Kicking the Whitney Museum of American Art’s trend of blending art and fashion up a notch, the museum’s co-chair Adam Lippes last night hosted a laid-back celebration of his collaboration with the institution and online retailer Gilt Groupe.
The elegantly dressed partygoers were feting the July 1 launch of “ADAM for The Whitney Museum of American Art,” a collection of four limited edition T-shirts designed by Whitney-selected artists Matthew Brannon, E.V. Day, Phoebe Washburn and Ellen Harvey. Gilt will donate a portion of shirt sales to the museum, although a representative from the company declined to identify a specific percentage. For his part, Lippes plans to make a set donation regardless of sales. “It’s not a moneymaking initiative,” said the designer.
Jewelry designer Zani Gugelmann, CNN anchor Alina Cho, and fashion writer Derek Blasberg were among the guests admiring the tees, which were individually rolled and tied with a bow at the entrance. The Transom particularly liked E.V. Day’s shirt, which featured an image of a fishnet stocking stretched diagonally across the front, outlined in hot pink spray paint.
Host Adam Lippes mentored the artists—most of whom had never designed clothing before—in translating their ideas into wearable designs. According to Lippes, the project had been in the works for almost a year. Artist Matthew Brannon watched as cocktail waiters navigated the crowds in his design, which features an image of measuring tape across the chest and a graphic red shrimp on the back shoulder. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it,” he told The Transom. “I’m a little surprised to see it’s a man’s shirt.”
It was hard to tell which was the true star of the party—the T-shirts or Adam Lippes’ apartment. “If I lived in an apartment like this, I’d never leave the house,” laughed Whitney trustee Joanne Cassulo, taking in the sunset through the wall-to-wall windows of the West Village penthouse. “It’s why I had to downsize.” Then she tiptoed off to peek at Lippes’ art collection, which included two large works by Dash Snow and a small Eric Fischl painting, the host’s most recent acquisition.
But who knew fashion heavyweights got all dressed up to celebrate dressing down? The unofficial dress code was glam: Vogue editor Meredith Melling Burke donned a floor-length orange gown and Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Roopal Patel wore a long, gray silk number.
The Gilt project is one of several recent Whitney initiatives to blend fine art and fashion. The museum recently announced a partnership with artist Jenny Holzer to design sneakers for Bloomingdale’s as well as a project inviting three M.F.A. students to enact a “live exhibition” inside a Bloomingdale’s shop window.
In 2008, the Whitney partnered with the Gap to produce T-shirts designed by artists featured in the Whitney Biennial. But the Lippes T-shirts, which will sell at ADAM boutiques and the Whitney gift shop after a 36-hour presale on Gilt, will run you a bit more than the $28 Gap charged. The discounted prices range from $48 to $68, while the retail prices are $95 to $125.
Chuckled Whitney PR manager Amy Roth, “I can’t tell you how many artists of senior stature have asked me, ‘Why didn’t you ask me to do a T-shirt?'” But when asked which high-profile artists were itching to break into the design business, Roth demurred. Art-inclined fashionistas will just have to wait for another Whitney T-shirt collaboration to see who makes the cut.