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Photo by Gregg Delman

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The Art of Living

By Phebe Wahl

Photography by Ryan Bevans, Gregg Delman, Annie Leibovitz, Raymond Meier, Brandon Schulman and Astrid Stawiarz

11.27.18

Innovators. Disruptors. Out-of-the-box thinkers. It’s the energy on which this city was built, and these seven creatives are setting the tone—and changing the conversation of how the world views art today and beyond.

 THE ADVOCATES
Isolde Brielmaier & Bettina Prentice

Sharing a deep reverence for the artistic process, two art world arbiters advise that making your mark is more about integrity than Insta-fame.

“New York will always be the center of the art world, but as the documentary The Price of Everything illustrates, it is too much about commodity here,” says Prentice Cultural founder Bettina Prentice “Let’s support the smaller institutions around the country that are presenting art that reflects more urgent ideas,” she continues, citing the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York as such an organization that she and frequent collaborator Isolde Brielmaier support. “New York has always been a place where people, particularly creative people, from all over the world come to work hard, pay their dues, commit deeply and realize their dreams,” says Brielmaier. “It is gritty and hard. What drives so many is the feeling that anything is possible and that we are all in this together.” Up next for the powerhouse pair? “Peninsula Hotels is launching an ambitious, immersive global art program in 2019, and Isolde and I are co-curators,” says Prentice. “The first year alone will take us to Hong Kong, Paris and New York, and the most exciting thing about what the Peninsula is doing is that they are commissioning new work by midcareer artists and not focusing on name-brand artists. They are really helping artists expand their practice and drive a cultural conversation.”

THE STYLESETTER
Dr. Joyce Brown

Brown schools the next generation of creatives.

“I grew up with three-way mirrors and mannequins in the corner of the room, pins on the floor, sewing machines, spools of colorful threads, and closets filled with swatches of gorgeous textiles, laces, appliques and patterns,” shares Dr. Joyce Brown, president of Fashion Institute of Technology. Because she grew up in a family full of seamstresses, fashion was always a part of her DNA. This year, FIT celebrates its 75th anniversary; The Museum at FIT will commemorate its 50th anniversary with a retrospective exhibition; and in May, the school will break ground on its first new academic building in 40 years. “When FIT first opened, it offered only two programs—one in fashion design and the other in production management. Today, the word ‘fashion’ evokes far more than just garments and factory floors—it encompasses what I think of as the entire realm of lifestyle,” says Brown, who has added 15 new degree programs during her tenure. Today, offerings range from an MPS in cosmetics and fragrance marketing to an MFA in fashion design and innovative technologies including AR and VR and 3D printing. “The buzz at FIT is all about innovation and unconventional thinking,” says Dr. Brown. Sounds like the future of fashion is looking good.
 

Photo by Ryan Bevans

 THE PROVOCATEUR
Shantell Martin

Martin draws a direct line between art and the cultural consciousness.

Hot on the heels of her three-month residency at 92nd Street Y, artist Shantell Martin is not resting on her laurels. The London-born, NYC-based multimedia artist has collaborated with everyone from big brands like Puma and Tiffany to Kendrick Lamar (for a 75-minute performance during Art Basel in Miami). Martin first began her meditative line art when drawing live in Japan. “Essentially, each time I drew, I was extracting some of my truest visual self—now, when you repeat this and repeat this and repeat this, you can see what those recurring elements [words, characters, lines] are that are naturally in you, that build up your style, your fingerprint, your identity as an artist,” she shares. For her performance at 92nd Street Y, Martin’s work centered on her title, Why Now, through a large-scale line drawing and a live spoken-word performance last month. “For me, the process and the doing are a huge part of the work, and I’ve paid close attention to this to be able to really break down the simultaneously spontaneous and yet algorithmic process of my work,” says Martin. Up next? Tune into Martin’s recently launched vlog, sure to be a feast for the eyes.

THE DISRUPTOR
Nathaniel Kahn

The director zooms in for an art market analysis.

“We wanted to explore the way the intense commodification of contemporary art reveals who we are as a culture at this moment in time, and we wanted to explore how different artists were dealing with this intense environment,” explains director Nathaniel Kahn of his latest film, The Price of Everything, that is the buzz of the Manhattan art world. “We wanted to destabilize the idea that the price of something is the same thing as its value. It’s not the same.” The award-winning filmmaker’s projects include the Academy Award-nominated documentary My Architect, about his father, Louis I. Kahn. “The real value of a work of art is not in how much it costs; it’s in its power to communicate and reach us emotionally,” he says. “It’s up to each of us to decide what art speaks for us. Don’t let the market decide—let your eyes and hearts decide. Markets rise and fall, but art outlasts all that. In the end, it’s the art that matters; it’s the art that lasts.”

Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Refinery29

 THE MAVERICK
Piera Gelardi

The 29Rooms founder is breaking down walls.

“I grew up in a very creative, entrepreneurial family, so I started making art really young, observing and creating things with my parents and their friends,” shares Refinery29 and 29Rooms co-founder Piera Gelardi. Originally conceived as a celebration of Refinery29’s 10th anniversary, 29Rooms, an experiential installation, has morphed into much more than a mere marketing moment.
“We wanted 29Rooms to be a space of discovery, but also one where they could create, and it was so inspiring to see people do fashion shoots, make music videos and even take engagement photos,” Gelardi says of the first public installation that kicked off amid the buzz of New York Fashion Week in 2016 and expanded to Los Angeles this month. “I think that for a lot of people, art can feel really inaccessible.” She notes the trend toward more immersive experiences. “We live in such a digitally fueled visual culture that watching and observing are commonplace. We see thousands of images a day and we want more. We want to feel, be shaken out of our day-to-day, to be filled with wonder.” Gelardi shares that there is more wonder to come in 2019 as they expand to the big screen through a partnership with Neon Films. “The next project is Little Woods, a Western told from a women’s perspective, starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James.”

THE BENEFACTOR
Agnes Gund

The patron is redefining the purpose of art.

“My rule for collecting has always been startlingly simple: to acquire works I like,” says collector and patron Agnes Gund, who shares that her first significant purchase was a Henry Moore sculpture (now at the Cleveland Museum of Art). “I have always felt that meaningful art should end up in the public domain,” she continues. “So my collecting has always been intrinsically tied to my philanthropy… I have never thought of art as investment. It is an emotional response, and these works of art are the things that I want surrounding me.”
In fact, it was an emotional response that sparked Gund’s greatest life’s work, the Art for Justice Fund. “I started the Art for Justice Fund because the criminal justice system in its current state—particularly in its treatment of people of color—is unfair and unjust,” she says of her revolutionary initiative that started with her proceeds from the sale of a Roy Lichtenstein painting. “As a grandmother to six African-American children, I have noticed with concern how the world views and treats them differently.” Gund believes in the transformative power of art to humanize those caught up in the system. “There is so much work to do to change the policies, and at the same time, we have to change the culture of how we think about incarceration, who goes to prison and how we make our communities safe,” she says. “I believe that the power of art will help drive that change.”