Sit and Spin

New York
02.19.16

Left: Artist André Saraiva and dealer Jeffrey Deitch. Right: Artist Rita Ackermann and Purple editor Olivier Zahm. (All photos: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)


ON MONDAY, at Narcissa, the aptly-named restaurant for the fashion-forward at the Standard Hotel East, the indefatigable, infamous Purple editor-in-chief Olivier Zahm explained his party philosophy, which in its arch-fury reminded me of Houellebecq, six years his senior: “The world outside had its own rules, and those rules were not human.” Perhaps it’s just that they both have that particularly French air of being the toad who gets the princess, only to make their first royal decree about free love.

Delicacies must be eaten in moderation, especially French men. But if fashion dinners during New York Fashion Week are in themselves gastronomic holidays, then the Purple dinner is the one that always leaves me feeling sated. Perhaps because there’s no force-feeding. Culturally speaking. “I hate seated dinner! You sit next to people—You don’t give shit!” Zahm finished, triumphant, and flitted off to eat with someone else.

Four days prior, at Madison Square Garden, Kanye West dropped the song “Real Friends”: Lookin’ for all my real friends / How many of us? How many of us are real friends? The guests didn’t seem to share the rapper’s preening paranoia. People happily self-selected, seated themselves, and sexed up for photographs. The scene was ripe for squad-stalking, perhaps because so many people gamely invited themselves, as is the perennial spirit of the Purple dinner. Call it… laissez-faire.

Left: Zachary Quinto (center) and Derek Blasberg (right). Right: Artist Jeanette Hayes.


“This is the first year I didn’t crash,” relayed six artists, one gallery owner, and two people who have the kind of careers that only sound plausible when you’re stoned in Silver Lake. (“I’m in the culture industry,” said a girl without blinking, so I didn’t blink either.) If I were to gander who didn’t crash, it’s everyone I recognized from their offshore weddings profiled in Vogue: Alessandra Brawn and Jon Neidich (married “at a family friend’s historic villa in Tuscany”), photographer Rachel Chandler and Tom Guinness (who enjoyed a “shamanic wedding, at Tom’s sister’s house, Damsels Farm”), and Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea and Alexandre de Betak’s (trooped to Patagonia). As a friend likes to say: “Too bad you can’t Google, Who is Derek Blasberg?” Blasberg confidently wore a bandanna around his neck, which I note only because I’m not sure how else one could wear it.

On the other hand, doesn’t Rita Ackermann just look like she deserves to be famous? You can’t buy her brand of dew, like frost on a summer morning. She has the done-down look of the 1990s from which she came, the era that deserves to coincide with the coinage of “It Girl,” a metallurgical feat no less dazzling for being the bright idea of a brat-packer. Ackermanns’s look is eerily reminiscent of a Purple editorial from Winter ’98—the year Zahm founded the magazine with Elein Fleiss—cheekily selling Bernadette of Bernadette Corporation’s “latest ideas” in makeup: “Violet and Black lip gloss, pink eyebrows… pre-Raphaelite tresses.” Elfin! Ditto for the brightly blonde, kind-eyed/hearted PR dynamo Gina Nanni, who I hadn’t seen since Miami, when I was seated between her and husband Glenn O’Brien, who, though not in attendance (“flu”), also works the platinum angle from inward-out now that I think about it.

“I’m on, um, relational aesthetics”—to quote actress Hari Nef right before she went off the record. The great grand-daughter of Diana Vreeland was also in attendance, and one of the Rolling Stone scions in a Carhartt, plus a Schnabel. “That’s either Sting’s daughter or Mick’s daughter,” someone whispered behind me of Alexandra Richards, three or four hours later, right before everyone followed Paul Sevigny to Paul’s Baby Grand. (And by everyone I mean everyone who was talking about their hours-old The Life of Pablo bootlegs “from the VIP section at Madison Square Garden” at Paul’s the night of the Richardson party. Another self-advertised intellectual-cum–sex magazine founded in ’97–’98 for those who know where Lispenard Street is, basically.)

Left: Designer Johan Lindeberg and photographer Ellen von Unwerth. Right: Hari Nef.


But back to following the gaggle, which I always have to reflexively catch myself from assuming is a model horde: Langley Fox, who draws, looked fresh as a daisy in a floppy brimmed hat and wild printed stretch pants, and promptly returned to her seat upstairs with Lili Sumner. And Ellen von Unwerth, in an equally splashy pink polka-dot button-up! The photographer of “feminist erotica” later table-hopped to winkingly tell the artists Alex Da Corte and Sam McKinniss—who happen to be best friends, and ended up seated with me—that they’re too attractive to be taken seriously as artists. “That’s a problem I didn’t know I had, frankly,” McKinniss replied, laughing. It’s a problem that, if the women and gays at their dinners are any indication, Purple exists to debunk.

All the problems at the Purple dinner seemed to be fixed by sitting on a lap. Well, almost: “I don’t have any immediate connections here. I’m just waiting for my wife. She’s over there in a rather sensual area,” said the only person the entire night I caught standing alone, a little lost, sans squad. I recognized him slightly, maybe from his wife’s Instagram account. I complimented him on her looks while trying to simultaneously herd six to ten of my closest friends and acquaintances to a table so we could eat. “Yes, it’s fun to have an attractive wife,” he said, seriously. I must have looked at him queerly, but only because I hadn’t heard the word “fun” all week.

But he was right. There was something airy and easy about the whole thing. Not keeping to the moody blues of winter at all. Maybe it was just the insouciant casualness of this dinner vis-à-vis fashion week, best summed up by Georgia Ford—whose mother wrote E.T.— as she signaled for the waiter to carry over a chair for McKinniss: “What is this, the Dazed dinner?”

Left: Musician Casey Spooner (right). Right: Artist Petra Collins.


The seating arrangements had narratives all their own, due I suppose to “those two great considerations, the practical and the mystical”—to needlessly quote Conrad. The mise-en-scène, if you will: McKinniss came to dinner from his studio, where he’d just finished a portrait of a young Drew Barrymore in E.T. Which, though he doesn’t want me to say so, is being swooped up by Marc Jacobs, who (when he was a long-haired lad) starred in an Iceberg Jeans campaign, which was true of the other half of our table when Zahm art-directed the 2015 spring campaign: artist Jeanette Hayes, Vogue sex columnist Karley Sciortino, Ford and her boyfriend, the musician Donald Cumming. Nef headed the table. I’d caught Nef—New York’s It Model, don’t you think?—on Valentine’s Day coming from a “chat with Marc.” She was again in her fashion-week uniform of a giant white fur coat, which looked très chic, transcending as only fur can a coloration not unlike that of city snow. Perhaps I’m just complimenting Marc for always having his finger on, well, a pulse, or for, um, fingering the squad to which I was adjacent. Like I was the only one who hadn’t been invited to join Raya, the “dating app for famous people.” Nef and Hayes comforted me, claiming that they only get DMs asking “to collaborate.”

But it was a fashion dinner. So dinner disintegrated before the food could be served, and talk was whisked away by waiters who wanted to flip all the tables in their section, hungry only for another gratuity. I ended up sucking down cigarettes in the Standard’s courtyard, which abuts the restaurant. Dinner and dessert. “Aurel asked me this thing yesterday,” said artist Lucien Smith to those milling about, referring to the artist Aurel Schmidt, after he and Ford, twenty-five, established that they met in a “knife fight” ten years ago in LA. “Don’t you want a legacy? Don’t you want people to know who you are? Don’t you want a wife and a car and a house?”

But everyone shrugged. Knowing you don’t want to meet anyone on Raya is different from knowing what you want.

Kaitlin Phillips