Culture at New York's Core Club

Stefan de Nooijer

As cultural curator at New York’s Core Club, Pablo De Ritis provides a whole new level of members-only experience.

Documentary filmmakers, muckraking journalists, French philosophers and Hollywood actors are not who one generally associates with the stuffy world of private New York clubs. But these are the kinds of artists and intellectuals Pablo De Ritis regularly invites to speak at midtown Manhattan’s decidedly unstuffy Core Club—he programs around 140 events a year—proving that for the club’s high-powered members, insider access to influential cultural figures has become one of the main selling points. He explains why.

What makes cultural programming so important? It’s a powerful business tool. If a member knows that a client is an art enthusiast and is able to invite the client to a conversation and dinner with Jeff Koons, that’s quite powerful. That resonates much more than a boring old business dinner.

Is this part of a larger trend or is Core the only private club doing it? No other club offers what we offer. In fact, the only places I would see as our competition in this arena are the 92nd Street Y and the New York Times Talks. But we’re not doing it for 300 people, we’re doing it for a very intimate, very exclusive group.

What subjects do your events focus on? Anything involving culture, politics and current affairs. Art, first and foremost, but also finance, movies, culinary arts. Last year I brought in the financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin twice, which was very popular. [Former Microsoft CTO and Modernist Cuisine author] Nathan Myhrvold recently cooked a seven-course dinner with wine pairings. We also go to Broadway shows, Dia:Beacon. And we have seven to twelve events at Art Basel every year.

Where do your ideas come from? I’m an information junkie. I read six newspapers a day and countless blogs and magazines. My background is in publishing—I was the Americas bureau chief at Wallpaper from 1997 to 2002—so I’m a content guy. I used to find content for the pages of the magazine; now I find content for events.

Who is the club’s membership? One thing we really pride ourselves on is diversity. It’s not as though the members are all from one particular industry. They’re from a cross section: media, technology, politics, for example. The composition is 53 percent male, 47 percent female.

What upcoming events are you most excited about? In May, we’re hosting a conversation and dinner with the photographer Nan Goldin, then an evening with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson and some of the players. We’re also screening the jazz musician Pat Metheny’s new documentary, followed by a conversation with Pat.

What is the coolest cultural coup you’ve had so far? We hosted a conversation with Takashi Murakami, and there was a small dinner afterward. One woman, a club member, pulled out her purse and said, “Mr. Murakami, I’m your biggest fan, I’d love to have you sign my bag.” So he got out his markers, started doodling and created a one-of-a-kind item for her. Then, at the end of the dinner, all the other women had their own bags custom-doodled by Murakami. The best part was that it was completely unscripted.

The initiation fee for Core Club membership is $50,000; annual dues, $15,000; for more details, call 212-486-6600.