Art journalist and Instagrammer about town interview designer Stella McCartney about her longtime associate with artists for Gagosian gallery’s in-house magazine.
Stella is of course the daughter of Sir Paul & Linda McCartney. She’s known for pioneering “vegan style,” a term referring to the designs of her luxury label, which don’t use fur or any other animal products.
I’m not mentioned among the bold-faced names in this interview (why would I be?) but I created a huge backdrop (18 x 32′) for her 2010 Spring collection. Stella’s team contacted me and said she wanted to collaborate, then we spoke on the phone and I sent her various mock-ups. You can see a short video of the collection and me below.
What I didn’t know at the time is that her knowledge of modern and contemporary art stretched back to her grandfather, her late Mom ‘s father. As you’ll read below, he represented the likes of Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, Josef Albers and Mark Rothko. And visiting Long Island in Summers, through various art dealers, she met just about EVERYONE.
Blasberg spoke to her about that childhood surrounded by artists and how they continue to influence her design process.
DB:This isn’t your first conversation with artists. One of my favorite things to do with you is reminisce about your whole family’s longtime connection to contemporary art. Your mother’s father was the lawyer to all those incredible—
SMCC: My grandpa, Lee Eastman! He was an entertainment lawyer and represented all kinds of great artists, as well as actors, writers, all of the great creatives of that period in New York. He used to write Quincy [Jones]’s paycheck when Quincy was only a kid. Quincy always reminds me of that when I see him. He also worked with the Abstract Expressionists. So he represented de Kooning and built his studio out in the Hamptons, in the Springs. So, yeah, I was hanging out with de Kooning all my life growing up. He drew all these charcoals of my mom because he and my mom got on really well. Later my dad became good friends with Bill too.
SMCC: Yes! We called him Bill, that’s how much we hung out! But my grandpa represented Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell and Joseph Cornell and Josef Albers and Mark Rothko. I mean, it was insane really. We grew up with all of that around us as kids.
DB: There’s an amazing picture your mom took of your dad and de Kooning.
SMCC: At his studio on the chairs. I have a copy of that, it’s beautiful. It’s funny because I still go to the studio every summer and I can still go out there and sit on those chairs.
DB: Of course, they still have the chairs!
SMCC: Yeah, they’re still there. It’s amazing, and now it’s his grandchildren out there. Sadly, his daughter passed away.
DB: That must have been incredible to see from such a young age.
SMCC: Looking back now, I feel very privileged. But back then it was just a room and some chairs. Know what’s crazy? My grandpa used to swap his time in law fees for art. He was one of the last true collectors. It was all for the love of it. None of it was monetary. He’d come home with a de Kooning and my grandma would be like, “What the fuck is this? How am I going to feed the kids with a painting?” But when he passed away, he had the largest private collection of Abstract Expressionism.
DB: Do you know where some of the paintings are now?
SMCC: They pop up. I’ve had friends, who I won’t mention, say to me, “Oh, I’m going to buy your grandfather’s Kline,” and I’m like, “Noooo!” I remember we’d come home from de Kooning’s studio in the ’90s and some critics had accused him of having Alzheimer’s because he’d gone into the white period. I remember the discussions because my grandfather was his lawyer. They’d say, “Is this worthless, this art?” Which is actually so poetic and beautiful and breathtaking. And of course the critics were wrong. I remember being so moved by those works and now I appreciate living and breathing that then.
DB: Has your perspective on the art world changed since then?
SMCC: It’s sort of fluid for me. For example, Leo Castelli was always around in our life when I was a child. And that turned into Larry Gagosian, maybe with Tony Shafrazi and some other characters in between. In London, Robert Fraser was the equivalent, and he was one of my mom’s best friends. My father bought some Magrittes off of him. The art world is like a whole separate life. Peter Blake is my godfather. It’s all still in my life. I mean, Ringo [Starr] is a huge [George] Condo collector! [Allen] Ginsberg and all these other kinds of artists were around constantly too. [David] Bowie and music artists. It was such a huge influence on me.
DB: And it continues now.
SMCC: Of course it does! I grew up, went to college, and became a fashion designer and found my own little gang. Urs Fischer! He’s done campaigns with me. I met Jeff Koons at Larry’s house for dinner one summer. I met Ed Ruscha when I wrote a fan letter. Cindy Sherman I met in the Springs and I go and see her every summer. I’ve accumulated an incredible collection of work by amazing artists and I feel so blessed I’ve been able to work with many of them.
(Photos, Paul McCartney, Stella McCartney, Tony Barson; via Gagosian Quarterly)