I traditionally skip Milan Fashion Week. It’s a luxury to be able to do that, and I haven’t been able to do it every season. (Remember the time that super stylist Katie Grand convinced me to come with her for a 24 hour drunken rave in a garden that was once owned by Leonardo da Vinci
?) But it’s just so nice to come home from London for those few days, take a few spin classes, have some green juice, and then show up in Paris rested and relaxed – when everyone else I had left in London looks haggard and annoyed. Fashion!
But this season, I did something different. I accepted an invitation from the artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich to come to Moscow for the Biennale there. I figured, eh, I’m already in London and it’s not that far, so why not? And I was glad I did.
The first night I was there was when I was due to meet up with Fyodor. He was at the Artists’ Zoo, which was, literally, a zoo of artists in cages doing their own performance pieces. What was Fyodor doing? I found him in the basement, in his cage, completely naked with his head through a window and a nurse giving specific instructions to participants to put things (food, a whistle, etc) into his mouth. It was a project he had done with the Solyanke State Gallery, where Marina Abramovic is the patron. There was another artist singing traditional Russian songs while wearing nothing by a facemask made popular by Pussy Riot and standing on glass. Another artist turned a giant clock every minute, and did nothing else. They were each in their cages for four hours for seven days. Fyodor went another step and wore a lamb’s mask the other 20 hours of the day, even to bed and in the shower, for the entire week.
The Biennale itself was held in a building that centuries ago held the horse shows. We had a VIP tour of the show, which meant that many of the works were not set up yet, and none of them had ID’s on them. Which was mildly frustrating, but then we’re in Russia, a country steeped in old world traditions that is only now embracing the contemporary art market.
Song Dong’s large-scale piece of all the things his mother had hoarded in Communistic China was particularly powerful to me. And not just because I think my father is a hoarder. It brought to an artistic light the cultural disparities between the China I see today in luxury advertisements and the China before, which would keep broken terracotta plant holders and reupholster ribbed chairs with old jeans, because that’s all they could find. I was also amused by Peter Belyi’s work, which looked like a slide full of shit that was poring out of the Kremlin (insert all political commentaries here) and down the stairs. Alan Michelson did a video work of a merry go round, which made me smile. And I jotted down the name Aslan Gaisumov, a 22-year-old Chechyien artist that I think had some strong works and a promising future. But my favorite work was from the Iranian artist Farideh Lashai. It was called ‘When I count there is only you but when I look there is only a shadow.’ It was work that involved small postcards and a projected video that brought the work to light in small segments.
In the midst of all my art-ing, I did manage to find some time to get my tourism on. Without a doubt, the most memorable was sneaking backstage at the Bolshoi Ballet company, which only recently opened after a six year refurbishment to its pre-Soviet splendor, and watching the dancers warm up. They were like rubber people. I also roamed around Red Square to post some comically satirical comments on the anti-homophobic policies currently being passed in the Russian government on my Instagram account. (How can a country with such flamboyant buildings and male politicians who go topless and wear fur coats be so homophobic?) And we took a tour of the kremlin. Something that was truly memorable was the Soviet era propaganda statues in the Moscow metro. There were soldiers holding babies and milk maids holding guns – and everyone was gorgeous. It was like Bruce Weber had cast the statues in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.
Just to chime in here: I am not one to make political commentaries. Like Andy Warhol, who was an artist who chose to speak on things other than politics, I’ve never been one to shove my political views down the throats of others. I’m not Tilda Swinton, who actually did that recently, when she went to Red Square to wave a rainbow flag. Though, I will admit that I was at first hesitant about going to a country that was so close minded. But then, as Fyodor explained, to not come to a country where there are gay artists living and working, would be to deprive them of their own outlet. So I went. I am proud I did. Even if I think these policies are morally backward and a complete embarrassment.
I spent an afternoon in the Tretyakov Gallery’s contemporary art space, which was filled with some Russian artists that I had never, ever heard of before. I find contemporary art to be a novel subject in Russia because, well, it’s a new idea. For so long, art in Russia was only considered Old Masters. Maybe a Picasso. Certain experimental ideas never made it behind the Iron Curtain and only now are finding their niche in the market. More on this later, when I talk about my friend Dasha Zhukova and her Garage, Center for Contemporary Culture. Two pieces caught my eye at the Tretyakov Gallery: Marc Chagall’s Over the Town (1918) and Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915). The latter was one of my favorites, and had apparently created a sensation in the Russian art world because of it’s simple, minimalist aesthetic.
Now, on to Dasha, who you may remember from a certain profile I did of her in last year’s Harper’s Bazaar, appropriately called Queen of the Art Scene. I admire her and her Garage for helping foster a relationship between new Russia and the contemporary art market. This week, she opened a show for the American conceptual artist John Baldassari called 1 + 1 = 1. It was his commentary on the commentary of other masters. (You can read more about the exhibition on The Garage’s website) But what I found more impressive than the show itself was the reception it received. The place was packed with young, eager, fabulous young people ready to soak up, well, art. The art world. The Garage’s contemporary space is a Shigeru Ban-designed pavilion, which the at organization is using until their permanent space, which will be designed by Rem Koolhaus, is completed. They’re located in Moscow’s Gorky Park, which would be like someone in New York opening a new contemporary art space in Central Park. To say I’m impressed and excited for Dasha is an understatement.
On my last night in Moscow, I had dinner at a collector’s house to see how excited Russian’s cultural elite is about contemporary art. The house was fantastic: a Richter in the office, two early John Currin’s in the bedroom, and so forth. And following dinner, Fyodor took us to the apartment of the performance artist German Vinogradov. It was not what I expected. It was in a rough part of town and up a filthy walkup tenement. He opened the door and the first thing I noticed were feral cats, and the second thing I noticed was an unpleasant stench. I asked the artist where he slept, and he told me where we were sitting. In the room there were tubes and metal plates and a chandelier made of a child’s bicycle wheel. But it was one of those moments when you tell yourself to just embrace the unfamiliar. And I’m glad I did. (I also had to embrace the unsafe since one of the features of his ‘noise performance’ was the sound that lit blowtorches make when they’re shoved into plastic tubes.) His performance was unconventional, but it was divine. He used water drops and firecrackers and he hit hollow tubes and knocked crystals against wind chimes. It was not what I had signed up for, but it made me feel happy. And, for me, that’s what good art does.
Captions, from top: Russian art, personified: Alberto Giacometti and Vladimir Lenin, at a private residence; John Baldassari and Dasha Zhukova at the Garage; a Baldassari work at the Garage; the exterior of the Bolshoi Ballet; me in the Tsar’s Box at the ballet; a dancer warming up at the Bolshoi; the Mondrian exhibit at the Tretyakov gallery; Fyodor at dinner, trying to eat through his mask; the Garage’s director Anton outside their temporary space; a kitty; the golden onion domes inside the Kremlin; Song Dong’s work at the Biennale; an Alex Schweder work at the Solyanke State Gallery; the archives in the Garage office; the darkened scene at German Vinogradov performance; Red Square at night; Olya, Mira and Vika at the Garage; the Kabakov’s The Ship of Tolerance; art in the Moscow underground; a view of the interior of the Bolshoi; me in the metro; the exterior of the Kremlin; a handsome Soviet statue in the metro; rubbing the lucky rooster in the metro
‘Twas a dream come true: For the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar, I was assigned a story on my supermodel fantasy, Linda Evangelista. Few models have inspired and conspired like she has. And she did not disappoint. When we met she was in head-to-toe Lanvin. She was fiesty. She was fierce. She was everything I wanted and more.
“Linda does not do social media.” The Linda in question, the one talking about herself in the third person, is Linda Evangelista, the monumental ’90s supermodel and fashion-industry rabble-rouser. It’s a rainy day and we’re sipping coffee in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, a few blocks from the penthouse apartment she bought more than a decade ago, debating the pros and cons of the Internet. The pros? “You know when an airline loses your luggage? That’s when I wish I had Twitter,” she says, flashing that high-fashion smile.
The cons, of course, involve things that come up when one Googles oneself. “If I’m ever feeling real good about myself, all I have to do is go online and read a blog or two, and it brings me right back.” Indeed, the life of Linda Evangelista provides colorful search results. She was a small-town Canadian girl who moved to New York in the ’80s and, along with cohorts Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington, became one of the world’s most sought-after supermodels. She filled fashion magazines with glamour and tabloids with drama. She was a diva. She changed her hair color 17 times in five years. She married Gérald Marie, the head of her Paris agency, at the age of 22, then left him for (and almost married) the actor Kyle MacLachlan. In 2006, she had a son, Augustin James, but refused to name the father. (It was later revealed to be the French businessman François-Henri Pinault.) Most recently, she dated Hard Rock Cafe cofounder Peter Morton before splitting with him this past spring.
Evangelista, 48, became known for being the industry’s best in front of the camera and the industry’s worst away from it. In 2001, she was sued by her former agency Wilhelmina for defrauding it of commissions before the agency dropped the case. Not that bad press mattered. She was still booked solid. That’s what led to the infamous quote that pops up with any Internet search of her name: “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day,” a reference to her fellow supes, and one that she hasn’t been able to live down since. And last year, when she took Pinault to Family Court in Manhattan to sue him for child support, the media (myself included) reviewed her court ensembles as if it were a fashion show.
What Evangelista finds most appealing about social media is the idea of speaking directly to those fashion fans who grew up idolizing her. “Maybe I should start a blog,” she says. “You control it. You can correct things that are said about you. That’s the first thing I’d do.” Like, for instance, the details that were reported in her child-support case—that she allegedly sued Pinault for $46,000 a month, though her lawyer insisted she was not seeking a specific amount of money, and she eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. Evangelista says she was surprised at all the attention, since the headline-making behavior recalled a former version of herself. “Motherhood is my whole life now,” she explains. “It’s the best. I am so fulfilled.” The week before we met, she spent a month vacationing with her family in Canada, at a house she rented in Muskoka Lakes. “This place was the furthest you can be from five-star. It was basically one step up from camping.”
The notion of Evangelista as a mother hen on float trips is hard to reconcile with her haute couture alter ego, a dichotomy she readily acknowledges. “There are lots of things you don’t know about me,” she says. “I do needlepoint, I do crochet, I cake-decorate.” She says she’s a proficient chef and a barista, and can play a mean accordion, a skill she acquired growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario. (“I have two in my apartment, but they have dust on them. It’s more of a winter thing.”)
When she’s not working, days that used to be spent shopping, sleeping, and on the beach at her house in St.-Tropez are now filled with crafting, specifically macramé, and playdates. And while Evangelista refuses to speak about her son, whom she calls Augie, a few bons mots slip out. “Let’s just say I have a child who doesn’t like fashion. He wants jerseys. We watch sports and go to games. I do boy things now.” As for dating, since splitting with Morton, she’s single, not dating, and happy about it. “I look at it this way: I have been so lucky in love,” she says, adding with a cryptic smile, “Except for two times.”
Yet even with her various hiatuses from the spotlight, Evangelista is as super as ever. She was featured on the cover of Italian Vogue‘s “25 Years of Fashion” special issue this past summer, and recently starred in campaigns for Chanel Eyewear, Hogan, and Talbots. And the supermodel’s appreciation for her three-decade-and-counting career has grown over time. The images she created with photographers like Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh, and Norman Parkinson (not to mention her iconicBazaar covers) have become part of fashion history. “I knew they were legendary, but I didn’t know how relevant their work would become. Now I’m like, ‘Linda, you fucking idiot!’ I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and I regret that.” Francesco Scavullo was another master, and one of the few who got her to undress in front of the camera. “He said I had to do a nude with him, and I finally said, ‘Fine, but you’re cropping it. You can’t go past my chest, and I’m turning my back.’ That was my nude. It’s beautiful.” She remembers when makeup artists and hair stylists didn’t have teams of assistants, when the backstage cabine was the size of an airplane bathroom, and admits to being nostalgic for that era. “It was more personal. It had more energy.”
Evangelista says that in pre-digital-camera days, she felt she was creating art with photographers, which isn’t always the case now: “These young whippersnappers have brilliant eyes and ideas, but they’re not old-school enough for me.” She misses the great technicians who didn’t rely on computer wizardry. “When we were satisfied with how our Polaroids looked and we moved to film, those pictures did not need retouching. Now everything is [done in postproduction]. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see wrinkles in the clothes or streaks in my makeup or a glob of mascara on my eyelashes, and it pisses me off!”
Talk about intimidating: Can you imagine doing Linda Evangelista’s makeup? It would belike playing the piano for Mozart. “Sometimes I just say to a makeup artist, ‘Listen, I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, but you’re doing my makeup and it’s going to be all right.’ Sometimes they do things like, when they get to my mouth, they hand me the lip pencil. And I say, ‘Oh, no, you do it. Just give it a shot.’ “
Evangelista is quick to crack a joke, which raises the question: Could the model the industry loved to paint as bitchy and cynical actually be playful with a killer sense of humor? “I don’t know,” she says. “I’m just too honest. I say what other people wouldn’t. I like to be tongue-in-cheek.” Her nasal, winging voice, immortalized in Isaac Mizrahi’s 1995 documentary, Unzipped, when she moaned backstage at a fashion show about always being stuck with flat shoes while Naomi got the heels, now lets loose with punch lines and double entendres. I tell her that Karl Lagerfeld calls her “the best.” “The best what?” she snaps back. “The best complainer?” And she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself. “Want to know what I’m doing when I’m not working? Therapy—individual, group, all of it.”
Still, few can boast the kind of fiercely loyal cadre of friends that Evangelista has built for herself. Famed photographer Steven Meisel is one of her closest confidants. So is Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, the French stylist who Evangelista says “acts like a mom to me. She is very protective, caring, nurturing. And she yells at me!” And the hairstylist Garren, who was largely responsible for her colorful crops and fluorescent bobs through the 1990s, Evangelista calls a big brother.
Earlier this year, too, it was revealed that she was the only one of John Galliano’s famous friends who visited the designer in rehab following his 2011 dismissal from Dior. “I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and I suspected he wasn’t well,” she recalls. “When I was brought up-to-date on the situation, I asked, ‘So, who’s going to see him?’ and they said no one. I booked a ticket and spent the day with him, and then went right back to the airport. I didn’t want him to be alone.” She didn’t tell anyone; Galliano was the one who spilled the beans. “I’ve always been there,” she adds. “If you speak to people in this business who’ve known me for 30 years, they’ll tell you. All the stuff that is said about my ways and my personality is far more interesting than the truth.”
Her friendship with Galliano aside, Evan gelista refuses to be pinned down when asked to pick a favorite designer, even when I point out that she’s wearing head-to-toe Céline. “No! It’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child!” She does say that she’s adamant about supporting American labels. And she reveals a recent go-to: the Row, the line by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Evangelista says she was at Barneys and a sales associate was pushing a leather skirt on her, and she asked who the designer was. “I said, ‘Those two little girls? I’m not trying it on.’ But she put it in my dressing room and I put it on, and it became my favorite skirt.” She calls the Row a reliable label now. “I think those girls were put on this planet to be designers, not actresses. I really respect them now. I didn’t want to, but I do.”
To hear Evangelista talk about fashion is to listen to a woman describe her first true love. “I still crave fashion. I still love fashion. I mean, I’ve traveled the world to work in studios. Nobody put me in bathing suits on a beach.” She wasn’t the sexpot; she was the supermodel we wanted to dress up and project our fashion fantasies on. But when I mention the S-word, she says, “I don’t even know what that means anymore. Is that era over? Who is a supermodel now? Is everyone? Is no one?” She squints her eyes and smiles. “You can call me whatever you want to call me. All I know is this: I’m still here.”
above photo by Derek Blasberg, all others by Terry Richardson for Harper’s Bazaar