May is home to the annual design week in Manhattan, which follows in the spirited footsteps of its sister, Fashion Week, languidly stretching itself across the span of the month. Creativity, after all, cannot be stifled, and no city is more welcoming. In honor of this year's particularly irreverent spirit, even the weather refused to comply with expectations; April showers brought only more May showers, but the city glistened with innovation.
The gracious New York Palace on Madison Avenue sets the stage for opulence and old world charm, but traffic nearly came to a standstill with the US debut and celebration of French artist Julien Marinetti. A giant, brass French bulldog sculpture ablaze in a riot of punk-rock, lacquered hues greeted initially startled guests who ultimately had to comply that the invitation had, after all, read, "Qui est Doggy John?" Who indeed? Inside, the sculpture morphed into a motif -- Doggy Johns (yes, multiples) were perched in the grand Madison Room's bar and banquettes. Co-hosts Nadia Rottger, Edward Mady, Geoffrey Bradfield, Erin Fetherston and Amy Sacco honored the artist, who has been distorting everyday objects with electric infusions of color and expression since he was five years old.
Doggy John is the same shape. But then again, each sculpture could not be more different. The Palace's historic grandeur suddenly feels stuffy, and each Doggy John stands poised to play. The juxtaposition unsettles and allures. A little dog, yet somehow the vibe of an entire space is changed.
It's fun, as design should be.
Host Geoffrey Bradfield deadpans, "I was delighted to host the New York reception for Julien Marinetti -- a very intriguing artist who, in the tradition of the greats, has chosen our animal kingdom as his inspiration. Which brings to mind the wonderful quotation by Diego Giacometti when asked about his choice, 'You don't have to explain what animals mean.'"
"I've always wanted a puppy," breathes the nightlife Queen Mab Amy Sacco. Everything about her extends the metaphor of the evening -- the Botticelli hair, but then, the sexy black dress and the tiny clutch -- which opens to reveal her new puppy, Petit Jean. Sacco's little guy is even smaller than the Doggy Johns at the bar, and conveniently so as he racks up frequent flier miles with Mommy on Virgin Atlantic as they jet to Bungalow 8 outposts in London and Amsterdam.
Jewelry designer and Korean pop sensation Tana Chung also arrives with a little surprise in her handbag, and as white fur and pink tongue pop out, designer Erin Fetherston laughs delightedly. Adriel Reboh's camera lens flashes, and her latest Warren Tricomi, cropped hairstyle is captured.
We dig it.
"It feels to me a little bit like street art," Erin muses, "I actually think street art is one of the most exciting things that's happening in the art world right now." Sacco dubs it "[Jeff] Koons-y" and "Damien Hirst-y," but before we drift into a cerebral vibe, reality-TV fashion expert Carson Kressley pipes mischievously that Sacco was his draw because "she throws a great party, and I know there will be free booze."
That she does, and sprinkled with ShinAdvisors founder and branding maven Susan Shin's equal proclivity for the eclectic, the crowd gives Doggy John a run for his... color. Paige Entertainment's Brian Mazza is a nice surprise at the "early cocktail hour," his demure blazer and pink shirt continue the evening's theme -- one almost forgets his Inked spread this month. Almost. Interior design connoisseurs such as Antony Todd and Jeff Lincoln are present, but so is Avenue Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Peter Davis, JBCStyle CEO Bryan Zaslow "just back from launching JBCConnect in Los Angeles," the grand dame of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Fern Mallis, Fox News anchor Cheryl Casone, Princess Marina Pianatelli and SalonTea founder Tracy Stern, rocking a flirty, black, petalled number from her latest collection. No more chai, Tracy? Mon Dieu indeed!
Doggy John at the Palace was design week's prom night this year, and familiar faces feted celebrations throughout the days to come. Jeff Lincoln reigned again at Property's slick Soho showroom to celebrate the International Contemporary Fair and the company's elegant proprietress, Sabrina Schilcher. Design Destinations: London, Milan, New York, Vienna proved an appropriate title as artists Philipp Bruni, Christiane Büssgen, Matt Gagnon, Reinaldo Sanguino and design trio Rich Brilliant Willing each made special appearances. Doggy John was nowhere to be seen, but Lincoln and Schilcher peeped out of Matt Gagon's Joint Venture stacked, white shelves like puppies and continued the infectious spirit of mirth despite blackening clouds and eventual downpours.
A final standout was "The Nest" Exhibition, in which Venezuelan artist David Foote transformed downtown Honey Space studio into... a nest. Dutch artist Anne Koch posed for the 50-piece collaboration, and then gamely hunted with the artist for dropped branches and twigs in the forests of New York. The pair collected, tied, twisted and sculpted to create perhaps the most unique framework; no adhesion or twine were used. Nature was then dipped into white latex paint and meticulously treated with Foote's India ink dip-pen. Art and space were enclosed in nests -- "It signifies a homecoming," Foote offered, then refrained from further explication. "It's for you to feel and imagine."
Months of feverish painting in his studios culminated in a dreamy, moody atmosphere and symbolism resounded: after a brilliant journey, the artist has come into his own. Foote has marked his niche and will own his space for years to come.
Rain continued amidst a renaissance no words can properly convey, and Manhattan's design "week" continued to push boundaries and delight the human spirit within us all. Creativity demands the visceral experience and through overwhelming support and turnout, "The Nest" Exhibition shall remain open through May 29th, and Doggy John shall remain the Palace Prince even when Blair Waldorf returns in September. The fate of global design?