The Naked City

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Disconnected outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 9:00. Photo: JH.

Monday, September 20, 2021. A nice weekend passed by; quiet, warm weather hovering around 80 by day and high 60s by night. Lots of clouds and some formations and colors. Rain forecast but no.

Traffic this past week was extraordinarily heavy on the Upper East Side. Buses, taxis, private cars; business traffic, delivery trucks double and even triple parked, lessening the lanes already toyed with making less by those who Plan the city. For our benefit. Midtown, however, the land of Michael’s restaurant remains very quiet.

The traffic on the 84th Street transverse heading east.

These commercial areas uptown (downtown is another world) nevertheless still have establishments up along Madison and Fifth Avenues with astounding window displays. They’re so beautiful, and clever, and engaging your imagination and a moment of peace of mind.

Last week, you may have heard, was the annual Met Ball at the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue and Central Park. This particular event has been a fundraiser for the Met’s Costume Institute for many years. I went to one, as you may have read the piece on seeing Princess Diana, back in ’96. The great influence that really put the Costume Institute on the fashion map was the late and great Diana Vreeland.

It was Vreeland’s influence that encouraged the men and women who funded it and turned it into a major fundraiser for the museum. Although when she first went to work there, some friends including Babe Paley contributed to her salary. Ironically Vreeland took the job of directing it after she was summarily fired from her job as editor of Vogue.

In those years, it was what is now Classic fashion, and the ladies attending expressed it in their costume. Glamour was the word. Chic maybe, too. Or just plain lovely or even just nice to look at.

I don’t recall when Anna Wintour took it over, but it was the perfect moment for her, and for Conde Nast under Si Newhouse, and for the Costume Institute. It was the Last of the Great, and Onto the New. Which, after all, is what fashion is about.

Anna in her 2021 Met Gala garb.

The Wintour enterprise raised huge sums for the Costume Institute. Someone told me this latest one raised millions (only hearsay from this position). Whatever it was, it’s been a boon for both parties Vogue/Wintour and The Metropolitan Museum.

And, like everything else, it has changed. First of all, Wintour turned it into a celebrity-fest. The latest and the greatest. The hoo-hah and the winny-pinny. What was once Society is now Sass-eye-ty. Go sass-yerself. The costume over the past half dozen years has departed from Paris to Vegas, non-stop and still moving on and up. That’s okay, legit, fashion-wise, as you can see it on the street every now and then (depending on the time of day). This year’s ditto recognizes the fashion in porn. It’s a high cla$$ costume of cour$e, de$igned to transfix (or tran$fuse).

I saw a photo of Ms. Wintour whom I do not know and never met at the Ball. She’s just great looking to these eyes, even better looking than when she was a young editor; not a beauty to the fashion eye, but easy on the common eye. Vogue had its greatest years dollar-wise under her direction. She and Mr. Newhouse were a top team.

Now, however, as the the Met Ball this year demonstrated – Wintour remains in her established distinction, but the costume has left the room and the concoction has taken over. One could almost argue that there is NO fashion anymore. Not quite although … the other night our friend Eleanora Kennedy was dining at Amaranth on 62nd Street when a man walked by holding a gym bag, and wearing: Absolutely Nothing. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us, Eleanora had her trusty iPhone at the ready …

Meanwhile. Thursday afternoon as I was coming in from walking the dogs (quickly), our doorman handed me a smart looking paper bag with two small, beautifully gift-wrapped and bowed boxes. A mystery present. I get upstairs and open one immediately, wondering what …?

It’s from Joanna Fisher, the artist who during her Covid confinement built a miniature mansion dollhouse which we ran when it made its debut at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).

Joanna next to her Venetian Palazzo Dollhouse at MAD.

Known as The Fisher Dollhouse it is a Venetian Palazzo in Miniature, and Joanna filled it with hundreds of historical and contemporary craft, art, and design objects, creating a unique environment. As a kid I would have wanted to take it home and play (making up stories) in it forever. Decades later I’d want to spend the time just to look at entire creation of time, taste and talent. It’s perfect.

So, back to my gift from Joanna … what’s inside those boxes … (JH, I later learned also received the same). So I open it. It’s a small 4X4x1 white box with a cellophane window under which was place a chocolate image of the front of Joanna’s palazzo!

So I open it up with the intention of eating it … after I’d paid my respects for its amazing design. There were eight of these boxes! There were, that is. Now six, I put them in the fridge. But the chocolate, the best! I mean, like the miniature, the real Best.

The Museum has recreated the façade of the dollhouse in gourmet chocolate, and it’s available in their gift shop (and you can even order it online here!). Paul Joachim, a.k.a. the Chocolate Genius, the craftsman behind this tasty project, offered chocolate making demonstrations in the last three weekends at MAD.

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