Andrew Erdos and Blakely Thornton, plus Polina Proshkina, Isaac Calpito, Julian Pollack, Di Mondo, Jeff Perla, Danny Mapes, and Kith’s Kevin Heidkamp.


Katherine Wisniewski, Terry Skoda, and Alexander Hankin.
Caroline McKay and Reid Myers.
L. to r.: Ross Kessler and Jack DeFuria; Eduardo Gonzalez and friend.
Danny Mates and Polina Proshkina.
L. to r.: Di Mondo; Ryan Last and Jamie Weinberg.
Chris Field, Yan Assoun, and Polina Proshkina.
Tatiana Bravo and Ashley Strause.
Matthew McCardwell and Katherine Wisniewski.
Isaac Boots and Alexander Hankin.

And on the subject of Love (as in the Sir Robert Peels’), LongHouse Reserve held its Winter Benefit, A Love Song to Jack, on Valentine’s Day to celebrate LongHouse’s beloved founder Jack Lenor Larsen, who recently left this world at 93.

The evening began with a heartfelt rendition of It Had To Be You from JoyJanJones. “Jack would have loved that” said Matko Tomicic, LongHouse Reserve Executive Director, “he was mesmerized with voice and the sounds of piano. Tonight, we have guests from all over the United States and even some tuning in from Europe, South America, and Japan. Just the way Jack would have liked it.”


Joy Jan Jones and Bobby Peterson.
Matko Tomicic.

Festivities included an exclusive tour of Larsen’s residence at LongHouse led by Honoree Architectural Critic, Paul Goldberger. Goldberger received the LongHouse Art Leadership Award. “LongHouse is like no other place I know. I can think of no other place in the world that is part design museum, part botanical garden, part sculpture park, part culture center.


Honoree Paul Goldberger.

Not any one of these things, but all of them, in perfect balance” said Goldberger. LongHouse President, Dianne Benson, noted “we have been giving this award for 20 years. Each one is a little different, depending on who is being honored, but all embrace Jack’s life philosophy”.


Dianne Benson.
Caroline Baumann.
Lee H. Skolnick.

Visual Artist Shirin Neshat was honored with the LongHouse Award. “It’s very difficult to verbalize the importance of art and culture in the period that we are living in. I am extremely flattered and honored that my art has become a point of recognition in a time of crisis” said Neshat before sharing an inside look at her Brooklyn-based studio and the art she’s working on.


Honoree Shirin Neshat.

‘Loving Couple’ Honorary Chairs included Bill T. Jones and Bjorn Amelan, Eric Fischl and April Gornik, and Rufus Wainwright and Jörn Weisbrodt. “Our debut was at a LongHouse Winter Benefit. This wonderful place was a big part of the beginning of our love life” said Wainright and Weisbrodt. Love songs were performed throughout the evening by Laurie Anderson, Royal Khaoz, Nico Muhly, G.E. Smith and Taylor Barton-Smith, and Rufus Wainwright. 


Bill T. Jones and Bjorn Amelan.
Rufus Wainwright and Jorn Weisbrodt.
Laurie Anderson singing to Jack.

Eric Fischl and April Gornik shared, “What Jack accomplished was extraordinary. LongHouse is an absolute destination. Rare in this part of the world. It’s a treasure we have to, and will, keep going.”

The Valentine’s Day celebration came to a close with Dianne Benson echoing Eric and April with a heartfelt thank you to Jack. “We promise to love LongHouse, to keep it, and to make it better and better, just as you imagined.”

‘Love Boxes’, all including a Yoko Ono keepsake and others with cocktails, sake, champagne and sweet treats, were packaged glamorously and sent to guests as part of their ticket.


LongHouse Reserve in the snow.

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