The Phantom of 59th Street

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 9, 2004 | Publication: New York Times | Author: RUTH LA FERLA
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Joel Schumacher has known from childhood that he had a calling. "I always wanted to be a movie director," he said, "and I always wanted to shake up the windows at Bloomingdale's."

Now it seems he will have his wish. During an earlier epoch in his career, Mr. Schumacher, whose directing output includes "Batman Forever," "Phone Booth" and "Phantom of the Opera," which will open on Dec. 22, worked as a window dresser at Henri Bendel. On Nov. 18, many of the original set pieces and costumes from "Phantom," his lavish film version of the long-running Broadway hit, will be players in Bloomingdale's Christmas windows. Part of a storewide Phantom promotion, the windows, filled with outsize mirrors, chandeliers and a full-scale gondola, were conceived as a splashy alternative to the store's customary display of mechanized soldiers and toys. "We thought it was time to do something different," said Kal Ruttenstein, the Bloomingdale's fashion director.

An understatement, to be sure. On the night of the unveiling, members of the cast, including Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson and Minnie Driver, are expected to turn out, to the accompaniment of a 30-piece orchestra. Inside, a series of Phantom shops will showcase costume interpretations: dresses, pouf skirts, T-shirts and bustiers made for the store by Vera Wang, Michael Kors, Elie Tahari and others. Other Phantom-theme wares will include soundtrack CD's, accessories and cosmetics.

For Mr. Schumacher, whom Mr. Ruttenstein championed early in his fashion career, the event is something of a marker. "It's nice to have come full circle," he said.

A Subversive Art Benefit

"I got this really intense pneumatic engraver," Tom Sachs said ebulliently, wielding what appeared to be a dentist's drill. It emitted a high pitched wheeeeeeee as Mr. Sachs, a New York artist notorious for tweaking high consumer culture, applied it to his current work in progress, a silver serving platter with a Calvin Klein logo etched on the back. On its surface Mr. Sachs was about to engrave an image of Louis Armstrong, one of his cultural idols.

The tray is one of a dozen items from the Calvin Klein home furnishings collection that have been customized by a group of American artists, including the fashionable likes of Ross Bleckner, Ruth Root and Jessica Craig-Martin. Their works will go on display on Monday night at the Calvin Klein store on Madison Avenue and 61st Street at a party to benefit the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Many of the items, which represent an unabashed marriage of commerce and art, genially rib traditional notions of chic.

Available for sale will be a Julianne Swartz diorama incorporating mirrors and lenses and a crystal Calvin Klein decanter; a pipe cleaner sculpture fashioned by Lucky De Bellevue from a double-sided table runner; and a Zen-simple earthenware platter by Ghada Amer, painted in an improbably flashy shade of pink. Among the more disquieting pieces are a Binaca Jagger votive, a glass candleholder personalized by Sean Mellyn with a wax reproduction of Mr. Mellyn's tongue; and a dark oak serving tray on which Hope Atherton has painted a crushed, fossilized prehistoric bird.

"The Calvin Klein stuff was sort of clean and pure and quiet so elegant," Ms. Atherton said, "that it seemed appropriate for me to do something subversive."

Then there is Mr. Sachs. Examining his tray, he said, "I know it says Calvin Klein on it, but that has no significance to me." What then did it signify? "I would like it to be noted that there is a sticker on the back that says `Made in China,' " Mr. Sachs said evenly, suggesting that that information might find its way into his piece.

To Lisa Phillips, the director of the museum, that sort of irreverence is to be expected. "Working on a commercial product gives the artists a certain freedom," she said, explaining that no restrictions were placed on them. "We would never do that." Some things, it seems, are sacred.