The symbiosis between art and fashion was never more evident than at the Longhouse Reserve Summer Benefit held at 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton on July 20, 2019-one of the hottest days in years. The Reserve is a sprawling 16-acre property that owner Jack Larsen has turned into a space that houses collections, gardens, sculptures, and programs which will eventually be turned into a museum. Tonight, we were greeted by pink rose petals that adorned the walkway and legendary photographer Patrick McMullan who photographed the arriving guests with a contagious enthusiasm.
By: Lieba Nesis
Jon Marder, who expertly ran the event, ensured there was a seamless progression from one space to the next as guests had the opportunity to fraternize by the art in the front or hang out on couches in the back. Marder is the best kept secret in New York due to his unassuming manner, and he performs his job with an effortless professionalism. His recent birthday party, held at Susan Gutfreund’s mansion, had socialites from Paris and Germany flying in to celebrate this elegant gentleman. Marder handed out rose colored glasses to the 500-person sold-out crowd. Tickets which started at $1,250 ran out quickly; excited guests arrived at 6 PM to pay homage to illustrious honorees Donna Karan and Julian Schnabel.
It was no surprise that these two luminaries brought the best and brightest in fashion and art with Robert Wilson and Ross Bleckner colliding with Zac Posen and Fern Mallis. Surprisingly, designer Posen came ,not for Karan, but for his great friend Schnabel since Posen’s father was a painter and he grew up hanging out in Julian’s studio. Even the impossibly elegant Posen was sweating as he discussed his excitement at being asked to design the costumes for the New York City Ballet Gala in September. Posen’s structurally masterful gowns are indicative of his artistic upbringing and I am looking forward to his upcoming collection which will be arriving soon.
As the guests streamed in, attendees were confounded as Schnabel and Karan were nowhere to be found. Finally, Schnabel appeared hiding behind his masterful white sculpture as he dodged photographers with his three sons Vito, Olmo, and Cy in tow. An hour later, Schnabel, who abandoned his typical pajama attire for a more “formal” denim shirt, acquiesced to picture taking with his striking girlfriend Louise Kugelberg in tow. “Where was Karan?” I inquired, “Oh she is always late,” a friend responded.
At approximately 7:30 PM Karan came waltzing in wearing a silk ensemble that had the signature Karan draping and styling that she revolutionized in the 90’s. As guests excitedly ran over to congratulate her we were asked to head to the tent nearby as it was getting close to 8 PM where the dinner of halibut and steak with a vegan and gluten free option was being served. The meal began with the necessary acknowledgements before artist Ross Bleckner introduced his high school friend Karan praising her philanthropic efforts with “7th on Sale” and her Urban Zen empire which has trained 900 clinicians to administer western medicine and eastern holistic care for sick patients. Bleckner joked that Karan was focused in her own “elliptical way.”
Karan arrived on stage and spoke with an honesty that left attendees in “shock and awe.” She joked about failing “typing” and “draping” in school and how she had wanted to be an artist and singer but wasn’t good enough to do either. Karan, 70, went on a lengthy exposition on the importance of health care and how concerned she was that patients didn’t have adequate advocacy in the current system. She said her memory had diminished with increasing age and she was concerned that others have appropriate caregivers as they battle health issues. Karan’s other philanthropic focuses include the preservation of cultures of the past and education for future generations while she acknowledged that the inner soul was of paramount importance. Karan exited the stage to enthusiastic applause and attendees were shown an expertly crafted video documenting her tremendous success as a designer who has won more than six CFDA awards.
As guests fanned themselves to ease the scorching heat, artist Laurie Anderson (wife of rocker Lou Reed) introduced Schnabel with the caveat that she needed some help since she was notified her speech was to be three minutes. She recalled Schnabel’s kindness as she watched him care for his parents assiduously and praised Schnabel’s art for being “perfect, breathtaking and completely free”. Anderson asked one side of the audience to utter “a griffin and a fez” and the other to declare “what is ecstasy”-the significance of which I am still unsure of. We were then treated to the tunes of award-winning composer and vocalist Benjamin Clementine whose piano work was inspirational as he caressed the keys with a surprising ease. Schnabel, referred to Clementine as a second son, and said he was duly impressed by the collection of art Larsen had assembled on the property. Schnabel then asked Clementine to sing his hit “Cornerstone” and concluded his one minute speech by saying he would like to thank everyone who means something to him as he looks out into the audience.
If brevity is the soul of wit then Schabel is the cleverest artist of all time. As guests headed to the Pavillion to enjoy Laurie Anderson’s performance and sample desserts by “Carissa” I headed to my uber nearly tripping on the open grates as my heel got caught in the dark abyss of the Reserve-a scary conclusion to an exceptional evening.