Thursday, June 28, 2012

Helmut Lang & Pravda

Last month (! how time flies!), we attended the opening of an exhibition of Helmut Lang's sculptures at a gallery in a beautiful townhouse on the north side of Washington Square. A photographer named Francesco took this picture of us just after we emerged from the show.

After a successful career as a fashion designer, Lang has left the world of fashion and moved on to the art world to focus on his sculpture. Although his brand continues, he has turned over the reins of his design house. Helmut (right) posed for a photo with a friend.

The gorgeous Ahn Doung.  French-born artist, actress (My Best Friend's Wedding, Scent of a Woman) and model, born of a Spanish mother and Vietnamese father, she is da bomb.  And Jean wanted to steal her shoes.  (The shoes behind are are also neat - and so is the haircut!)

We ran into Craig Hensala (left) with two of his friends. Craig is a man of many talents. An art dealer, he is currently managing Stephen Petronio Company, one of the premier modern dance companies (and our favorite), headquartered in New York City.

We were also happy to see Jack Giles, whose gallery on the Bowery is the scene of many of our nightlife crimes, including a show during last fall's fashion week.

We met this fab quartet and were intrigued by Matthias' re-purposing of a carpenter's apron from the local hardware store into a fashion statement.

It was one of the very first warm evenings of early May and the gallery was not air conditioned, so Matthias' apron was actually quite functional - not too hot or too constricting.  Don't be surprised if you see one or both of us aproned-up, so to speak, in a future posting.

This well-dressed couple was also quite sweet. He was sporting some fierce sideburns and a pocket watch.

"Ah, but what about the art?" you might ask. We posed for a photo next to this white stacked number.

Complex ( summed up the show up perfectly: "Exploring the distress of found objects in a psycho-social content". Yeah.  What he said.

Perhaps it was the heat or low blood sugar kicking in, but Jean kept thinking how the sculptures looked like stacks of macaroons.

"I rest my case", she said.

Couldn't resist this rear-view shot of Valerie and one of the young ladies working at the event.

As we were leaving, this goth guest was just arriving, and graciously agreed to let us take her photograph. Immediately after, we encountered Grace Coddington from Vogue (looking fab), who declined to be photographed.

A wee drinkie is the perfect coda to an art show. We were a short walk from Pravda, which we'd read had creative cocktails, so we headed there to see if it was true.

On our way to Pravda, we passed by this wall. We've photographed ourselves in front of it before, but you wouldn't know it because it's always changing. We don't know who does it, or why or how or when (anyone who does should write in to tell us), but it's a lovely surprise every time we come across a new design we can use as a background for silly antics.

Pravda is down a set of stairs in what may once have been a very nasty basement, but now it looks like a set from a silent expressionist movie of the '20s, painted that rich brown color of slowly disintegrating film.  (It has been described as "Soviet chic with a French bistro vibe".  Like so many of restauranteur Keith McNally's establishments, it has survived more than a decade and a half, long after it was THE place to be. You may recognize some of his other venues: Lucky Strike, Balthazar, Schiller's Liquor Bar, Pastis.)   The main room is disconcertingly noisy for little old ladies who like to talk. (We've heard that young people on dates like to go to bars because it minimizes the need for conversation.  We've never understood that, ourselves.) We asked for a quiet table and were directed up a narrow staircase lined with several marvelous Malevich-like artworks in lightboxes.

Between angles, glare, dark and flash, the art was nearly impossible to photograph to good effect, so we include just these two to give you some vague idea. Even badly photographed they're very interesting.

At the top of the narrow staircase was a narrow room, and behind the narrow bar was a bartender who looked for all the world like Hubert de Givenchy. He was all business - making sure we'd squared our bill away before we sat down with our drinks - but we had asked him to combine tequila with several other ingredients from various drinks on the menu to make us a completely new drink, and he did a great job, so all business is fine with us.

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. In high style (note the red hat, bracelet, lipstick and drink stirrer), Valerie puts our concoction to the taste test -- success!  In a fashion aside, remember, ladies: the hat should come down over one eye, and look mysterious.  Both eyes visible is friendly, not mysterious.

Doesn't Jean make this drink look great, channeling her inner Norma Desmond (in her other Norma - Norma Kamali)? And the cocktails didn't just look great. They were fabulous!  (We uncreatively ordered the same thing, but that happens sometimes when you know what you like.)  There were stools at the bar, but we arrived early, and got to sit in two tobacco colored vintage leather club chairs - the kind you sink into and are enveloped in. How civilized!

Drinks finished, we got up the nerve to ask one of our fellow patrons to photograph us. Valerie pulled up her dress a bit, the better to show off her comic book stockings, and in the semi-darkness our photographer mistakenly admired Valerie's tattoos. Just to set the record straight, Valerie has no tattoos and no piercings anywhere. Yet.  (Jean ain't saying nuttin'.) 

Readers know we are curiously curious about the bathrooms of the places we patronize. Pravda's bathroom was nice, but - well - narrow, and hard to photograph. Happily, the bathroom's exterior is also fun to look at. We assume it says LADIES in Cyrillic, but for all we know it could say APPARATCHIKS.

You have to take a closer look at the fantastic off-kilter (ever so expressionist!) door. We'd missed it on the way in, so it was one last lovely surprise on our way out. If you're having trouble 'reading' the photo, the small shiny circle is its lock; the designer took a hammer and converted it into the door's handle. (We looked, but didn't find a sicle.)

And so, off we went into the night, having had another lovely evening.

Valerie is wearing: spray-painted vintage coolie hat, Kedem Sasson linen blouse and skirt, Betsey Johnson locked heart belt, Celeste Stein comic book leggings, Nicole sandals.

Jean is wearing: Urban Outfitters turban, Illesteva glasses, vintage Norma Kamali jumpsuit, Trippen boots, Max Azria for BCBG waist cincher and jacket, vintage bakelite rings and "charm" necklace.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monet Comes to da Bronx

Here we are at Grand Central Station, ready to ride the rails. All New Yorkers dread leaving "The City" for the "outer boroughs" because the transportation perks lavished on Manhattan diminish in direct proportion to one's distance from the center of town. So, if you say "Let's go visit the Bronx Botanical Garden because they've done a reproduction of Monet's gardens in Giverny. You know, the ones where he painted his famous water lily series" -- most people will suck in their breath and calculate how many hours they'll be spending on or waiting for the train. The folks at the Garden know this, so they did two things: they changed the name from Bronx Botanical Garden to New York Botanical Garden, and they put a video on line showing visitors that they can take a Metro North train from Grand Central Station and get there in twenty minutes (rather than more than an hour on the subway) and when you arrive at Botanical Garden Station, the Garden is right across the street. So, since it takes so much time to get to Giverny, we opted for the twenty-minute train ride last Saturday, on a warm and sunny day of low humidity.

Right across the way from our track at Grand Central, we ran into this couple dancing. You can't tell from their outfits, but they're doing the tango. (Does everyone know that the tango originated in the brothels of Argentina? Didn't red lips and nail polish also start in brothels???? Hmmmm.... So Jean's "brothel creepers" turned out to be ever so appropriate!)

New York City has a permit system for subway musicians. You can play without a permit, but if you get one the city will give you a banner with your name on it (and probably other perks we don't know about). Here is the tango-playing violinist, M. Pidvirny, who inspired the couple to dance.

This shot gives you some small idea of the size of the Garden's grounds. Not possible in the center of Manhattan, but possible in the Bronx. (There is also a beautiful botanical garden in Brooklyn, right next to the Brooklyn Museum, both of which are well worth a visit.)

And of course it's the perfect location for a June wedding. Two weddings took place last Saturday at the Garden. Who knew it was Wedding Central?

We did a quick spin around the grounds and headed for the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory which houses the Monet exhibition.


In 1883, Claude Monet established his home in Giverny with his wife-to-be Alice Hoschede and their combined family of eight children. He was dazzled by the beauty of the village. After purchasing the famous pink stucco house in 1890, he dismantled the pre-existing kitchen garden and began to assemble his beloved flower garden. This garden continued to command his attention until his death in 1926 at the age of 86.


Upon entering, it's flowers, flowers, flowers, as far as the eye can see, all cheek by jowl with one another. The temptation to reach out and touch something is overwhelming, but the thought of disapproving remarks from fellow flower lovers was enough to keep us well behaved. For a change.

The re-creation of his garden seeks to capture both the range of specimens and the bursts of color of the original. Since the exhibition runs until October, the plantings will continue to be replenished.


The roses are so lush. We caught these right at the moment that they were about to shed their petals. The aroma is wonderfully refreshing.


The scent of the gardenias is positively intoxicating.


This bright red anthurium looks like shiny patent leather. With over 600-800 species, this flower is referred to as the "flamingo flower" or the "boy flower", both referring to the structure of the spathe and spadix. Doesn't it look just like a cigarette? The less flattering nickname Jean had always heard is "mother-in-law's tongue".

The lime trees are in full fruit. Recalling what happened to Adam and Eve, we resisted the temptation to pick one.


This arbor of colorful hanging flowers is amazing. The shoots have tiny curly tendrils to latch onto what every they encounter. Eventually, left to their own devices, they'd make a floral curtain.


This tiny bee was actually on a lily outside the conservatory, but he was so small and so adorable that we're including him as a guest in the slide show.

These yellow flowers look like fuzzy popcorn.

These foxglove blossoms have delicate little hairs that you can just about make out in the photo. Its latin name Digitalis purpurea refers to the finger-like flowers that fit over the finger tip. Digitalis is also another name for digoxin, the common cardiac drug derived from this plant.

This assemblage of stag horn ferns was as enormous as it was arresting. Attached to the gift shop (with cards, gloves, hats and books) is a garden shop with stag horns for sale.

Of course, the reproduction of Monet's bridge provides the stage for everyone's favorite photo op. You can get an idea of the lushness of the setting.

We stopped a nice couple to get a photo of the two of us, then had to run up on the bridge, pose, and run back to get our camera, to take as little of their time as possible.

A long tunnel connects the conservatory to other exhibitions (like the African desert).

We kept our hijinks low key. Check out the tiles.

Most of them were hidden by the rug. It's easy to imagine they make quite an impression when the rug is rolled up.

The ponds behind the conservatory were planted with the same lily pads made famous in Monet's paintings. These cold water lilies have shorter stems but larger blossoms than their tropical cousins.


Large colorful koi circled the edges of the pond, swimming in a clockwise direction and staying out of the sun as much as possible, while at the same time trolling for snacks from the visitors.

This shot helps give a sense of scale.

When we'd had our fill, we took the train back to Grand Central, and stopped for a cocktail at Cipriani Dolci, where we could look out from the marble balcony onto the crowd.

We asked the waiter to combine the ingredients from two separate cocktails, and wound up with pear puree in prosecco, which we can highly recommend as a great way to end the day.

Au revoir et a bientot, nos amis!

What we're wearing: Valerie is wearing a Henry Margu hat, Calvin Klein linen suit, unlabeled red bathing suit from TJ Maxx, red sandals by Nicole. Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat, H&M skirt, swim cover up asymmetrical long top, Rick Owens shirt, Frida by Illesteva eyeglasses, 1990s white with black polka dot bag, Underground creepers, Happy Feet socks, charm necklace, black metal with white polka dot vintage earrings, vintage bakelite rings.