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One of the highlights of New York’s Auction Week is actually set just over state lines, at the Greenwich, Conn., estate of publishing magnate Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour. A playground for Jeff Koons’ Puppy (basically a 40-foot-tall, terrier-shaped topiary), the property is also home to the Brant Foundation Art Study Center, a nonprofit that mounts two major exhibitions every year. Building from works in Brant’s collection, recent solo shows have covered Andy Warhol, Urs Fischer and Nate Lowman.
On Nov. 10, guests like Debbie Harry, Christopher Walken, Benicio Del Toro, Andre Balazs, Calvin Klein, William and Maria Bell, Michael Ovitz and Jane Holzer flocked to Greenwich to celebrate the latest exhibition, a retrospective of Julian Schnabel. The artist and film director emerged as one of the stars of New York’s early 1980s Soho scene, and then went on to direct such acclaimed films as Basquiat (1996), Before Night Falls (2000) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007). While he’s now attached to Johnny Depp’s film adaptation of Nick Tosches’ In the Hand of Dante, Schnabel has been upping his game in the studio as well. The Brant Foundation survey encompassed everything from the artist’s drawings from the late 1970s to more experimental recent sculpture, as well as a spate of new portraits (with foundation director Allison Brant among the subjects.)
The brilliant blue skies were cause enough to leave the city, though they were quickly swallowed by a storm. “I was wondering how it is that the Brants always get the most glorious weather on these openings. A bit suspicious, really,” tastemaker/curator Clarissa Dalrymple laughed, as partygoers dashed out of the rain and into the elaborate buffet tent on the polo field. Despite the downpour, hostess Seymour stayed radiant, in a snugly fitted, flared Alaia ensemble. “I always wear Alaia,” she purred, prompting Jeffrey Deitch to admire: “And no one else wears it quite like her.”
Schnabel also was cutting quite the figure, having put aside the pajamas in favor of jeans and a blazer. He strolled the grounds with former model, gallerina and recent Playboy cover girl May Andersen, who was pushing a carriage with the latest in the Schnabel dynasty, the couple’s four-month-old son, Shooter Sandhed Julian Schnabel, Jr. (Andersen’s first child, Schnabel’s sixth.) Inside, the artist’s paintings were turning almost as many heads as the new family, with the side-by-side installation of the two, near-identical, 13-foot paintings Large Girl With No Eyes (both 2001), causing more than one passerby to do a double take. The paintings are shown together in a way that not only begs comparison, but also necessitates it. Complementing the wall works were pieces of furniture Schnabel had fashioned, including his own bed and a table he had made for artist Francesco Clemente’s studio.
While the crowd was thick with glitzy fellow collectors (Jean Pigozzi, Argentinean developer Alan Faena and Manila maverick Robbie Antonio among them), artists like Elizabeth Peyton, Josh Smith and Alex Israel seemed quite at ease (Peyton even brought her dog along.) Larry Gagosian paused mid-tent to trade some kind words with artists Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz, whose dealer, Gavin Brown, was jokingly using his infant to cut through the line at the bar at the other side of the tent. As the rain-stranded went back for seconds, dealer Helly Nahmad put in an appearance, though not for long, as his companion, younger brother Joseph, was due back in New York to celebrate an opening of Richard Prince‘s joke paintings at his own fledgling gallery, Nahmad Contemporary. MoMA PS1’s Klaus Biesenbach (who came on the arm of Diana Widmaier-Picasso) also had places to be; that night, the Auction Week crowds would hit the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where Koons would be helping Lady Gaga launch her latest album, ArtPop (which features the artist’s work on its cover).
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