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Pianist Lola Astanova Makes Her Mark

Lola Astanova
Photo © 2013 by Gregory Partanio

Lola Astanova began playing the piano at the age of six. Her mother, a piano teacher, hesitated at first, but her father insisted. The 28-year-old, who was born in Uzbekistan and moved to Houston, Texas, when she was 17, is now considered one of the most exciting pianists in music.

Astanova, who normally practices three hours a day, is as comfortable playing a pop hit as she is a classical masterpiece. (Watch the YouTube clip of her tackling a version of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.”) She appeared with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in January at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall to play Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Wearing a gray dress by Catherine Malandrino and dangerously lofty high heels that somehow failed to slow her feet on the pedals, she riveted the crowd with her signature full-body style and sprinting fingers.

Her upcoming schedule is punctuated by private performances, arts support (she wants to inspire children to be musical) and work on her HD digital series La Musique et L’Ardeur. She will perform George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Palm Beach Symphony on March 28 in Palm Beach. A summer European tour is on the books followed by Australia in the fall. We caught up with Astanova to talk music, fashion and future plans.

Q: Some would describe your artistic style as unconventional.

A: I never really thought about it, but since people try to describe it as that I actually take it as a compliment. This is simply the way I happen to feel this music—I think it’s very dramatic, very passionate and sometimes can be very physical. I don’t think about being theatrical. I would have to actually think about not playing the way I do!

Q: Which of your performances have been particularly memorable?

A: Carnegie Hall [where she played last year for the first time] was a very special night for me. The energy was just amazing. I played a tribute to [Vladimir] Horowitz.

Q: Do you remember what you wore?

A: I do remember. I was wearing two gowns. One was by Roberto Cavalli and the other was by Marc Bouwer. I do love fashion. I experiment with it. I think that fashion goes really well with music; Rachmaninoff goes perfectly with Chanel.

Q: You stayed out of competitions throughout your career. Why?

A: I happen to think that there is more than one way of playing. For me it’s more important to be able to express yourself freely and play the way you feel and not be judged by an artificial set of rules that is irrelevant today. It’s not about academia. It’s not about playing the right notes or following the score exactly. You have to obviously know what’s in the score and the rules, but, if you need to, you also need to be able to break the rules.

Q: What do you strive for when you play?

A: I want to make sure that every concert becomes special for the audience and that I put the ultimate effort into it. I don’t want everything to become mechanical. I don’t want to just do it as a job.

A Fashionable Impact


NORMA KAMALI, Photograph by Mark Seliger

According to fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, American designers have always had an impact on how people dress, which is the notion at the center of a new exhibit at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. “Impact: 50 Years of the Council of Fashion Designers of America” highlights the work of the CFDA, a fashion trade organization whose illustrious members include the likes of Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Norma Kamali and, of course, von Furstenberg, who also serves as the council’s president.

“Impact” features the work of nearly 600 designers, each of whom was asked to select a single object or ensemble that best represents his or her influence on the fashion world. Then curators, historians and industry insiders worked together to select representations for the historical designers. Highlights include a gathered skirt and halter top made of parachute cloth by Kamali (shown here) and a golden-hued floor-length dress by de la Renta.

The collaborative nature of the exhibition is highly unusual—it is much more common for a museum exhibit to be curated by an individual, says council CEO Steven Kolb. “The result is a rather eclectic representation of innovation and style.” Through April 21; 501 Plaza Real; 561-392-2500;

A Plane for Sale in Paris

Out Of Africa

Courtesy of Bonhams

There are few cinematic scenes as evocative and romantic as Meryl Streep and Robert Redford’s flight across British East Africa in the 1985 Academy Award–winning film Out of Africa. On February 7 at the Grand Palais in Paris, Bonhams—one of the world’s oldest and largest auction houses—is selling the iconic biplane used in the movie. The aircraft, a metal-framed De Havilland Gipsy Moth from 1929, was one of the first models to bring private aviation within reach in the early 20th century and is fully functional today after a full engine overhaul in 2011.

After its spectacular flights in Tanzania and Nairobi in Out of Africa, the biplane has been used regularly and expertly maintained. “Bonhams is, of course, delighted to present this modern piece of memorabilia in such a magnificent venue, steeped in the history of the motorcar,” says Philip Kantor, the specialist at Bonhams in charge of the sale. A rare chance to own a coveted piece of Hollywood history, this is not to be missed. Estimate price upon request; 21 Ave. Franklin Delano Roosevelt;

Timepieces Take a Turn at the Frick Collection

Frick Collection

Courtesy of The Frick Collection

Horology, the art of making clocks and watches, has long fascinated collectors. “Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at the Frick Collection,” which opened this week at the New York museum, perpetuates the allure, exhibiting some of the world’s finest examples of craftsmanship and delicate engineering. On view through February 2014 in the Frick’s glass-enclosed portico gallery, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to enjoy the beauty, breadth and depth of the museum’s horological holdings. “Clocks and watches are exciting works of art,” says curator Charlotte Vignon. “Although they functioned as objects, the cases housing the mechanisms offered artisans almost unlimited opportunity to explore forms, ornaments and designs.”

Twenty-five of the timepieces featured belong to the Frick and range in date from the Renaissance to the early 19th century; five outstanding examples of 18th-century French clocks join them, on loan from Horace Wood Brock, a renowned American decorative-arts collector.

Vignon, a Sorbonne-trained decorative-arts specialist, immersed herself in the collection’s history in preparation for her first exhibit of mechanical timepieces. The groundbreaking designs of famed clockmakers Robert Robin and Abraham-Louis Breguet, for instance, evolved the accuracy and reliability of time measurement and contributed to the advancement of scientific revolution. “One of my favorites is the work of David Weber, a young clockmaker in Augsburg in the mid 17th century,” says Vignon. “Its complex mechanism includes seven dials that provide astronomical, calendrical and horary information.”

Almost all of the timepieces in the showcase still work—including two clocks that will chime on the hour—providing further evidence of the achievements of these gifted craftsmen. Through February 4, 2014; 1 East 70th St.;

The Best of Venice Carnevale

Venice Carnevale
Photo courtesy of The Bauers Venezia

Just when Venice seems to be languishing in the deepest depths of the low season—albeit in the loveliest of ways—the canal city snaps back to life for the 18 days and raucous nights of Carnevale, this year running from now through February 12. The equivalent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio, this fortnight-plus party features pageantry galore, food and drink and more than enough sophisticated-yet-slightly-debauched revelry.

A time of freedom caught between the drudgery of New Year’s resolutions and the meditative asceticism of Lent, Venice’s Carnevale comes to life with glorious masquerades and multilayered costumes that recall the days of Casanova, when La Serenissima, as the city is known, sat at the center of the world as both a global power and a wealthy trading hub. That era may have passed, but Venice remains the heart of the action this time of year. Here, the inside track on where to be, what to wear and who to know to experience it all.

Bellini Travel

Emily FitzRoy, founder of Bellini Travel (a specialist in bespoke Italian sojourns), reports that the Gran Ballo della Cavalchina ( on Saturday, February 9, should impress this year. As always, la Cavalchina—in years past a tie-up with the Comité Français Pour la Sauvegarde de Venise, the French version of the nonprofit Save Venice—will take over the city’s iconic Teatro La Fenice opera house, this year hosting performances by José Carreras and James Blunt. For her guests, FitzRoy has arranged made-to-measure togs from one of the best costume shops in the city, then arrival at the ball via La Fenice’s secret and very private gondola entrance. 44-20/7602-7602;

Bauer Hotel

Over at the palatial Bauer Hotel on the Grand Canal, owner and Venetian doyenne Francesca Bortolotto Possati will present two decadent events with a seductive Bauerlesque theme. Saturday, February 2, sees a colorful, highly sensory Indian affair. The following week brings in stilt-walkers, clowns, magic acts and acrobats for a Circus of Desire costume extravaganza. Event tickets, $605; weekend stay (including admission for two to the week’s event), from $2,200; San Marco 1459; 39-041/520-7022;

Hotel Danieli

The old-world Hotel Danieli will mount a series of events from February 1 to 12, including balls with 18th- and 19th-century themes, teas and lunches (from $135) and a pop-up costume atelier. The Danieli can also secure tickets to the 20th anniversary outing of the popular Il Ballo al Doge ( on February 9 at Palazzo Pisani Moretta (from $940), arranging costumes from the atelier of Antonia Sautter (, the event designer serving as the ball’s creative head. Veuve Clicquot is the official bubbly. Castello 4196; 39-041/522-6480;

Palazzina Grassi

The noir-ish, Philippe Starck–conceived Palazzina Grassi will host several soirees, including the city’s official Carnevale opening-night dinner on February 1. Sadly closed to the public, that gala meal precedes a more accessible fête ($40) sponsored by Veuve Clicquot. Other options include a (hopefully not-too punishing) Fifty Shades of Grey masquerade on February 7, complete with live (and as-of-yet unannounced) performances (dinner and performance, $228; after-party only, $54) and an invite-only Hollywood costume party on February 8 inspired by the recent “Hollywood Costume” exhibit at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Palazzina G San Marco 3247; 39-041/5284644;

Hauser & Wirth Gallery Debuts a New Location

Hauser & Wirth Gallery
Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth New York unveiled its new branch gallery last week in conjunction with the opening of the exhibit “Dieter Roth. Björn Roth,” which showcases the work of the prolific Swiss father-and-son team.

The gallery (also Swiss) was founded in the early 1990s and began occupying London with several outposts in the new millennium. A mainstay of art fairs worldwide, where it displays tastefully dressed booths, the gallery features names like Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Henry Moore that balance its contemporary collection of artists, including Roni Horn and Caro Niederer.

Marching steadily westward, Hauser & Wirth established its New York base uptown in September 2009 and recently took over the 24,700-square-foot space that was once home to the Roxy, the legendary roller rink and discotheque (where, incidentally, Keith Richards met Patti Hansen). Hauser & Wirth believes that its new 18th Street location, designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf, will be one of the grandest galleries in New York—though no promises as to whether its former matchmaking powers will extend to its now demure white walls.

“Dieter Roth. Björn Roth” itself, however, may be draw enough. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith once described Dieter as a “performance artist in all the mediums he touched.” (He played materials—paint, sculpture, texts, found objects, prints, film—like instruments in concert.) Dieter regularly collaborated with his son, Björn, who teamed up with his own sons, Oddur and Einar, to construct the latest iterations of Roth père’s never-ending tower projects. The works appear with more than 100 objects created since the late 1970s, from simple paintings to the floor of an artist’s studio raised to vertical as a painting-cum-screen-cum-sculpture.

Dieter also designed several working bars over the course of his life (he died in 1998), so Björn fashioned one for Hauser & Wirth. It will serve patrons coffee and liquor until long after the show has closed and the set readies for another artist’s conquest. Through April 13; 511 W. 18th St.; 212-790-3900;

Report from Sundance: Winding It Down

Freida Pinto
Photo by John Parra/Getty Images

By Monday of the Sundance Film Festival the crowds on Main Street tend to thin out, creating a far nicer experience for those who stay behind to close out things. By then the well-brewed buzz makes it easier to choose films, and getting a ticket is actually possible.

The Spectacular Now proved worthy of must-see status. An insightful and emotionally complex coming-of-age story, it features a break-out performance by Miles Teller and another stellar turn by Shailene Woodley of The Descendants fame. Renowned Korean director Chan-wook Park’s English-language debut Stoker also lived up to expectations. The riff on Hitchcock’s classic Shadow of a Doubt soars on the back of Matthew Goode’s scene-stealing performance as Mia Wasikowska’s mysterious uncle with a wide smile that hides dark secrets. Magic, Magic, director Sebastián Silva’s second film at Sundance (the other is Crystal Fairy), also turned out to be a winner. An intelligent psychological thriller with the flavor of early Polanski, it features Juno Temple as a young girl whose mental deterioration ruins an idyllic vacation in the wilds of southern Chile.

Of course Sundance is as much about the films you don’t see as it is about the ones you do, and if the rumor mill is to be believed these features are also gems: Prince Avalanche; The Way, Way Back; Metro Manila; Escape From Tomorrow; The East; Inequality for All and History of the Eagles Part 1.

The Parties

Although the bulk of partygoers had departed, there were still a few notable extracurricular events for those who remained. New York nightlife impresario Nur Khan created a pop-up club—Nur Khan presents NK with Mint and the Branding Bee—hosting première after-parties for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Very Good Girls and Jobs. The Charlie Countryman party saw the likes of Shia Labeouf, Emile Hirsch and Freida Pinto, while Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen and Jake Gyllenhaal attended the Very Good Girls event and star Ashton Kutcher slated to attend Friday’s get-together for Jobs. A perennial favorite is ChefDance—a five-night roster of meals from celebrity chefs. Sponsored by WishClouds this year, Tuesday’s dinner featured a five-course meal prepared by celebrity chef Marcel Vigneron.

But sometimes it’s nice to forego the guest list and have a relaxed dinner with friends. For Sundance veterans, High West Distillery & Saloon (703 Park Ave.; 435-649-8300) is the best place to escape the festival madness. Featuring artisanal whiskies and savory cuts of elk, High West doesn’t take reservations but is well worth the wait. At least Sam Rockwell must have thought so, since he was spotted at the saloon bar sipping one of its signature variations on the Manhattan while he waited for his table—just like everyone else.

Report from Sundance: A Sunday to Remember

Sundance Film Festival
Photo by Michael Stewart/ Getty Images

The Sundance Film Festival reached its apex on Sunday with the highly anticipated premiere of Before Midnight in the evening, the sequel to Richard Linklater’s indie classics Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as a couple whose romance has spanned decades and continents, the newest offering continues the trilogy’s tradition of smart writing, adding an extra dimension of mature insight and emotional complexity.

Elsewhere Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love seemed to slightly disappoint the fans of his beloved 24 Hour Party People, though Steve Coogan shows off his dramatic chops well. The buzz around Drake Doremus’s Breathe In concluded that Guy Pearce dazzles. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was another hot ticket, filled with lush cinematography and a scene-stealing Ben Foster.

On the documentary front, The Crash Reel apparently elicited in-theater tears while Google and The World Brain didn’t quite live up to its provocative title. Blackfish made a splash—CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures acquired it for distribution.

Finally, the fuss over Fruitvale culminated in a late-night bidding war, with the Weinstein Company acquiring it for distribution. The film is a moving, disturbing story about the last day of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a police officer on January 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California.

The Parties

Sunday held plenty aside from movies. Celebrity football fans could catch the AFC and NFC championship games at Paige Hospitality Group’s Football Viewing Party at Sky Lodge with the likes of Adrian Grenier, Kristen Bell, Alison Brie (pictured above) and Lil’ Jon. Peter Sarsgaard hosted a celebration for BAMcinemaFest’s fifth anniversary, while Sea Wolf played at the Sundance ASCAP Music Café.

But the real draw that night, as the glitterati got ready to depart the next day, were the parties thrown by Hollywood’s powerful agencies—all within a few feet of one other on Main Street. UTA took over Riverhorse on Main with Lake Bell, Juno Temple and Daniel Radcliffe in attendance; WME occupied Wahso, where Paris Hilton, Mia Wasikowska and Toni Collette partied the night away. But the king of excess was CAA’s party at Claim Jumper, where Danny McBride, Alex Skarsgård and Miles Teller marveled at burlesque dancers and a risqué review by Simon Hammerstein The Act.

Antiques Aplenty


Courtesy of Macklowe Gallery

The annual Winter Antiques Show takes over the Park Avenue Armory in New York for the 59th year, continuing its tradition of bringing stellar collectables to a well-educated audience. Beginning January 25, the show highlights 73 exhibitors offering pieces spanning the gap between antiquities and the 1960s.

One of those exhibitors is Macklowe Gallery, which has been wooing show-goers and collectors for 15 years with its first and abiding love: decorative arts from the turn of the century, or Art Nouveau. All too often with decorative arts what you see is what you get, but the Art Nouveau style adds a special subtext to the work—particularly in Night Moths, an 18-karat-gold and diamond brooch by French jeweler René Lalique.

“The night moth is a sign of transience,” Benjamin Macklowe explains. “It’s the idea of the mystery of the night and the unconscious. It’s the polar opposite of a diamond ring.”

In addition to antiques, the show—which is a fundraiser for East Side House Settlement, one of the oldest social service organizations in New York—will also feature a lecture series in the armory’s Tiffany Room. January 25 through February 3; 643 Park Ave.; 718-292-7392;

A Kilimanjaro Bike Adventure


Courtesy of Werner Public Relations, Inc.

Most wilderness adventures follow a leave-nothing-behind philosophy. But in the case of WorldServe, a mountain-bike trip down Mount Kilimanjaro led by Trek Travel, making a mark is the ultimate goal. Led by Doug Pitt, goodwill ambassador to Tanzania (and, yes, Brad Pitt’s brother), the venture will donate 90 percent of trip fees to water projects.

“[You will] have your own sponsored water well that will provide a lifetime of water to thousands, saving lives, reducing suffering and giving people a future,” says Pitt, who aims to provide clean water to 150,000 Tanzanians.

Twenty participants will climb the mountain before embarking on a two-day ride down; the trip marks the first time that bikes have been allowed on the loftiest peak in Africa. Along the way an initiative called Clean Up of Kilimanjaro will enlist the help of 100 porters to pick up trash. The fundraising donation levels vary: a hike-only option, including a gear package and one bore-hole well ($25,000); a package encompassing one solar-powered pump project, a Trek bike and gear ($55,000); and the sponsorship of two solar-powered pumps, plus bike and gear ($85,000). (One bore-hole well, for instance, will give 1,200 Maasai a generation of drinkable water.)

Needless to say, going in unprepared is not an option. “Kili is not a technical climb but arduous at 19,340 feet,” says Pitt. “Fitness is important and training is essential. The biking is rated intermediate to professional, flowy in parts and extremely tough is spots, but it should be—it’s Mount Kilimanjaro.”

Other highlights include a visit to a Maasai village and a hot-air balloon ride over Serengeti National Park, and the lasting memories are sure to endure for as long as the fresh water flows. February 22 through March 5; from $25,000; 1-866-464-8735;

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