Sunday, April 17, 2011

Come Up and Sit on My SOFA Sometime


Valerie says: There were so many fabulous people at the SOFA opening that it was often difficult to see the fabulous art. At SOFA's entrance was Joan Mirviss's Gallery, packed to the gills with admirers, and in the center of it all was Jack Lenor Larsen, one of SOFA's most valued supporters. In my typical fashion, I was too abashed to take a photograph of him. He was, as always, wearing one of his many hats - and I mean the real thing, not the proverbial hats we claim to wear to signify our many responsibilities at work. Also spotted there was Joe Earle, Vice President and Director of the Japan Society Gallery.

Jean says: Imagine how suicidal I was to learn that, due to a business commitment, I would miss opening night of the 14th annual SOFA! I was in an airplane flying homeward while Valerie gallantly filled in for the two of us. While the assignment couldn't have been in better hands, I was, I admit, very disappointed. This is one of the few events in which the attendees nearly eclipse the amazing contemporary artworks on display.

Valerie adds: Jean hasn't mentioned that we both expected to see none other than Mr. Bill, who must not have shown up because he knew that Jean would not be there. At the end of the evening, I left her a voice mail telling her, essentially, that it was not necessary to hate me, since I wouldn't be appearing in the New York Times in the Sunday Style Section. Not THIS Sunday, anyway...

But back to the people who WERE there. Early on, at the David Richard Contemporary Gallery, I ran into B.E. Noel (below), an art advisor, wearing a faceted emerald green Issey Miyake dress, and rivers of liquidy silver at her ears and around her neck. She was fabulous. We saw her again on Saturday, in a completely different incarnation, and equally fabulous.

Soon after, I ran into Sara Basch. Sara is a goldsmith, but she can also do wonders with miniature corks, as shown here. Sara is among the many women who don't have websites, so their fabulous work goes unseen by web surfers. We women of a certain age grew up with SLIDES, and now the thought of converting everything to a brand new medium is, if not intimidating, then time-consuming. Mid-career artists also have - with good reason - a fear of putting their work up on the net. Many have had their work copied by others as a result.

Multitalented Yuka Hasegawa made her own coat and hat. Yuka's luxurious fur felt hats are often available at Barney's.

Michal Landau was wearing this great net jewelry you see around her neck, as well as the hammered silver bracelet barely visible on her arm.

One of our favorite galleries is browngrotta arts, which specializes in weaving and dyeing. Here is Nancy Moore Bess, whose basket work is always a surprise and a delight, making the viewer ask 'how' and 'what'. There were a number of other artists there, whom I wish I could have photographed with their art. Lots of great things to see and covet.

There was a moment at the Maria Elena Kravetz Gallery when it was not too crowded to have a look, and I photographed these women showing off some of the gallery's art to great advantage. The one is a very light, ethereal netting (in nylon?); the other is sterling silver discs embedded with small metal netting.

Julie Dale, owner of Julie Artisans' Gallery, showed up wearing a yummy felt coat with striking lettered graphics by Francoise Hoffmann. I can make out such French words as 'feutre' - felt, 'doux' - soft, 'laine' - wool, and 'textiles' (you can look that one up yourself), so essentially the artist is doing a little self promotion or teaching, with a bit of tongue in cheek humor. I covet this coat, so I had to show both sides of it.

While I'm on the subject of felt, I ran into Gar Wang at Tai Gallery. Tai specializes in contemporary Japanese bamboo baskets of extraordinary design.

Gar caught my eye because of the felt jacket she made herself. I didn't realize until she pointed it out that the coat has no side seams, which means that in order to have its wrap-the-body shape, it had to be made in the round, being shaped while the felt was still wet. This is extra challenging, because you have to be able to predict what size the felt will shrink to while still in mid-process. The whole point is not to cut anything.

gallery gen had its usual knock-out booth design, with eye-popping works by Yoshiaki Yuki. Masako Dempo is wearing a dress created from material by Junichi Arai. Hidden away were a number of luscious textiles, including a white polyester pleated scarf (not shown) with one of Mr. Yuki's bold black calligraphic designs on it, and a touch of red at the edging, which Jean bought.

I ran into Suzanne Golden in front the Charon Kransen Gallery where she is showing colorful beaded bracelets so finely crafted that they almost look like intricate mathematical constructions. Here she is wearing two of her creations. With her is Christina Viera, who on this day wore a hat and necklace she designed and made herself.

Aside from Jack Larsen, I saw two men on opening night wearing hats. One was wearing a humorous contemporary top hat; the other was this gentleman, in what looks to be a Moroccan hat. (Do correct me if I'm wrong, any of you who know.) I admired his hat; he admired mine. I'm on a mission to give men positive reinforcement on the hat front, in hopes that will encourage them to wear them more often. This gent did a great job wearing red accents with an otherwise understated (but sharp!) suit.

As earlier mentioned, artists are - rightly - less than enthusiastic about having their work photographed, for fear of copycats, so both of us were unwilling to ask to photograph work, lest we be mistaken for artists on the prowl for ideas, and not mere gawkers. Here, however, are three photos that SOFA used to advertise the event.

We found this wonderful untitled silver box by Toru Kaneko at Katie Jones Gallery almost by accident. We had been expecting something large, but in fact the box is around a foot long, and a few inches high. Everything Katie has is fabulous.

At Contemporary Applied Arts there were several of these Twisted Forms by Merete Rasmussen in various colors. By Saturday, most of them had been sold. Contrary to the silver box, which looks large and is small, the Twisted Forms were all the size of punch bowls, but could be interpreted to be the size of a bracelet in the photo. These were gorgeous in color, and sensuous in design. They look perfect for caressing with eyes closed.

There were numerous wonderful ceramic artists at the show. Bodil Manz was represented at Lacoste Gallery by several beautiful porcelain pieces with very simple but arresting designs.

Saturday Afternoon:

Jean says: On Saturday, I was chomping at the bit, so to speak, to go to SOFA. I got dolled up, took the #6 train to the 68th Street stop and hot-footed it over to the Armory on Park Avenue and 67th Street. I picked up my press pass at the desk and headed into the show to meet Valerie. Once I was reunited with my partner in crime, and running up and down the aisles trying to see everything in the show, all was right in the world. Very shortly after entering the Armory, we ran into that wonderfully talented redhead Suzanne Golden and her ever-stylish sidekick, artist and photographer Christina Viera. Needless to say, we had to memorialize the moment on film. Here's a shot with Suzanne in the middle, wearing even taller platforms than I. She had several of her amazing beaded creations and a magnificently colorful acrylic necklace on display at Charon Kransen Arts.

Suzanne is modeling the outfit she wore to the show on Thursday, April 14th, the day after the gala opening. Visible on the wall behind here are several of her beaded bracelets and multi-tiered necklaces.

When the four of us got together, it was like planets colliding. Christina was wearing an amazing zip-front leather coat-vest that I was thrilled to learn she'd designed and fashioned herself. The orangey-red tone of the largest front panels was a perfect foil for Suzanne's orange and black necklace, orange socks and fiery locks. No one can rock cat-eye glasses and spit curls better than Christina! They say that birds of a feather flock together. We definitely gravitated toward each other, connecting, separating and reconnecting later, to grab a nosh, hang out, compare notes and share observations in the VIP lounge. (My apple butternut squash soup by Butterfield caterers was absolutely divine!)

Valerie and I met designer Mary Jaeger (right) in the main aisle and got to chat before she headed to one of the lectures. I was also glad to run into Israeli designer Sara Basch (left) at the show and even happier to learn that she'll be in the States for awhile. Valerie got a great shot of Sara on opening night wearing a very interesting black neckpiece (see above). When we met on Saturday, she was wearing a necklace that appeared to be constructed of tiny corks, strung in tight rows. It was one of the most intriguing pieces I saw that day. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

We were delighted to encounter Mathias Alfen at the show. He was literally a lifesize puppet figure, with a huge two-faced head atop his own dome. The front-facing visage had an articulated jaw that he appeared to open and close with a tug on a string.

Two-faced shoes were a very hilarious touch. In this rear view, you can see he repeated his name and had even affixed another pair of sneakers (facing backwards) to the ones he was wearing. He was humorous both coming and going. Later, we were wondering how he could manage to walk down steps in that footwear since the second pair would not have cleared the risers on the stairs. He'd have to walk sideways down the steps, like a man wearing snowshoes!

Not too long after our arrival, we admired Lois Altman's beaded necklace. She introduced herself to us after we stopped her. She said that her husband actually made the beads and she had fashioned them into the necklace. What was even more fun was the fact that neither is a commercial artist. They design and make jewelry for their own personal use -- and for very lucky friends.

It was wonderful accidentally running into Marla, an old friend from Washington, D.C. and her partner, Norman, who now live near Boston. They are avid collectors who attend not only the New York but also the Chicago shows. We got the chance to catch up on family and mutual acquaintances. We were roomates in the early 1970s in a spacious apartment on Connecticut Avenue near the Washington Zoo. Where does the time go? (Valerie says: Jean's camera is on the fritz, and I stupidly didn't think to take a picture. Still not thinking like a professional. And Jean's too polite to remind me...)

We stopped by Aaron Faber Gallery to say hi and to admire the jewelry, which was artfully displayed (and yummy, says Valerie). We met this lovely lady who worked there, and who happened to be wearing a scarf from gallery gen as a lightweight shawl. Her Yoshiaki Yuki scarf was as light as foam and she wore it in a wonderfully casual way that further enhanced its beauty.

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; Comme des Garcons jacket; Zara dhouti pants; Doc Martens' black patent boot; vintage glasses; black coral and brass earrings by Kirsten Hawthorne; Lux De Ville black quilted patent handbag with huge dice charms; and vintage bakelite, modern resin and sentimental favorite gold rings.

Valerie is wearing: on opening night, a Patricia Underwood asymetrical hat in oxblood red straw, with a feather from a long ago flea market added to it; Pleats Please blouse, Issey Miyake handkerchief hem vest with (unseen) stuffed piping in the back; a wooden bud vase; Jones New York linen pants and Cole Haan - Nike shoes. On Saturday: vintage Gianni Versace jacket; black and white shibori sweater by Il Punto; vintage pants by Krizia and Arche shoes.

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We received the e mail below from Tove Hermanson. We pass it along to you in its entirety, in hopes of interesting you, but in particular we are interested in her talk on the fashions depicted in German Expressionist painter Ernst Kirchner's many Berlin Street Scenes, painted around 1914-1915. We're attaching photos of some of the paintings so you'll see why we're so excited by this. Do check out the website highlighted below to see the variety of topics.

A fantastic FREE conference is coming up, focusing on street fashion! In addition to guests Guy Trebay of the NY Times; Jimmy Webb of Trash and Vaudeville; and Carolin Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution; I am delighted to present my own paper Street Fashion of Kirchner's Street Walkers: Berlin, 1913 - 1915. Hosted by the esteemed institution of Yale, it is deliberately geared toward a wide audience: academic, professional, and the generally intellectually curious. It will be held April 22-23 (half of Easter / Passover weekend) in New Haven, CT. Check out the website for details. I hope to see you there!




  1. Can't tell you how much I enjoy your postings - this one especially! I go to the Chicago SOFA show and have to admit that what the audience is wearing is just as exciting (if not more) than the art on display! Thank you for sharing your photos and insights - your blog makes my Monday morning!

  2. Great SOFA post, was almost as good as being there (and cheaper--what gorgeous stuff!). The Yale Conference sounds like it would be fantastic. Your blog is the best--you always keep me informed of the coolest shows so I can remain in a state of perpetual envy

  3. Another interesting post --thanks again to both of you for sharing the scene. Valerie, love the pattern on your Versace jacket teamed with your Krizia pants - together they team beautifully with your hair colour!

  4. Planets are aligning! Suzanne is wearing those Prada platforms like nobody else! I vote for you 4 to be the next PRada campaign leaders. Miuccia, you can stick that in your pipe and smoke it!