By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST December, 2022
Harry Macklowe, the real estate broker, and his wife, Linda, have been a hefty presence in the New York artworld, being amongst the most active acquirers, building a collection which included work by Picasso, Giacometti, Jackson Pollock, Rothko, Warhol and Jeff Koons. That presence only became larger during their acrimonious divorce when their estimates on the values of individual artworks became so irreconcilable that the judge ordered that the collection be put up for auction. This was duly done, though Linda had wished it could have been kept together. Sotheby’s put it up in two auctions, the first in November 2021 and the second this May, and the house announced that the split event had fetched $922 million, an auction record for a private collection.
There were some artworlders at the party that Billy Macklowe, their son, threw for the 45th birthday of his wife, Julie, the painter Daniel Arsham for one, but they were not an overwhelming presence. The party was at Musica, the club on West 50th, which was created by Cipriani, the restaurant empire, whose founder, Giuseppe Cipriani, made his name with Harry’s Bar, a signature destination in Venice. Promisingly, the Macklowe invitation stipulated Attire Enforced Leather and Lingerie, the strictness echoing their invitation to a Barbie and Ken themed beach party they had given in the Hamptons last summer, which had instructed: Barbie and Ken Dress Code VERY SERIOUS! If you are not dressed up, you will NOT BE ADMITTED—no exceptions!
Had this been observed on the beach? I wasn’t there, have no idea, but at Musica most of the female guests were merrily dressed in lingerie. The large party, almost six hundred I learned, watched an aerial performance I missed, listened to a two hour set by DJ Bob Moses, and had then settled down to dancing to a driving beat. A paper backdrop had been set up for photo-shoots of incomers at the door, as would often be the case in the happening clubs of the glory days, the 1980s, and this led me to contemplate the changes between the goings-on back then and what I was moving through here and now beneath two gigantic disco balls.
One difference reflected rather well on the here and now. There were no VIP Rooms! Back then most famous faces, aside from the Andy/Bianca/Halston contingent for whom showing their faces was an effective career strategy, would swiftly duck out of sight to get into their private stuff. The entire Macklowe party was functioning as a kind of VIP Room though, with endless glasses of Cristal champagne and what would normally have been costly snifters of Macklowe Whiskey. This whiskey incidentally is the first American Single Malt Whiskey and it had been launched in December 2021 by Julie Macklowe using the classic artworld strategy of a highly limited edition, and here in Musica it was further promoted on luminous circular signs, seemingly floating on the ceiling.
Other differences reflected our changing times. Back in the day such a directive as the mandatory leather and/or lingerie would certainly have generated a deliriously over-the-top response from, for instance, Michael Alig and the Club Kids, who saw themselves as performance artists 24/7, and from the dress-up role players who had enacted their dream lives in Studio 54.
Here in Musica though the lingerie that was in everybody’s face everywhere looked fetching rather than provocative, particularly on such fighting fit female bods, such as those of the foursome who were dancing on separate plinths. Two of whom were wearing round spiky headgear you wouldn’t want to get too close to in a crowded space, not even at such a swell affair as this. As for the leather it had no obvious story attached, neither undercurrents of SM nor of the Alt Right, it was just leather. Also there was plenty of business chic. Indeed I spotted several examples of an item of clothing I had feared was extinct: Neckties. Could the Macklowe party herald a rebirth? The next thing will be the pocket hankie. Why not? I have hung onto mine. WM
Anthony Haden-Guest (born 2 February 1937) is a British writer, reporter, cartoonist, art critic, poet, and socialite who lives in New York City and London. He is a frequent contributor to major magazines and has had several books published including TRUE COLORS: The Real Life of the Art World and The Last Party, Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night.
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