Old Ladies' Night

New York
03.25.05

Left: Marc Jacobs, Rachel Feinstein, and Francis. (Photo: Patrick McMullan/PMc) Right: Anna Sui, Tobias Meyer, and Rachel Feinstein.


Throughout the day following the opening of Rachel Feinstein's second solo turn at Marianne Boesky, all anyone wanted to know was who had been there the night before. In fact, there was only one question: Was Marc Jacobs there?

Yes, Marc Jacobs was there! At the dinner, held at funky El Quijote (in the Chelsea Hotel), he was at the head table with a very glam Anna Sui, who had the ear of Sotheby's Tobias Meyer, who had the eye of art consultant Mark Fletcher, who was at the elbow of collector (and sometime John Currin model) Dianne Wallace, who was opposite Feinstein and Currin, who administered to his Connecticut Yankee parents, Anita and Jim, throughout the margarita-fueled evening.

Anne Bass enlivened a long center table with Brice and Helen Marden, Sean and Michelle Landers, Georgie and Gary Hume, and the art world’s own stage mother, Clarissa Dalrymple. Across the room, seated together like the Supremes in three shades of blonde were Yvonne Force, Jane Holzer, and Lisa Yuskavage, nattering with such neat nabobs as novelist Susanna Moore and that-girl-from-Prada, Katharine Ross, while Jessica Craig-Martin, Charline von Heyl, and Amanda Sharp swanned about with the usual visitor from Planet Fashion, Tara Subkoff.

In other words, it was a stylish party. But it was Feinstein's show, and not just her bubbly self, that lifted spirits in the first place. This sculptor of utterly wack, Baroque figures surrounded her four new pieces in painted wood and polyurethaned foam with—surprise!—rather marvelous tondo paintings (on oval mirrors) of crunchy-faced, eighty-year-old women in eighteenth-century aristocratic French dress. (“Everybody takes life class in school,” said an astonished Georgie Hopton. “That doesn't explain why they’re so good!”) In Marie, 2005, the aged ex-farm girl cradles what friends in the crowd recognized as the freeze-dried doe (a gift from Ellen Gallagher) that Feinstein keeps at home, in her kitchen. Would Jacobs care to dress such a lady? “That would be a fun challenge!” he said.

In reality, the women who had done the posing were models hired through a casting agent seeking senior-citizen versions of the Botticelli-like, thirty-four-year-old Feinstein. The paintings, based on pastels also on view, bear only a vague resemblance to Currin's own crunchy-faced portraits of contemporary women—not that the two artists are competing. Indeed, one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole event was watching Currin turn into Mr. Feinstein.

Left: Elizabeth Peyton, Marc Jacobs, and Anna Sui. Right: Jessica Craig-Martin, Sandra Hamburg, Yvonne Force-Villareal, and Sarah Morris. (Photos: Patrick McMullan/PMc)


This transformation had actually begun at the gallery that afternoon, two hours before show time, while Feinstein was madly pushing around one of her large sculptures while coming up with titles to put on the checklist. Currin walked in, tripod and camera in hand, dripping wet and cursing the unseasonable snowstorm. “You work for months and months and knock yourself out, and then it fucking snows on the day of your opening!” he railed. Of course he was sympathetic. In fact, he had helped to scale up his wife’s sculptures from her folded-paper models. “John’s really good at Photoshop,” she said.

Before rushing home to change, the seven-months-pregnant Feinstein had just enough time to make a seating plan for the dinner. “Who do you want to sit with?” she asked Stefania Bortolami, who had been cruising the show with a client at the other end of her cell phone. “Marianne says the drawings are all sold already,” Bortolami pouted. Feinstein reassured her. “I have a couple more to finish at home,” she offered, wondering if her prices ($10,000 per drawing, $20,000 per sculpture) shouldn't be higher.

By dinnertime, nearly every work was spoken for. “Whoever thought I would turn out to be the mother of a big art star?” marveled Anita Currin, a high-school piano teacher married to a physics professor. “Or that he would marry another one! I mean, how often does that happen?”

In the art world? Every day.

Linda Yablonsky