Artist Chuck Close's Portrait Project with AOL
Wednesday night the rooftop space at New York's New Museum was utterly jam-packed with artists, tech-heads and creative types, including Kate Spade and model Doutzen Kroes, celebrating the 25th anniversary of AOL (Luxist's parent company). Famed artist Chuck Close was commissioned by AOL to create portraits of innovators from the last 25 years. The first phase of this "Project on Creativity" was on display in the rooftop space while model-worthy servers made the rounds with Champagne and truffle mac and cheese on Lucite trays.
Close's literally larger-than-life portraits focused on the faces of Claire Danes, the Dali Lama, inventor Dean Kaman, Close himself and others, all done in the artist's typical documentary style. (The trouble was catching a glimpse of them through the thick crowd.) The photographs (and others yet to be taken) will be used in a campaign for AOL's 25th anniversary year.
How did AOL ever get hooked up with the renowned artist whose work hangs in the MoMA and the collections of many other museums -- and how is Kate Spade involved?
The artist was connected to AOL via Partners & Spade, the creative agency, and nearby gallery, started by Spade's husband Andy Spade and his partner, Anthony Sperduti. Partners & Spade have been behind several innovative branding efforts in the last few years, including J.Crew's Liquor Store in Tribeca, which comes off as more of a boutique than any corporate entity; it doesn't even have a sign.
Close also has another connection to the innovators he captured. Inventor Dean Kamen (below), who invented the Segway, also designed the wheel chair that Close uses to get around (shown above during a shoot with director Gus Van Sant). The wheels stack on top of each other to simulate standing up, allowing Close to be at eye level with those standing.
In addition to the Close project, AOL also commissioned 41 other artists to design works to be used over the year, some of which were on display in the museum's lobby.
As if that wasn't enough, an after party continued down the block at the Bowery Hotel's private rooftop space with a performance by John Legend. Another bursting-at-the-seems event where partygoers got their photos taken, received custom screen-printed t-shirts and enjoyed mini-ice-cream sandwiches and cupcakes under swaying paper lanterns and the night sky.