Vogue’s Ultimate Party-Planning Secrets

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Some people seem to be natural-born hosts, knowing exactly how to word a dress code, assemble the perfect guest list, set a table worthy not only of Instagram but also the pages of Vogue, mix a mean cocktail, create the right playlist, and every detail in between. But not all of us are as innately entertaining inclined as the likes of C.Z. Guest; planner extraordinaire Bronson van Wyck; or Vogue’s own Director of Special Events, and maestro behind the annual Met Gala, Sylvana Ward Durrett. For the rest of us—ahead of Vogue.com’s Last Saturday in April bash and before the Met Gala—we have assembled a wealth of party-planning knowledge from the Vogue.com archives: everything you need to know to throw the perfect birthday dinner, the most over-the-top way to tailgate, the rules on mealtime selfies, tinned seafood (yes, tinned seafood) that is a must-have for your next gathering, and so much more.
 

 

 

 

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16 Perfectly Valid Excuses for Liking Dave Matthews Band

Celebrating two decades of ‘Crash,’ and two decades of explaining how you ended up owning a physical copy of ‘Crash’

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Timothy Simons: How I Learned to Love My Gawky Body

The ‘Veep’ star on learning to love the way he looks

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An Ode to St. Mark’s Place, Where Vogue.com Is Ringing In the Met Gala

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Photo: Courtesy of Jo Worrall / @arigato

You are 14, your past is brief, your future is limitless, and there are so many things that you want in life: a skull-shaped bong, a pierced tongue, a tattoo, and above all a Fuck You You Fuckin’ Fuck T-shirt, the kind that is impossible to find in your dopey hometown, but is for sale a mere bus or train ride away on St. Marks Place.

For at least three generations, this sort of item has been available on the East Village’s Via Dolorosa, this wastrel street of dirty desires. Your grandfather came here to hear Ornette Coleman play at the Five Spot; your mom took LSD for the first time at the Electric Circus—did she pick up a stranger and spend the night at the Valencia Hotel—now renamed the St. Marks Hotel, still teetering in its sleazy dishabille on the corner of Third? She’ll never tell.

St. Marks Place got its start in the early 1830s—the name was meant to sound tonier than East Eighth Street—but you have to look hard to find traces of that storied history. Still, number four, next to the corpse of Trash and Vaudeville, is standing, albeit padlocked, and with a Beware of Dog sign. This was once the home of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, widow of that guy currently reigning at the Richard Rodgers Theater, 38 blocks uptown.

Waves of German immigrants, followed by Eastern Europeans, came to define the area. Then, sometime in the middle of the last century, the street became a haven for bohemians priced out of the West Village: In 1965, a Newsweek writer noted that those looking for the East Village should “head east from Greenwich Village, and when it starts to look squalid, around the Bowery and Third Avenue, you know you’re there.”

 

 

Lenny Bruce lived at number 13 (what would he thought of that Fuckin’ T-shirt, having been busted for far less?). Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had a place in number 30, now near the site of Kung Fu Tea. Did those two founders of the Yippies, who invented their own brand of goofy-anti-capitalist activism, ever read Trotsky? It might have amused them to know (hey, they were usually high, lots of stuff amused them) that Trotsky himself, a father of the Russian Revolution, lived, for a while, at number 80.

Number 80, home of Theatre 80 St. Marks! Still a theater, but no longer a famous revival house, showing the movies that shaped a generation of arty collegians in the 1960s. Those film buffs were obsessed with reclaiming the campy musicals and dramas of the 1930s and ’40s—cinematic history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Now there is something called Museum of the American Gangster upstairs at number 80, but out front, the neglected sidewalk stands as an East Village homage to Hollywood Boulevard—look closely, and you will see that Ruby Keeler stuck her dancing feet in the cement and signed the pavement on October 19, 1971.

If those avid watchers of Nothing Sacred and His Girl Friday were thirsty after the double bill, they could repair to Gem Spa, still remarkably intact on the corner of Second Avenue. Allen Ginsberg, beat poet/patron saint and local resident—he died in his home on East 12th Street in 1997—was a customer. In 1969, he ended a poem with the line: “Back from the Gem Spa, into the hallway, a glance behind and sudden farewell to the bedbug-ridden mattresses piled soggy in dark rain.”

Down the block from the Gem, another poet, W. H. Auden, lived in a flat that supposedly had no working bathroom; the writer, it was said, relied on the facilities in the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, still in business downstairs (but on a recent afternoon boasting a new spring menu, belieing its proud roots as a dive bar).

A ceramic plaque honoring Auden on what is now the La Palapa restaurant is in shards. If memory serves, it once bore the poet’s famous lines: “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” Auden wasn’t talking about his neighborhood—or was he? For what could be more beloved than this three-block stretch of trashy vaudeville, an electrified circus of the mind, the spirit, the heart—standing in all its filthy glory, a bridge back to your youthful dreams?

 

 

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Three Cuban Artists Take On the Moon at Galerie Lelong

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When the Cuba-born artist Zilia Sánchez mounted a solo show at the Artists Space in Soho in 2013, it was her first major exhibition in the city in decades. Though Sánchez lived in New York on and off throughout the 1960s, making art, studying at Pratt, and working in a brush factory, she settled in Puerto Rico in 1972, and most of her painting career unfolded there.

“I’m shocked that I didn’t know who she was, because the work is so extraordinary and I’m particularly interested in female artists and artists of Latin America,” Mary Sabbatino, the vice president of Chelsea’s Galerie Lelong, remembers. “But sometimes good things escape you.”

The gallerist first encountered Sánchez’s work around the time of the Artists Space show, when a friend involved with that organization showed her some drawings on his iPhone. Sabbatino quickly offered Sánchez a solo show at her gallery. That exhibition, “Heróicas Eróticas en Nueva York,” opened in early 2014.

A lot has happened in the two years since. In late 2014, the U.S. and Cuba made moves to restore diplomatic ties, frozen since 1961. The two countries have opened embassies and restored commercial flight routes. A couple of months ago, President Obama visited Cuba, attended a baseball game with President Raúl Castro, and, in a public address, called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo. And not long after, with almost as much fanfare, the Rolling Stones played a historic concert in Havana.

It’s clear that America and its allies are suddenly quite fascinated by all things Cuba. And nowhere is that more true than in the art world. Last spring, the Bronx Museum of the Arts presented “Cuba Libre!,” a selection of works from an array of contemporary Cuban artists. This winter, New York’s David Zwirner gallery showed “Concrete Cuba,” an exhibition of pre-revolutionary art. And this month, Sánchez, now three months shy of her 90th birthday, is back at Galerie Lelong.

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Amelia Peláez, Bandeja con Frutas (Sandía), 1941

Photo: © Amelia Pelaez Foundation / Courtesy of Tresart, Miami

This time, she’s in good company. Earlier this week, the gallery quietly opened “Constructivist Dialogues in the Cuban Vanguard,” a group show that exhibits Sánchez’s paintings alongside work by two of her countrywomen, the late Amelia Peláez and the late Loló Soldevilla. (I say “quietly” because the opening reception, which Sánchez is slated to attend, is this Thursday.) “The gallery was interested in contextualizing Sánchez’s work in the history of Cuban art,” the scholar and curator Ingrid W. Elliott, who helped organize the show, told me when I dropped by a few days ago. “If you ask Zilia about Cuban art, she talks about the admiration she has for Amalea Peláez and Loló Soldevilla. They were important female role models.”

The three artists all had solo exhibitions at the Lyceum and Lawn Tennis Club in Havana, a now-defunct but onetime-influential art and social venue, but they belong to three distinct movements in Cuban art. Elliott and Sabbatino designed their exhibition to highlight the points of connection: All three artists, Elliott explains, were interested in light and in architecture. And all three, though engaged at various levels in abstraction, “really insist on a connection between the art object and the world.”

All three were also captivated by lunar shapes, though the moon takes very different forms in each woman’s work. Peláez, born in 1896, was a member of the second generation of the Cuban avant-garde, a movement intent, Elliott explains, on marrying Parisian modernism with authentic national subjects. For Peláez, that meant architectural motifs, particularly the mediopunto, a half-moon, stained-glass window typical in Spanish colonial architecture. In the works on display, vibrantly colorful, Cubist-style domestic scenes bear the artist’s signature thick black arabesque. Mediopuntos abound. Case in point: “Naturaleza Muerta,” in which a large, carnival-color half of stained glass hovers ominously over a mess of dead foliage tumbling toward the painting’s foreground.

Soldevilla, born five years later but an artistic late-bloomer, served as cultural attaché to Cuba’s European delegation in Paris in the late 1940s and early ’50s. She helped bring geometric abstraction back to Cuba, and her own work is mostly monochromatic and minimalist: simple collages, freestanding sculptures, and thinly painted wooden reliefs, often incorporating circle motifs. One oil painting, Carta Celestial: Noches en el Cosmo, reveals a dark circle streaked with light, hovering, moonlike, against a white background. In the foreground, another circle floats by, like an errant planet on the move.

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Loló Soldevilla, Carta Celestial: Noches en el Cosmos, 1958

Photo: Fernanda Torcida / © Loló Soldevilla / Courtesy of Pan American Art Projects, Miami

Across the room, Sánchez, born in 1926, offers a very different take on the theme. Aside from a few early pieces, Sánchez’s work consists of wonderfully three-dimensional paintings, which she creates by stretching canvases over wooden armatures. There’s something primordial and erotic about the shapes, an electric energy diffused by their cool color palettes. In Lunar con Tatuaje, a pair of large-scale, half-circle canvases are painted in concentric rings of white, blue, and pale peach, the matte, clean surface of the paint marred by an erratic tangle of marker lines, arrows, and circles. The two paintings meet in the middle to create a mound, protruding out into the room like a gigantic breast. There are many variations on that theme. In Lunar Negro con Tatuaje, three low-profile mounds poke out from the surface, connected with white markings like astrological diagrams. In Lunar V, the two sides of another massive peak don’t quite line up, the halves reaching for each other like a pair of white-gloved hands attempting to clasp.

Why moons? Elliott reminds me that the nexus of the show is Havana in the 1950s, a moment when the space race dominated the popular imagination. Any further interpretation is pure speculation, but it strikes me that it’s a wonderful symbol for an exhibition that brings together three artists who frequently found themselves working far from home. It’s the same moon, as they say, no matter where on earth you’re standing.

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Zilia Sánchez, Lunar con Tatuaje, c. 1968/96

Photo: © Zilia Sánchez / Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York

 

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