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About Rachel Wolff

Rachel Wolff is a Brooklyn-based art writer and critic. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveler, ARTnews, Modern Painters, Art + Auction, and The Daily Beast. Originally from Chicago, Rachel is cooking, eating, or talking about food when she’s not writing or thinking about art.

Miuccia Meets Her Match

SaksPOV previews Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at the Met

Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and its venerable Costume Institute) confirms what many of us have known all along: that fashion designers can be nuanced, intellectually rigorous and masterfully skilled artists too. Last year’s revelation came via the late great Alexander McQueen’s fiercely inventive and hauntingly elegant avant-garde creations. This year, the Met has opted for a duo of talent that spans decades of style, glamour, innovation and a bevy of iconic, well-heeled patrons: “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” The exhibition opens on May 10 (three days after the tonight’s hotly anticipated, star-studded “Met Ball”) and features some 90 ensembles and 30 accessory pieces by the two groundbreaking designers. The show is meant to simulate a dialogue of sorts, organized into themes like…

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Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and its venerable Costume Institute) confirms what many of us have known all along: that fashion designers can be nuanced, intellectually rigorous and masterfully skilled artists too. Last year’s revelation came via the late great Alexander McQueen’s fiercely inventive and hauntingly elegant avant-garde creations. This year, the Met has opted for a duo of talent that spans decades of style, glamour, innovation and a bevy of iconic, well-heeled patrons: “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.”

The exhibition opens on May 10 (three days after the tonight’s hotly anticipated, star-studded “Met Ball”) and features some 90 ensembles and 30 accessory pieces by the two groundbreaking designers. The show is meant to simulate a dialogue of sorts, organized into themes like “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naïf Chic,” and “The Exotic Body” with Prada and Schiaparelli’s archival creations playing off of each other as if the designers themselves were engaging in a rigorous game of show and tell.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) is primarily known for her affiliation with Surrealist maestros like Salvador Dalí (their collaborations include Schiaparelli’s famed “Lobster Dress,” a dainty white evening number studded with a bright red crustacean). But this presentation offers a more varied and comprehensive look at her ultra influential career — from 1920’s-era geometric shifts to studded blazers and pleated, ethereal gowns. Miuccia Prada’s equally striking offerings seem a more familiar trip down memory lane, including the spring/summer 2006 collection’s girlish embellishments and to a sexpot-ready stunner from spring/summer 2004 in liquid gold.

Shop Prada on Saks.com:


Helmut Head

The fashion designer-turned-artist has new models in mind

He may be best known for the pioneering urban minimalist fashion aesthetic, but Helmut Lang has devoted the past seven years of his life to a different form altogether: art. The fashion designer-turned-artist’s sculptures have been shown in Hanover, Frankfurt, Moscow, and, last summer, in both Venice (where he was included in a Biennale group show) and East Hampton (where he is largely based). Now, the designer-turned-artist is getting his first major local exhibition. Lang has quite a vote of confidence from the art world as well —the show is timed to coincide with the opening of the Frieze Art Fair’s first New York edition and is being organized by art advisor Mark Fletcher and peripatetic independent curator (slash art-world darling) Neville Wakefield. “Helmut Lang:…

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He may be best known for the pioneering urban minimalist fashion aesthetic, but Helmut Lang has devoted the past seven years of his life to a different form altogether: art. The fashion designer-turned-artist’s sculptures have been shown in Hanover, Frankfurt, Moscow, and, last summer, in both Venice (where he was included in a Biennale group show) and East Hampton (where he is largely based). Now, the designer-turned-artist is getting his first major local exhibition. Lang has quite a vote of confidence from the art world as well —the show is timed to coincide with the opening of the Frieze Art Fair’s first New York edition and is being organized by art advisor Mark Fletcher and peripatetic independent curator (slash art-world darling) Neville Wakefield.

“Helmut Lang: Sculptures” opens at 24 Washington Square North on May 5 and remains on view to the public through June 15. The 20 or so totemic pieces tread the line between found-object mash-ups and inventive sculptural abstraction. They are composed of readymade rubber discs (bumpers, of a sort) that are stacked into freestanding compositions that mirror, in some sense, a languid silhouette. They look like precarious, barely held together and on the verge of succumbing to gravity like an avant-garde Jenga tower, or, perhaps, a model teetering down the runway in heels.


Here Comes the Sun

Philip Lim and artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi on their in-store collaboration

As far as collaborations go, this has to be among the most organic. Phillip Lim’s team presented the designer with an inspiration board for his spring/summer 2012 collection and there they were: several examples of Japanese artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi’s dreamy film and photographic installations. “I really connected to the emotional quality of his work,” Lim says. “There is something very similar in our approach. He has this hand which is a ‘simple complexity,’ something that is inherent in my designs too.” The decision from there was a fairly simple one — Nakanishi’s work would adorn Lim’s spring/summer shop-in-shop at Saks. Nakanishi’s 44 photo-printed transparencies hang equidistant in an orderly row, fusing together to create the effect of a hazy, atmospheric landscape suspended mid-air. They are…

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As far as collaborations go, this has to be among the most organic. Phillip Lim’s team presented the designer with an inspiration board for his spring/summer 2012 collection and there they were: several examples of Japanese artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi’s dreamy film and photographic installations. “I really connected to the emotional quality of his work,” Lim says. “There is something very similar in our approach. He has this hand which is a ‘simple complexity,’ something that is inherent in my designs too.”

The decision from there was a fairly simple one — Nakanishi’s work would adorn Lim’s spring/summer shop-in-shop at Saks. Nakanishi’s 44 photo-printed transparencies hang equidistant in an orderly row, fusing together to create the effect of a hazy, atmospheric landscape suspended mid-air. They are a natural fit, dangling among Lim’s own creations which, this season, take their inspiration from “the freedom and fragility of kites.”

Nakanishi was not familiar with Lim before he was approached to collaborate on this project. (It’s not his fashion first, though: Nakanishi has worked with Comme des Garçons as well). But the artist was immediately impressed. The idea for the artwork itself came from his previous explorations of the passing of time. “For this work, I took pictures of sunrise at several intervals of time early in the morning for approximately two hours,” he says. And printed all 44 of them on transparent films. “I tried to express the link with the collection of Phillips Lim, about the freedom and fragility of kites, so the images needed to be more abstract and modern than my usual works.”

Projects like this, he adds, are key to his personal practice as well. “There are possibilities and potentialities for creating new things by sharing ideas, even when their vehicle is different. These kind of opportunities influence me too and have an impact on my forthcoming artworks”— many of which will be on view at Zurich’s Kashya Hildebrand gallery come October.


Goude Times

A new tome on Jean-Paul Goude has us inspired!

Even though Jean-Paul Goude’s stunning retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris just ended, a new tome dedicated to the cutting edge French artist and designer’s oeuvre is set to be released stateside in early April. And let us assure you dear readers: the “Goude”-ness, so to speak, lives on. Like the show, Jean-Paul Goude (Thames & Hudson; $49.95) collects Goude’s staggering output from sketches and paintings to storyboards, layouts, and some of the ultra fab fashion photography shot under his shrewd art direction. Born and raised in France, Goude started his career as an art director at Esquire magazine in 1970’s New York. Shortly thereafter he met the avant-garde model and performer Grace Jones, who would go on to become his muse….

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Even though Jean-Paul Goude’s stunning retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris just ended, a new tome dedicated to the cutting edge French artist and designer’s oeuvre is set to be released stateside in early April.

And let us assure you dear readers: the “Goude”-ness, so to speak, lives on. Like the show, Jean-Paul Goude (Thames & Hudson; $49.95) collects Goude’s staggering output from sketches and paintings to storyboards, layouts, and some of the ultra fab fashion photography shot under his shrewd art direction.

Born and raised in France, Goude started his career as an art director at Esquire magazine in 1970’s New York. Shortly thereafter he met the avant-garde model and performer Grace Jones, who would go on to become his muse. In the 1980’s he composed groundbreaking ad campaigns for companies like Kodak, Orangina, and Citroën. By the 1990s his work was in demand by every major fashion magazine and label — Chanel, Hermès, Elle, Vogue among them. The images themselves range from sexy to cheeky to wonderfully strange (think Jones in a cage, Jones as an abstract sculpture, Jones shouting at minstrel performers from a towering black pedestal…) and are second only to Goude’s remarkable preparatory sketches, many of which are wall-worthy artworks in and of themselves. They demonstrate his laser-sharp eye, fanciful imagination, and knack for color and composition, not to mention his impeccable draftsmanship—especially in a little-known series of early nudes.

In a fawning introduction — penned by another famous Jean-Paul: Jean-Paul Gaultier — Goude is noted for is role in bringing high-fashion androgyny to the fore. “The subtly stylized image of androgyny that he has created is fascinating to me, and I like to think that I could almost have imagined it myself, but I didn’t,” Gaultier writes. “I may have had the vocabulary, but I could barely string together a sentence—he can write a whole book from it.”

MORE: See more images from Jean-Paul Goude in the gallery.


Terry Richardson: Hot in Hollywood

West Hollywood gallery OHWOW platforms the famous photographer

Photographer Terry Richardson may be best known for his gritty shoots with tabloid favorites Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, and Paris Hilton (not to mention his editorial work for such publications as V, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar). But a buzzy new L.A. gallery has put the bespectacled shutterbug’s more artistic pursuits front and center. TERRYWOOD, on view at West Hollywood’s OHWOW through March 31, includes 25 recent photographic musings on life in Tinseltown. The gallery was founded in Miami but relocated to the West Coast just last year. Many of the images included in TERRYWOOD focus less on L.A.’s glitz and glam and more on its genetic make-up — the signage, buildings, and purple-haired punks that make the city far more unique than it is typically…

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Photographer Terry Richardson may be best known for his gritty shoots with tabloid favorites Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, and Paris Hilton (not to mention his editorial work for such publications as V, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar). But a buzzy new L.A. gallery has put the bespectacled shutterbug’s more artistic pursuits front and center. TERRYWOOD, on view at West Hollywood’s OHWOW through March 31, includes 25 recent photographic musings on life in Tinseltown. The gallery was founded in Miami but relocated to the West Coast just last year.

Many of the images included in TERRYWOOD focus less on L.A.’s glitz and glam and more on its genetic make-up — the signage, buildings, and purple-haired punks that make the city far more unique than it is typically given credit for. Other works get cheeky with several Hollywood pitfalls and clichés as well: in Richardson’s shot of the iconic “Hollywood” sign, most of the letters in the blocky white sign have been cropped out so all that’s left is “Ho”; a close-up of a blonde’s parted hair reveals her dark brown roots; and a pair of plump and lacquered Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque red lips could belong to any number of wannabe, emerging, or established ingénues.

Also worth a gander: Richardson’s blog, Terry’s Diary, a frequently updated consortium of photographs and videos documenting Richardson’s work, life, and frequent A-list encounters.

TERRYWOOD at OHWOW through March 31; 931 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-652-1711; oh-wow.com.

Click ‘VIEW IMAGES’ at right to see full descriptions of selected art.


All Hail Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman’s sprawling, hotly anticipated retrospective opened last week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to legions of adoring friends, fans, and fellow artists (Chuck Close and Blondie’s Debbie Harry were both spotted making the scene at Tuesday night’s opening, as were John Waters, Michael Stipe, Martha Stewart, Kim Cattrall, Molly Ringwald, designer Narciso Rodriguez, and former Marc Jacobs boy-toy Lorenzo Martone). The comprehensive exhibition is a coup both for Sherman and for the museum, which has taken some slack over the past few years for its relatively limited number of exhibitions from mid-career and established female artists. It’s also a must-see for art- and fashion-lovers alike. Sherman emerged in the late-1970s and early-1980s with a now signature approach and aesthetic: she…

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Cindy Sherman’s sprawling, hotly anticipated retrospective opened last week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to legions of adoring friends, fans, and fellow artists (Chuck Close and Blondie’s Debbie Harry were both spotted making the scene at Tuesday night’s opening, as were John Waters, Michael Stipe, Martha Stewart, Kim Cattrall, Molly Ringwald, designer Narciso Rodriguez, and former Marc Jacobs boy-toy Lorenzo Martone). The comprehensive exhibition is a coup both for Sherman and for the museum, which has taken some slack over the past few years for its relatively limited number of exhibitions from mid-career and established female artists. It’s also a must-see for art- and fashion-lovers alike.

Sherman emerged in the late-1970s and early-1980s with a now signature approach and aesthetic: she takes pictures of herself dressed as different characters and female “types” (think vixen, housewife, ingénue, and other paradigms of stage and screen). Over the years Sherman’s self-styled characters have become stranger and more stirring. Her “Centerfold” series is a highlight at MoMA—intimate self-portraits shot in that classic Playboy wide format but picturing women fully clothed and at their most emotionally vulnerable.

Sherman dons prosthetics as a busty Virgin Mary in a series of photographs based on the ways in which women are portrayed throughout art history; caked-on make-up and luxe kaftans in her recent “Society Portraits,” or “The Real Housewives of Easthampton,” if you will; and vintage Chanel in a new body of work that defies the glam nature of most fashion shoots with Sherman’s decidedly unsexy takes on modeling couture. The performances are Oscar-worthy. The characters are spot-on. And Sherman reaffirms her status as the most influential female artists of the last 50 years.

Cindy Sherman at the Museum of Modern Art through June 11; 11 W. 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; 212-708-9400; moma.org

Main Image: Cindy Sherman. Untitled #466. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 8′ 6″ x 70″ (259.1 x 177.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel in honor of Jerry I. Speyer. © 2012 Cindy Sherman. For more images, see the gallery at right.


Love It: Once Upon a Vogue

Looking back fondly at Vogue’s role in the greater cultural landscape

Vogue has always been more than just a magazine. It’s been a guidebook, a tastemaker, and an escape. But over the years, it’s also been a platform for some of the best photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. To celebrate this century-plus of achievements of the 120-year old magazine, Rizzoli has published a handsome new tome that looks back fondly at Vogue’s role in the greater cultural landscape. Nostalgia in Vogue (Rizzoli, $55, edited by Eve McSweeney) collects past essays from the magazine’s “Nostalgia” column, which was launched in 2000 to engage directly with Vogue’s rich archives. The column, as editor Anna Wintour writes in the book’s forward, invites “writers, designers, photographers, and others to nominate a Vogue image — a portrait, fashion spread,…

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Vogue has always been more than just a magazine. It’s been a guidebook, a tastemaker, and an escape. But over the years, it’s also been a platform for some of the best photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. To celebrate this century-plus of achievements of the 120-year old magazine, Rizzoli has published a handsome new tome that looks back fondly at Vogue’s role in the greater cultural landscape.

Nostalgia in Vogue (Rizzoli, $55, edited by Eve McSweeney) collects past essays from the magazine’s “Nostalgia” column, which was launched in 2000 to engage directly with Vogue’s rich archives. The column, as editor Anna Wintour writes in the book’s forward, invites “writers, designers, photographers, and others to nominate a Vogue image — a portrait, fashion spread, still life or interior — that they remember and that in some cases literally changed the path of their lives.” The results, she adds, “are often astonishingly vivid: Revisiting their chosen photographs jump-starts our columnists into remembering what they were doing and thinking and feeling at the moment the picture first appeared.”

Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld came across his first American Vogue as a young boy in Hamburg. He remembers being stricken by an Irving Penn photo that accompanied an article about Paris couture. It pictures a model encapsulated within a big, structured number by Balenciaga, bedecked with feathers on the bodice and along its side. “I never got enough of the beautiful image,” Lagerfeld says, “with its four tiny, mysterious letters: PENN.”

Penn’s iconic shots of distant, sophisticated, Balenciaga-clad models were touchstones for rocker and poet Patti Smith as well. The images inspired her to mine her local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores to put together Penn-esque looks of her very own. For famed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, it was 1960 Penn’s portrait of Sophia Loren. The picture, he writes, “Encapsulates the perfection of the twentieth century, and will till I drop dead.”

For Vera Wang, it was a quirkier, more contemporary image that struck a chord: Chris von Wangenheim’s 1977 shot of a Doberman wrapping its jowls around a young Christie Brinkley’s slender, well-heeled leg. “It’s a sadomasochistic picture and one that was very much in tune with the times,” writes the designer, who once worked as an editor at Vogue herself. “This was, after all, the era of Studio 54, with all the drugs, dancing, promiscuity… and certainly no more flower children.”

“It was a very exciting time to be young in New York,” she adds, “if you were lucky enough to live and tell about it.”

Main Image: Nostalgia in Vogue Cover


A New Lens

A West Coast exhibition features the photography of former menswear designer Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane — the avant garde menswear designer who famously inspired Karl Lagerfeld to shed 92 pounds for the sole purpose of fitting into his skintight trousers— shocked the fashion set in 2007 when he stepped down from his post at Dior Homme to pursue photography full-time. The art world has since welcomed him with open arms (he had been exhibiting work on the side since the late 1990s), and this winter, Slimane has scored his first West Coast museum exhibition. “California Songs” features newly anointed artist’s black and white photographs of SoCal artists, musicians, and skater kids, all shot in his signature intimate style. Slimane has become something of an advocate for these youthful up-and-comers and has more than embraced his role as such. Unfortunately for Karl, it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting back into menswear anytime soon.

Through January 22 at the MOCA Pacific Design Center, 250 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 213-621-1700; moca.org

Main Image: Hedi Slimane, Girls’ Christopher Owens, San Francisco, 2011 

Above: Hedi Slimane, No Age, Los Angeles, 2011

Hedi Slimane — the avant garde menswear designer who famously inspired Karl Lagerfeld to shed 92 pounds for the sole purpose of fitting into his skintight trousers— shocked the fashion set in 2007 when he stepped down from his post at Dior Homme to pursue photography full-time. The art world has since welcomed him with open arms (he had been exhibiting work on the side since the late 1990s), and this winter, Slimane has scored his first West Coast museum exhibition. “California Songs” features newly anointed artist’s black and white photographs of SoCal artists, musicians, and skater kids, all shot in his signature intimate style. Slimane has become something of an advocate for these youthful up-and-comers and has more than embraced his role as such. Unfortunately for Karl, it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting back into menswear anytime soon.

Through January 22 at the MOCA Pacific Design Center, 250 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 213-621-1700; moca.org

Main Image: Hedi Slimane, Girls’ Christopher Owens, San Francisco, 2011 

Above: Hedi Slimane, No Age, Los Angeles, 2011


21st Century Boy

An exhibition focuses on the last decade of Azzedine Alaia

Azzedine Alaïa has been something of a mythical figure in the fashion world. He came of age artistically in the 1980s (and subsequently skyrocketed to society-darling fame) but the Tunisian-born couturier retreated in the 1990s shortly after his sister died from cancer. He continued to work privately but didn’t send his designs down the runway until the early-aughts. Eight years and a hefty investment from Prada later, the house of Alaïa is up and running once again. The designer had his first runway show in eight years in Paris this summer; it received a standing ovation and widespread raves. The renaissance continues in Groningen, Netherlands this winter, with a new exhibition dedicated to Alaïa’s designs from the past 10 years. In Alaïa’s highly capable hands…

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Azzedine Alaïa has been something of a mythical figure in the fashion world. He came of age artistically in the 1980s (and subsequently skyrocketed to society-darling fame) but the Tunisian-born couturier retreated in the 1990s shortly after his sister died from cancer. He continued to work privately but didn’t send his designs down the runway until the early-aughts. Eight years and a hefty investment from Prada later, the house of Alaïa is up and running once again. The designer had his first runway show in eight years in Paris this summer; it received a standing ovation and widespread raves. The renaissance continues in Groningen, Netherlands this winter, with a new exhibition dedicated to Alaïa’s designs from the past 10 years. In Alaïa’s highly capable hands fun fur gets cinched at the waist, stunning textiles become structured cocktail attire, ball gowns get sleek and sexy, and separates go punk. Allows us to present some of our favorite pieces on view.

“Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st Century” the Groninger Museum through May 6; Museumeiland 1, 9711 ME Groningen; 050 3 666 555; groningermuseum.nl

For individual pieces from the exhibit, see “Browse more pics” at right.

Main Image and below: Views of the exhibit


Live It: Just Dance

The Nutcracker may be a storied holiday season tradition but after two or three fabulous outings with the New York City Ballet’s finest, it’s not uncommon to feel those slight pangs of Sugarplum Fairy fatigue. Fear not, dance enthusiasts. This winter’s non-Nutcracker offerings are the best they’ve been in years. The Legacy Tour, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, at the Park Avenue Armory, December 29–31. When the legendary modern-dance choreographer Merce Cunningham died in 2009, his New York City dance company put his carefully orchestrated “Legacy” plan into action: a two-year, 40-city tour, culminating in three performances here in Merce’s adopted hometown. It is quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take in the artist’s groundbreaking and highly experimental work—the company will be disbanded after the 31st,…

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The Nutcracker may be a storied holiday season tradition but after two or three fabulous outings with the New York City Ballet’s finest, it’s not uncommon to feel those slight pangs of Sugarplum Fairy fatigue. Fear not, dance enthusiasts. This winter’s non-Nutcracker offerings are the best they’ve been in years.

  1. The Legacy Tour, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, at the Park Avenue Armory, December 29–31.
    When the legendary modern-dance choreographer Merce Cunningham died in 2009, his New York City dance company put his carefully orchestrated “Legacy” plan into action: a two-year, 40-city tour, culminating in three performances here in Merce’s adopted hometown. It is quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take in the artist’s groundbreaking and highly experimental work—the company will be disbanded after the 31st, per Merce’s request.
  2. The New York Season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, at New York City Center, through January 1.
    Critics have had nothing but praise for Robert Battle’s first season as the company’s artistic director. With a balance of new and repertoire works (and influences ranging from New York hip hop to mambo, techno, and Israeli music and dance), Battle proves he’s more than capable of commandeering Ailey’s famously fit ensemble.
  3. Botanica, MOMIX, at the Joyce Theater, through December 31.
    Part modern dance, part Cirque du Soleil, Moses Pendleton’s shape-shifting company presents a 2009 work in which dancers gracefully bring trees, plants, and other elements of the natural world to life. Fun fact: the company performed at the 2010 Golden Globes, as well as in commercials for Fiat, Target, Mercedes, and Hanes.

Main Image: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Kirven James Boyd. Photo by Andrew Eccles.