By Geoffrey Bradfield
This year is already an erratic ride. We’ve been ducking and dodging the scythe on the New York Stock Exchange… and, I guess, not always negative for every “high-roller”…as dynastic John D. Rockefeller said way back when, “The way to make money is when blood is running in the streets.” Obviously, hedge fund manager Scott A. Bommer is unaware of this economic discontent having just sprung for an unheard of $46 million purchase of a duplex at 1060 Fifth Avenue, breaking all records for a co-op. Rather an enviable nest!
It’s our winter, and as Forbes is wont to declare, Palm Beach, during its three-month Season, remains per capita the wealthiest place on Earth, while Aspen and its roster of movie celebs comes in a close second. This East Coast ‘bastion of wealth’ appears to be equally oblivious of storm clouds, as evidenced at the Vernissage for the International Fine Art & Antique Fair. With her inimitable style, Audrey Gruss chaired this very successful event, a high-point of the social calendar. Van Cleef & Arpels sponsored the extravagant evening and had everyone, including the likes of Nancy Corzine, agog at their $1.8 million invisible cut emerald and diamond necklace. There were bigger precious baubles on display and more obscene prices, but this exquisite setting is unique and unrivaled. Strolling the lavish aisles were Stephanie Seymour, The Llwyd Ecclestones, and The Wilber Rosses. Not only a promenade of “Who’s Who,” major sales were brisk on opening night, as Galerie Terminus of Munich sold The Perplexed Magistrate (just love the title) by Frank Stella, an aluminum sculpture with a price tag just shy of half a million. Royal Athena Galleries of New York parted with an Egyptian bronze cat, 750-525 BC, for $485,000, and so forth. Antiquities in general seem to be enjoying a healthy resurgence…even though our revered museums and institutions are being raided and once esteemed benefactors in this field draw social curtains and lie low.
The well-heeled Palm Beach pack reconvened the following evening at Lars Bolander’s stylish new digs, a drinks party promoting the London Olympia Fair in June. Ann Dexter-Jones, Regine Traulsen, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Bob Nederlander, and Pat Cook were seen touring the new double volume Palazzo. Unfortunately I had to leave early, returning to New York for meetings.
Yet another stolen painting resurfaced in New York, this time a 1981 Andy Warhol Dollar Sign. The current owner, Mr. Beltrez, claims that he had bought it at a New Jersey flea market for $180 (current value, as per Christie’s, is $4 million). The city has felt it necessary to investigate his story further. Like the stolen Warhol, we’ll wait to see what else surfaces.
With art becoming more and more of an established commodity, it becomes an ever-bigger temptation. Take the spectacular $164 million heist in Switzerland for expample. One of the biggest robberies in Europe, masked men in black clothing and Slavic accents dodged elaborate security and hand-picked a Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Monet. This mega-cache has someone in the black market rubbing itching hands together.
Fortunately, the contemporary London sales continue to be strong. A “tortured” Francis Bacon work, Triptych 1974-1977, is selling to an undisclosed buyer for $46.1 million dollars. A good omen, we hope, for the New York sales that are brewing-amazing caliber of inventory, if the advance catalogues are anything to go by.
The constellations aligned on Super Tuesday, putting every major event on the same day. Trying to juggle a schedule took some fancy footwork, voting in the morning, then a euphoric downpour of falling paper-a ticker tape parade honoring our New York Giants’ magnificent victory over the Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl. With Fashion Week in full swing, I managed to run a bloody gauntlet through the PETA activists (not for the faint of heart) on my way to Dennis Basso’s lavish fur show at the tents in Bryant Park. The collection is exuberant-a mirror image of Basso’s infectious personality. Faces in the front rows included Brooke Shields, Tinsley Mortimer, Carol Alt, Andre Leon Tally, Candace Bushnell, Debbie Bancroft, and Lorraine Bracco. The glamour gals love Dennis!
In the evening Tory Burch showed her meteoric new collection at Christie’s against a backdrop of brilliant orange poppies-bowers of them-her signature flower. It was packed with the “ultra chic” including Angie Harmon, Aerin Lauder, Blaine Trump, Nina Garcia of Elle and Project Runway fame, Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo, and Vogue’s Hamish Bowles. I went on from there to La Grenouille for supper, where the crimson banquettes in the front room boasted a roster of regulars in this favorite commissary: Lee Radizwell, Barbara Taylor Bradford and former British ambassador Sir David Manning, and Coca-Cola heir Alex Hitz entertaining at the center table.
Later in the month, I returned from a three-day business trip to Mexico City, twice having survived harrowing flight issues mere feet above the landing strip. I would rather fall on a sword than experience one more aborted landing. (What is wrong with these pilots? Don’t they have manuals?) However, there are always compensations which offset these endured rigors: a civilized luncheon with a client and his wife on their ranch, sharing a magnum of 1989 Pétrus between four people. It’s amazing how easy it is to imbibe $9,000 of nectar over a languid lunch. What total indulgence…
As we navigate the financial uncertainties hurled in our path and the world markets react to our every hiccup, let’s not forget a latter generation Nelson Rockefeller’s positive maxim: “America is not just a power, it is a promise.” Something to keep in mind before we combust.