Urbane essays from a noted fashion, art, and culture critic.
As editor-in-chief of Artforum and Interview magazine and contributor to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, Sischy (1952-2015) was immersed in the worlds of art and fashion from the 1980s until her death. Warmly introduced by artist and musician Laurie Anderson, these smart, stylish, and perceptive essays, selected by Sischy’s wife, Brant, impressively display the range of her interests and talents. Praising painter Alice Neel for deciding to “represent the powerful instead of the powerless” as subjects, Sischy wrote that Neel “seems to have been born to paint this world, a world in which she had one foot in and one foot out.” Sischy also observed art and fashion with clarity and a certain detachment, and she respected individuals who did not flaunt their celebrity: Miuccia Prada, for example, who brings to her designs “consciousness of the history of beauty” and yet is not “fooling herself with pronouncements that she will revolutionize fashion with her latest move.” Nicole Kidman, the subject of a Vanity Fair profile, struck Sischy as modest, sincere, dependable, “a person who doesn’t let others down” and “hasn’t undergone the kind of narcissistic transformation that can turn extremely famous people into absolute bores or unbearable phonies.” Sischy seemed drawn, as well, to the vulnerable: photographer Bob Richardson, whose struggle with drugs and alcohol led to homelessness; Calvin Klein, whose retirement from fashion precipitated a substance abuse relapse; Jeff Koons, who “can be as hot-blooded as Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire”; John Galliano, “a highly functioning addict, relying on an almost lethal mix of alcohol and pills to stay on top of his game”; and Keith Haring, feverishly ambitious, who died of AIDS at 31. Sischy was also sensitive to “vicissitudes of taste” that affected artists’ reputations. “The notion that art speaks for itself is appealing but unrealistic,” she wrote in an essay about 19th-century photographer Clementina, Lady Hawarden, largely ignored during her lifetime.
A shrewd eye investigating worlds too often dominated by hype.