Saturday, July 26, 2014

NYC Style Through the Looking Glass

The Windows of Jay Kos, Kate Spade, Tom Ford, TAGG, Yoya.....And What I Found

*Remembering Elaine Stritch and The Ladies Who Lunch

                **I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy,
                    my reality is just different from yours.

New York City is a window shopper’s paradise and Fifth Avenue from 49th to 60th Street is its main stage. During the Christmas holidays its store windows sparkle with colorful and festive displays, some traditional, some contemporary and some avant-garde but all capture the wonder and beauty of the season in a unique New York Style. 

Crowds swell in front of the huge windows of Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor further south on Fifth at 39th Street, and Macy’s gargantuan Herald Square store at 34th.  Street.
On this stretch of Fifth you will also find the U.S. flagship stores of Tiffany, Cartier, Armani, Gucci, Versace, Henri Bendel, Faconnable, FAO Schwarz, and Van Cleef and Arpel.
I am not a window shopper. I am city walker who walks at a brisk pace. I appreciate the magic of an artistically designed window no matter what time of year. Often I have stopped in midstride drawn by the hypnotic lure of these movie-like sets

My favorite street for window viewing is Madison Avenue from 86th
to 63rd Street. Sorry but Barney’s located at 61st street does not make the cut. Madison Avenue loses it intimacy and small town feel as one get closer to get to bustling 57th Street, plus the buildings are much taller.

Most major cities have a street for the luxury or fashion conscious shopper. I have walked several including Milan’s Via Montenapoleone, rue Saint-Honor√©
in Paris, the other two fashion capitals of the world. I have also walked Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

I first encountered Madison Avenue many years ago when I walked home after a high school baseball game in Central Park’s North Meadow. I discovered an avenue with scores of brightly lit windows, filled with expensive well-tailored and bespoke clothes, shoes, linens, furniture, antiques and paintings created by celebrated designers. That night I felt as if I had I had crossed an imaginary line leaving New York City at one corner and winding up in some far-away place, many stores posted the locations of their stores worldwide.  Madison became my “yellow brick road.” It did not lead me to OZ but to Paris, London, Milan, Saint-Tropez, Portofino, Geneva, Tokyo, San Paolo, and Barcelona.

There are several fashion streets and neighborhoods in the city. Recently, over the course of several days, I searched for fun, stylish windows.  Instead of taking my standard mental photo I snapped over 200 pictures with my iPhone. I share my fourteen favorite windows. Theys are listed by neighborhood. I have excluded touristy Fifth Avenue.

Madison Avenue

Loro Piana  748 Madison Ave. near 65th St

"Your So Vain"  Walking Madison Avenue

Mallet Antiques  929 Madison Ave. 75th St.
Commode by Jean Royere, France 1950
Pair of Art Noveau Wall Light, Belgium 1900
Pair pf Rosso Levanto Columns 1780
"Welcome to My House a Very Fine House"

Ralph Lauren  Madison Ave. at 72nd St.
"Madison Avenue I Am Ready for My Closeup"
Missoni  1009 Madison Ave. 78th St.
Opening Night at the Opera
Tom Ford  845 Madison Ave. bet. 70-71St
"Steppin' Out of the Elevator"

MeatPacking/West Village

431 West 14th St
Summer in the Hamptons
YOYA  646 Hudson St.
Cool Kids of the West Village
Tiziano Zorzan  69 Eighth Ave. near 14th St.
Sunday in the Park with Zorzan


Patricia Field  306 Bowery 
Get Your Freak On
Bed Head Pajamas  252 Elizabeth Ave.
Mother and Child Pajama Party
Jay Kos  292 Mott St.
What I  Saw Through the Looking Glass


Agatha Ruiz de la Prada  466 Greenwich St.
Under the Big Top...Send in the Clowns

Hell's Kitchen

***TAGG  720 Ninth Avenue 49th St
Strut Your Junk...Buns in the Oven
*Store window photo at the beginning of the article.
Kate Spade  789 Madison Ave 66-67th St.

**Quote: Lewis Caroll, Alice Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
***Most "Fun" Website - Signals  the "new" Hell's Kitchen. Click on TAGG!
All Photos by Rudi Papiri

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bansky and His 31 Days in New York:

Artist Stirs Memories of Taki 183, Caine 1

Dondi and the City's Graffiti Heyday 

Graffiti emerged on the New York scene like a tsunami rushing in from the sea in the early 1970’s. Taggers with pseudonyms like Taki 183, Dondi, Cliff 159, Stayhigh 149, and Blade staged an aggressive in-your-face assault on a captive and unsuspecting audience, the million plus people who rode the subways on a daily basis.

This first wave of artists or vandals, depending on your view of art, defiance and defacement, used the subways as their personal 24/7 galleries and forum. With their energy, fervor and quite often talents graffiti entered the mainstream quickly. Their monikers became synonymous with the subway lines they tagged.

Their worked appeared everywhere: on doors, windows, seats, and ceilings throughout the system.
If you took the #4 train to Yankee Stadium you thought you rode the Mitch 77 train. If you went to Shea Stadium, where the NY Mets played, you rode The Caine Freedom Train compliments of Caine 1 and not the #7. Competition grew fierce and the graffiti exploded. Graffiti crews worked long hours in unguarded train yards creating their next eye-catching displays.

Tags evolved from simple lettering to huge block letters, large decorative illustrations and zany designs with cartoon characters like Snoopy or Dick Tracy emblazoned in vivid colors. Comparable mind-boggling works graced the exterior of cars from end-to-end, and not just a handful of cars but almost all cars.

The grime, filthy, smelly, and unsafe conditions of a deteriorating system compounded with smudged incomprehensible drawings, illegible scribbles, tags and designs copied on top of each other made it difficult to appreciate the works created some talented artists.

Bansky Unveils His Stuff

Graffiti as street art or vandalism resurfaced last October when Bansky, a British artist, painter, activist, and documentary filmmaker announced on his website a month long artist residency in New York City. Bansky received an Oscar nomination in 2010 for his film Exit Thru the Gift Shop and that same year made Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Bansky, a recluse, is well known for “bombing walls in San Francisco, Detroit, Paris, and Barcelona.
His true identity is unknown although the London Daily Mail speculates he is Robin Gunningham, who began with the tag Robin Banx. He developed his pencil sketch style in his native Bristol, England.

In 2003 he staged his breakthrough exhibit “Turf Wars” in an East London Warehouse. In 2005 his celebrity grew when he traveled to Palestine and stenciled nine images on the West Bank Wall including his iconic Masked Armed Thrower. He has had major shows in Los Angeles and Sydney.
At the Miami Street Art Auction in February his “Kissing Coppers’s sold for $575,000.

His New York exhibit called “Better Out Than In” had one Bansky work popping up at undisclosed locations all 31 days in October. Bansky hit all five boroughs. His first installation in Chinatown, “The Street Is in Play,” showed one boy standing on the back of a second boy touching a sign which read “Graffiti is a Crime,” It ended with a set of balloons spelling BANSKY! And tied to a Queens warehouse on Halloween.

In between Bansky had a real person shining the shoes of a large fiberglass Ronald McDonald statue outside a Mickey D’s in the South Bronx; in Manhattan’s meatpacking district he unveiled “The Sirens of the Lambs” a slaughterhouse delivery truck crammed with stuff animals, heads butting out from slots, while touring the meatpacking district as a recording of animals crying played; and the Two Geisha Girls with parasols in Williamsburg, where bystanders tussled with a hooded vandal as he tagged the work.

Bansky artistic exploits, product placement (most off the beaten path) and PR showmanship tweaked my interest. And I like his work. In a city where graffiti survives for years more than half of his had not. Property owners destroyed or removed some. Taggers vandalized others.

Five days after his exhibit ended, I left my house at 10 am in search of Bansky. I headed to Larry Flint’s Hustler Club, at West 51st & 11th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen’s, near my apartment, to see my favorite “Waiting in Vain.” Painted on October 24, it showed a forlorn lover dressed in a suit and a loosened tie slouched against a wall holding wilted flowers. No luck! The club, knew its value, removed it.

Next I walked to West 25th and 11th Avenue to see his second one, a text piece which read, “This is My New York Accent…Normally I Write Like This.” Strike two!
I went to 24th near 10th Avenue for his 18th installment, an outdoor exhibition, and two hanging pieces, under the High Line in Chelsea, done in collaboration with Brazilian street artists Os Geneos. Strike three!
Moving to 24th Street and 6th I found his third posting, marred with graffiti. Called “You Complete Me” it showed a dog urinating against a fire hydrant. 

I walked to four other Banksy locations with no luck: the East Village (Priest in a Concrete Confessional), Lower East Side (the Two Boys; Night Vision Horses) and Nolita (Grim Reaper Rides a Bumper Car).
I flirted with the idea of crossing the Williamsburg Bridge to continue my search in Brooklyn but called it quits. At 4pm I returned home. At least I found one.

Photo Credits: 
a. DONDI - by Andy. In memory
    of Donald Joseph White "Dondi" (April 7, 1961 - Oct.2, 1998)
b. "The Street Is in Play" (Two Boys)  - Flickr - by Tara Horner
c. "Waiting in Vain" Flickr - JC Decaux 
d. "You Complete Me" - Dog at Hydrant - Rudi Papiri
NYC Subway graffiti reference: Spar One Editor/Resource Director for Graffiti @149st

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tommy Tune's Penthouse Party...

Finding Pieces for My New York 
               Skyline Puzzle 

From a tipsy barefoot Robert Redford prancing before Jane Fonda in Washington Square Park in Barefoot in the Park, to John Travolta admiring the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Saturday Night Fever to the baptism of Christ, played by Victor Garber, in Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in Godspell, New York City has served as a backdrop for many movies and television programs.
(YouTube Videos for movies posted below)

I enjoy scrutinizing old film clips and pictures of the city. I have a good sense of places and locations, yet I still get lost exploring its neighborhoods or when viewing the wonderful photos of Gary Winogrand, Helen Levitt, and Berenice Abbott and their images of old New York, one I never knew. 

Months ago when I received an email and photo attachment (posted below) from my friend Jim Malcolm I accepted it as a personal challenge.

He wrote,  "This is a penthouse party near Union Square. What street is this?

Jim, a native New Yorker, moved away years ago. He is retired living in California.

I emailed back, “Not near Union Square.”

It is!” Jim replied.”  It’s TommyTune’s apartment. My neighbor was there.”

To showcase his roots and knowledge of Manhattan to his neighbor Jim wrote, “Can you name any of the buildings.” 

“Easy!” I never thought it would take me parts of three weeks to answer his question. I reviewed Google Maps, Instagram, and real estate websites. I made four tours of east side streets with binoculars, camera and notepad.

Why did it take me so long? I found Tommy Tune’s place and the names of four buildings quickly. 
I knew the party took place somewhere between 49 and 55th Streets on First Avenue judging 
from the angle of the terrace and building 4.

When walking the streets of midtown east it is difficult to get a clear view of building tops. With the help of the Internet I found building 5 – and its white crown top. I located buildings 1 and 3. At first I mistook 1, the Libya House, for Verizon’s monolith on East 38th (now NYU Medical Center) with its stone slab sidings.

I had all the pieces, except one, building 2. At first, I assumed it was the Chrysler Building. Its fragmented top and stripped down Charlie Brown Christmas tree tower left me doubtful.

I focused on the Chanin Building, Lexington and 42nd Street. The 1929, 56-story city landmark in buff brick and terra cotta, is topped with a spindly radio antenna. Mystery solved? NO! The antenna looked small and unimpressive.

Fortunately I spotted a white antenna soaring high above midtown as I stood at 41st and Eight Avenue looking east. I searched the entire area with no luck. Ten days later sitting in Bryant Park I found it. It was not an antenna, but a huge crane at a construction site for a new office building, 7 Bryant Park.

Ready to raise the white flag I decided to scan the midtown skyline with my binoculars from the 22nd floor of the Time Life building where I work. Keith Aurelio a co-worker and imaging specialist asked what I was doing. I showed him the photo and explained my dilemma. He opened a digital version of the picture in photoshop, then doodled some, and “Presto”! The Chrysler building materialized.

Where did the party take place?  Jim was right, in a way. Nine-time Tony award winner Tommy Tune had lived on 18th and Park Avenue South near Union Square but moved to First and 52nd, the scene of the party.

*Pieces of the Puzzle!
1_Libya House –East 48th, Second Ave; 24-stories, built in 1982, home to Libya’s mission to the United Nations.
2_Chrysler Building – Lexington Ave., 42-43rd Streets. This 77-story Art Deco wonder, built in 1930, served as Chrysler’s headquarters until the1950’s.
3_One Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Plaza – Second Avenue and 47th. The 1972, 49-story tower is home to various companies and U.N. agencies.
4_Met Life - Park Avenue at 45th Street; 60 stories, completed in 1963, for Pan Am; offered rooftop helicopter service to Pan Am’s JFK terminal until an accident killed five people.
5_Sterling Plaza – Second Avenue at 49th Street, 32-story residential condominium built in 1985.

*YouTube Segments of Movies listed above:
Barefoot in the Park
Saturday Night Fever

Photo: Unknown Source; location Southgate Apartments at East 52nd Street near Sutton Place/Beekman Places; designed by Emory Roth.