Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Foreigner's Guide to a New York Summer

This weekend is the Memorial Day weekend. Although officially this holiday is to remember the fallen from first the Civil War then consequently other wars, for most of New York it really means the commencement of the "summer season".

For 13 weeks until the Labor Day holiday, there are summer work hours, an increase in waxing bookings and a mass exodus from Manhattan to either the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore (but really you wouldn't associate with someone who went to the Jersey Shore).

So what does this weekend mean for the uninitiated? Let me share some insights:

It means that you're finally allowed to wear white even though the rest of the world thinks it's ok to appear in this color at any time of the year.

It means run down to Calypso and get your floaty boho beach cover up.

Invest in a pair of Jack Rogers sandals.

Hope like Hell that a friend owns or has rented an enormous house with a pool at the Hamptons so you can escape the scorching Manhattan heat without getting sand between your toes.

Reserve your seat on the Hamptons Jitney months in advance in order to avoid the throng of screaming twenty something's on the train.

Start reading local literature to get up to speed on the who, what, where.

Then, once happily ensconced at the Hamptons, here's how to fit in like a true New Yorker:

Don't be misled into thinking you travel out east to relax. Ensure your calendar is full of benefit lunches, dinners, golf tournaments and soirees.

Pick up your free weekly copy of the Hamptons magazine to make sure you were photographed at said benefits.

If you forgot to pack something in the rush to be at the front of the jitney line, don't panic! Main Street of East Hamptons has everything you could possibly want, from Tiffany (because of course you wear diamonds poolside) to Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Hermes - and as of this year, Balenciaga!

Angst over whether it's cooler to go to the polo at Bridgehampton and be in the marquees with the beautiful people, or sit on the "other side" of the field, where all the polo people sit (note I said "go" to the polo and not "watch" the polo).

Once the sun lowers on the horizon, chill over a glass of rose on the deck of the Surf Lodge in Montauk, wearing a Tracy Feith maxi dress.

Or for something more prosaic, eat a lobster roll and drink cheap wine out of a plastic cup at the Clam Bar, while standing on the side of the Montauk Highway.

And when you have had enough of the posing and cameras and Hamptons shenanigans, jump into a car and cross onto Shelter Island for a more leisurely pace at Andre Balazs' super cool but laid back Sunset Beach.

Happy Memorial Day weekend and let the summer fun to begin!

Images: calypso, jack rogers, elle decor, hamptons jitney, dans papers, hamptons guest of a guest, mine, surf lodge, concierge, flickr, concierge, haute living

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spring Storm

After a heavenly couple of summer-like days with lots of heat but no humidity, the thunder clouds rolled in this afternoon and the heavens bestowed upon us a cracking summer-like storm. This type of torrential rain always makes Central Park so green and the colors so vibrant. If only Oz could have even half the amount of rain that falls here......

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Back to Paris for rather huge event, then 3 days in Marrakech! Can't wait x

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crichton Fever

So last night was back to Christie's for the sale of Michael Chrichton's collection. It was the first public display of his collection and is apparently an extraordinary collection because of its breadth.
Crichton is probably best known for his books - one of which was Jurassic Park - and for being the creator of ER.  His interest in art dates back to the 70's and he collected works right up to his death late last year. He was best friends with Jasper Johns and interested in other artists such as Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg. 

In 1974 he bought Jasper Johns' Flag which hung in his bedroom all his life and few people have ever seen this painting, so it was an exciting event for it to now be seen in public.


Below are some of his other works that sold last night

Warhol, Mao: $2.3m

Roy Lichtenstein, figures in landscape: $4.3m

Robert Rauschenberg, Studio painting: $11m

Richard Prince, Cowboy: $600k

Images: christies

Monday, May 10, 2010

Santeria in Spanish Harlem

If crucifixes or menorahs aren't your thing, head to East Harlem to partake in the ancient Santeria rituals of the Caribbean. I happened upon one of the most famous "botanicas" on 104th St. It has been providing spiritual advice and religious artifacts for those practicing santeria since 1930.

The origins of Santeria stem from the african slaves who were sent to Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar fields. It is a mixture of the Yoruba beliefs and traditions from South West Africa, with Roman Catholic elements. Some of these slaves were babalawos or high priests who were denied their rituals in the new world and forced to embrace Catholicism. But they continued to worship their Orishas or black gods by disguising them inside Catholic saints.

There are a number of different items used for worship in Santeria; beads, herbs, statues of saints and animals. Animal sacrifice is a large part of Santeria. Who can forget that scene from the film Angel Heart with Lisa Bonet and the chicken?

Judging by the number of "Botanicas" in Spanish Harlem, Santeria is alive and well in New York. In fact, apparently the park rangers of Inwood Hill Park (located at the northern most tip of Manhattan) regularly find black garbage bags full of sacrificed animals. I was nervous even entering the Botanica for fear of some evil spirit descending upon me. But it was worth it just to fossick amongst the fantastic shelves of dust-covered goods.
The store is full of voodoo dolls, religious icons, beads, plants, stones and prayer cards. There is "shut up" soap, candles for all occasions, a can of good luck and even "dragon blood" bubble bath. There are tiny bottles of oil that ward off jinxes and offer hope and riches. The owner who has been there for 30 years, can even perform witchcraft for you if you're game.....

Images: flickr, variety, flickr, city noise, steve giralt,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Going Once, Going Twice....."

One of the more brilliant things about living in New York is that it is one of the art centers of the world. Now I love Australian artists such as John Olsen, Donald Friend and Brett Whiteley, but there is something incredibly exciting about standing an inch away from a Jasper Johns or a Rothko or Warhol. And it's even more awesome to attend an art auction and witness first hand, the eye popping prices that people are willing to pay for such works.

The Spring Auctions got off to a thrilling start here this week. I went to Christie's auction on Tuesday night. It's a brilliant case study into the "Haves" and "Have Nots". The "Haves" are those who request a bidding paddle in advance of the auction. They get to sit in the main auction room with their millions (or billions in the case of here) and discretely raise their paddle as many times as their bank account allows it. They tend to have Russian, French, English and very New York accents. The "Have Nots" (that's where I fit in) reserve a seat in the "other room" at Christie's and we can watch what's going on in the bidding room across the landing, via large plasma screens. We tend to have Australian, cockney and New Jersey accents. But we also get to drink champagne and nibble on canapes as the proceedings progress - I guess that's like the panacea for the unwashed masses.

In saying that, the "Have Nots" can be a very distinguished looking crowd and it's great fun to watch my fellow screen viewers as we all clap politely when a high price is reached and stifle yawns when a particular sale is lagging. There were even muffled yelps of wonder on Tuesday when records were broken along the way.

So Tuesday was all about Impressionist/Modern art, with particular emphasis on the collection of Mrs Sidney F. Brody. Mrs Brody was an LA philanthropist with one of the most incredible art collections imaginable. She and her husband lived in the super modern, streamlined kind of house that LA is famous for, and which they commissioned in 1949. One of their first art acquisitions was a huge Matisse ceramic mural for their very chic patio. Legend has it Frances Brody rejected Matisse's initial idea and actually persuaded him to redesign alternatives until she was happy! This has now been donated to LACMA, the house is for sale and the art was packed up and sent to New York to disperse.


The best part about these sales are the viewings beforehand. Anybody can walk into Christie's off the street and see pieces of work that only get to be seen in public when they are up for sale. It is like visiting a priceless pop up store; get in now or forever hold your peace. Here are some of the key works from the collection that I drooled over this week and their final sale prices (before taxes etc):

Picassso: Nu au plateau de sculpteur : $95m

Matisse: Nu au coussin bleu: $13.4m

Renoir: Femme Accoudee: $1.2m

Braque: La Treille: $9m

Giacometti: Grand Tete Mince: $47.5

Stay tuned next week at Christie's for the Post War/Contemporary Art sale, with works form the Michael Crichton collection, he of airport thrillers fame. Who would have thought he'd own Jasper Johns' flag!

Images: new York mag, LA curbed, new york times, artadox, artinfo, christie's

Monday, May 3, 2010

Batali Fever

Mario Batali was signing his latest cookbook at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday. No fanfare,  no security, just a canvas awning, a pile of books and a conga line of eager recipients.

Regardless of what you think of him - overweight, unattractive, too commercial - you have to hand it to him for promoting the chef as cultural icon. When it comes to known chefs in New York, Batali has achieved cult status. In Sydney we also have our "chefs on a first name basis" - Sean, Matt, Luke - but Batali towers over his colleagues here because of his pull with the masses and his ubiquity.

He became a household name with Iron Chef America....

...and cemented it with his TV series On the Road Again, in which he traveled around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow and two other hotties, tasting the country's delicacies.

And no one can dispute he owns a group of fabulous foodie haunts in Manhattan. Babbo sits at the top of his stellar empire. Awarded 3 stars by the New York Times, one New York Michelin Guide star in 2005 and a waiting list to be very proud of, Babbo is the quintessential New York Italian dining experience. The fact that Mario actively cooks there is another bonus.

Lupa is a very relaxed Roman trattoria. It's loud and hectic and always a challenge to get into (are we seeing a pattern here yet?) but has great food. Known for its pasta and salumeria, Lupa is sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Babbo".

Del Posto is the type of place you go to for a very special occasion or preferably a very special work function so you don't have to pay! I don't think the decor is that amazing - it is always referenced in reviews here, particularly the sweeping staircase as you enter - but you go so you can say you've been, and the downstairs function rooms are fabulous. You feel like you are dining in an old castle.

Casa Mono and Bar Jamon are nestled next to each other Grammercy Park and Union Square. These are two of my faves. They're dark, super causal, intimate and both offer little plates of delicacies from Spain plus a ridiculously lengthy list of spanish wines and sherries. Hard to get a booking - again! - but worth going early just so you can sample the tapas. And if you have to wait for a table at Casa Mono, go next door and have a drink at Bar Jamon.

I didn't get a book signed by Mario on Saturday, but I was impressed with his lack of pretension. Kind of like his cooking; simple, tasteful and for the people.

images: 1 - 3: mine, abc news, guardian, eatdrinkbetter, igougo, gothamist, mango and lime, new york metromix