James Andrew, the National Academy
Exhibitions here in the city have been in full swing, and I’ve been anxious to see many of them! The exhibition Helena Rubenstein: Beauty is Power closed this Sunday, and I’m very glad to have caught it! I also dashed over to the National Academy’s SELF: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence.
The Rubenstein exhibition was held at the Jewish Museum and celebrates Rubenstein’s legacy as mogul and collector, showcasing her world of fashion, beauty, art and decoration. Her life is the remarkable story of a polish Jewish immigrant who despite all, managed to create a beauty empire with products that had wide reaching appeal — from socialites to shop girls alike. With regards to her enormous collection — so extensive that the Sotheby’s auction catalogue of her estate filled six volumes — she knew and yes, acquired exactly what she liked. Always at the forefront of taste, she had the foresight to hire then relatively unknown decorators like Emilio Terry and David Hicks who went on to make some of the most celebrated interiors of the 20th century! — (apparently she had fallen in love with an apartment at 625 Park Avenue — when she was told that the building had a “no Jews” policy, she bought the building!).
One of the highlights of the exhibition was a portrait of Helena Rubenstein and her son by Christian Berard — the work once belonged to my dear friend, the late antiques dealer Roger Prigent of Malmaison. It was a wonderful treat to see the painting once again.
The National Academy exhibition, SELF: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence had a certain appeal to me — in an age of the selfies and compulsive self-celebration, I thought the subject particularly topical — no doubt many of these artists painted these works to ensure their presence in their absence!
The show contains the most amazing self portraits by the likes of John Singer Sargeant, Maria Abramovic, Anh Duong, and Jeff Koons to name a few. An added attraction for me is seeing the architect Ogden Codman Jr.’s elegant Archer M. Huntington mansion in which the museum collection is housed. It’s such an exquisite space — certainly one the friendliest and most welcoming of the smaller museums here in town.
For my museum day, I’m sporting a Tom Ford amethyst, grey, and purple window pane wool and silk tweed jacket, amber cashgora sweater and purple glen plaid silk pocket square, a Turnbull and Asser purple and white gingham cotton shirt, Gucci purple silk/wool foulard print scarf, Uniqlo slim jeans, Tom Ford era YSL aubergine suede “Eton” boots, vintage Rolex, Tom Ford Bronzing Gel and my fragrance is Jo Malone Amber & Lavender Cologne.
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