KIPS BAY 2011: ART OBSESSED

Any collector-- budding, seasoned or wannabe --will have something to say about the art in this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House.  The designers made bold and educated choices that ranged from intriguing to downright scary.  Visitors touring the house, which is open through May 26, will be treated to works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Fernando Botero and Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

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Aurélien Gallet's fumoir-styled gentleman's lounge features an untitled and violently child-like Jean-Michel Basqiat piece.  It is particularly striking against the dark visual atmosphere of the room and tricks the viewer into thinking that it is a bright, optimistic piece that contrasts with the overall theme. Upon closer inspection, however, it is dark in imagery and even slightly disturbing.  It provides a coherence to the thoughtfully styled room, meant to be a retreat for drinking and playing cards.

Robert Stilin's loungey space on the fourth floor is a contemporary collector's playland.  All of the pieces featured are from Gagosian Gallery, that haven of modern art that has represented heavy hitters on both coasts.  The walls groovily offer Richard Prince, Damien Hirst and Alec Soth as one imagine passing back and forth between this room and Brad Ford's, swapping vintage LPs along the way.

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One of the most striking statements, partially because of the workout on the eyes as the room contrasts between black and gold, is the Rauber + Rauber staircase.  Janet and Carolina Rauber took what was a forgotten and secluded staircase and turned it into a grand portal.  Inspired by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, the sisters created a dramatic and grandiose space that takes the breath away upon entry.

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Of all of the significant pieces shown, the one that has stuck with me is one of Fernando Botero's many renditions of Mona Lisa, which I recently described to Jodi Jenkins as "delightfully grotesque."  I'm literally dreaming about this piece magically showing up on my doorstep as Jodi and I start to work on my library.  The piece is in Richard Mishaan's room, which glows from the collector's zeal.  Mishaan proudly refers to himself as an "Art-holic", which he proves in the way he fashioned his room around the pieces he selected.  On one wall hangs four works from Damien Hirst's famed "Superstition Series", and on another, Mishaan has hung some of his own handiwork, created especially for the room.

There are two days remaining to peruse the Kips Bay Showhouse. Proceeds go to the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, which provides vital after-school programming and personal development opportunities for New York's youth.