Michael the III’s Guide to Dressing for an Art Opening

An Inside Account From the Hottest New York City Exhibition of the Summer

  • Text: Michael the III
  • Photography: Michael the III

I stood in the mirror. My naked body was a blank canvas. My medium today would be fabric. The style? Neo-glamourism. Have you not heard of it yet? Well, all the same, it’s Neo-glamourism. I sculpted my mustache into two equal isosceles triangles. A protective layer of varnish was applied to my hair and when I was done dressing so that all the world would know, I signed my left buttocks in the exact place those darling children of the cabbage patch wear theirs: a subtle pop touch on a Renaissance masterpiece.

The event? Artist Paula Blunst’s new exhibit, Stories. Paula Blunst is NYC’s darling-du-jour and at a mere 14 years of age, insiders proclaimed that this event would be a rare opportunity to actually own an artist’s early work. I had 314 mutual friends "maybe" attending on Facebook, so of course, I’d attend.

Locating the event is always the easy part, one simply looks for the cloud of smokers gathered alfresco (that’s the artist’s way of saying "outside"). “Going in, Michael?” shouted a friend, who, as I made my slow progress towards the doors, spotted me from within the clustered crowd. I coughed affirmatively, squeezing past fellow art lovers and avoiding fiery threats to my designer clothing. “Right behind you, Michael!” he shouted, lighting another cigarette and dusting ash from an anonymous shoulder on his right. I don’t think I saw him again that night. Perhaps he is still there. I moved on.

The rooms at Gallery Mamoulien are large and spacious and filled with flattering lighting. In the front hall stood other members of the press, who promptly ignored my grand entrance. Oh don’t mind me, I thought. Uh huh, yes, I see you Ms. Holbury of Equestrian Art Daily, riding in on horseback like no one’s ever seen that before. You think you’re so important riding without a saddle, don’t you? I like your McQueen helmet though. And you, Saul Aberman, senior-editor over there at Art à la Carte. It’s just my luck you should be here too, looking flashy as always, in all white no less, positively looking like negative space. I’ll give you some negative space!

The only person who gave me any sort of attention was Virginia Cake, yes that Virginia Cake, that fabulously successful Art-Vlogger-Virginia-Cake. She wore extensions extending past her knees. A more plodding personality may have allowed this to distract from her smart Chloé dress and petite grey Jacquemus purse underneath, but I am—after all—a great lover of fashion. She snapped a picture as I made my way into the hungry crowd yelling, “Tag me, girl!”

Michael the III (left) wears Gucci jacket, Gucci lounge pants, Gucci hat, Gucci wallet, Gucci sandals and Gucci socks. Michael the III (right) wears Gucci crewneck.

Now, what of our company on this night? I suppose it was a who’s-who event. Artists mingled with gallery owners, who in turn mingled with the artists they already represented. Posh art collectors mingled with posh art dealers and I think just about everyone mingled with the posh drug dealers. Curators mingled with the curated. The art? Great big canvases, hung on the walls.

Greta Lillock waved from the center of the main room and her golden, hooped earrings swayed in the effort. Greta and I go way back. Would you believe we met at an art fair last month? Greta also happens to be one of the most magnetic muses of art’s early aughts, referred to by some as a Super Muse, though that term never did catch on. “Michael, let me introduce you to some friends,” Greta whispered as she hugged me tightly in a way that wrinkled my clothing. I pretended not to care.

According to Ancient Greek myth, the muses traveled in packs and today it seems things haven’t changed. On this day, they formed a camera-ready semi-circle, and Greta was its zenith. She wore a chiffon gown that was the color of a baguette and the silhouette was long and slender, also like a baguette. The top was cut humbly, like a t-shirt and it was deliciously fabulous. Its lack of ornamentation and solid coloring made Greta into a work of abstract expressionism. The swoop of her long gown made a final, illogical stroke over the chaotic circumstances behind her. Are you paying attention? This is a muse who knows how to dress for art openings.

There was also Kory Jackson, New York’s muse of the moment. Surely you have seen her in the magazines—the photo of her falling from the sky. Tonight she wore a fettuccini-strap cocktail dress, you know the kind, only slightly thicker than a spaghetti-strap but considerably smaller than the rigatoni-strap. I think it was Prada, though I may be generalizing.

Michael the III wears Pleats Please Issey Miyake poncho.

“This is Billie,” Greta sang, gesturing to her right. Billie wore red sky-high boots, so high, in fact, that he was forced to lace them around his forehead. A turquoise bikini was under-utilized for modesty, and Billie removed his warm hand from a strawberry-shaped muff to shake mine. I could have been in love. “What art have you inspired?” Billie asked, territorially. I looked around. Oh sure, put me on the spot like that. I’m sure you have plenty of examples right there in a neatly organized album on your phone. I wish I had the time to make albums on my phone. I barely have the time for proper skincare, though you probably hadn’t noticed, thank you. And I surely don’t have time to go around asking people what they’ve inspired. I replied defiantly, “A-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing,” and this went over very well, as they are all great big fans of the minimalist revival. I moved on.

“I don’t care if you think Seurat was superior, Van Gogh was first and best! What good is a Seurat!?” That was the voice of a bonafide legend, art-critic Arthur Malbrooke, aged 70, wearing a loose-fitting suit and crisp trilby hat with a red carnation resting curiously on its brim. He spoke to fellow critic Mark Heron, his son-in-law, and a contender in a Van Gogh vs. Seurat dispute. Mark wore a pair of blue Margiela jeans, a faded grey polo and thick tortoise glasses which fogged up every time he made an impassioned huff. He cracked back, “Not more of this internalized idol-making! Deconstruct it, Artie! Seurat mastered the patterned dot. And that’s that.” They both looked at me, looking at them. Dots, dots, dots, I thought. Arthur half-shouted in my direction. “Well, what have you to say on the matter?” I really did consider sharing my opinion. I did have one, but quite frankly I didn’t see the pointillism, and if I’m honest, I think I prefer stripes. I moved on.

Michael the III (left) wears Lanvin turtleneck, Alighieri earrings, Maison Margiela ring and Lanvin bracelet. Michael the III (right) wears Balenciaga heels and Chloé earrings.

At exactly 8 PM (and I know it because I had just texted my lover, “Be there around 12 if I don’t after-party. See you in four hours!”) I bumped into the party’s it-girls. They were recently ordained as such on the cover of Seventeen-and-a-half Magazine and I agreed. They are it. The Carlton sisters, triplets to be exact—or, as we call them in the art world, a triptych—remembered me from the time I performed a jaunty number about the paranoiac-critical method. Naturally, the subject of fashion came up. “I was going to wear Versace” Adrijana Carlton told me, “but then that Minerva did so.” Minerva looked up from her phone, adjusting her Versace hemline and gave me a capricious smile with just a hint of triumph.

On this day, for it does matter about which day we are talking, they wore their hair pink. Giada, the final third of the triptych, wore hers shortest, cropped high on her face which exposed three dazzling Repossi earrings (on a single ear) and 12 golden studs (on the other). I had the impression that should the power go out, one would only need Giada and a flashlight to save the entire event.

In the western corner (across from the bar) was an installation of Art-Gays. I could tell because everyone’s hair was combed and they kept eye contact longer than anyone else. Also, there was my ex-boyfriend Gustave, my other ex-boyfriend Lin, my temporary ex-boyfriend Pietro, and another whose name I couldn’t recall. Everyone was as well dressed as you’d assume, wearing every shade from Yves Klein Blue to Anish Kapoor Pink with infrequent flashes of Louboutin Red. I may have even seen a harness painted like a Jackson Pollock; if there’s one thing the Art-Gays know about dressing for an art event, it’s that anything goes!

I gave the secret handshake and was escorted inwards. The burly man-doors swung shut as I looked around. I spotted Marc, my old hairdresser. Marc dresses very finely. He was wearing a pair of Levi’s cut-off jeans, so short I could see his keys dangling in his bulky pocket. He paired this with a black Dior t-shirt and the same hat you’d find on a Tom of Finland cop, resting on his head like a chocolate chip. I found it incredibly clever. “How do you find the art?” I asked. “It’s all on the walls,” he told me. “No,” I said. “How do you like it?” It turns out he hadn’t taken it in yet, but Marc was already on his fourth drink and reported it was a choice between Rum & Rococo-nut Water and what was called “Vermeer’s Vermouth Martini.” Thanking him, I moved along.

Michael the III (left) wears Loewe swimwear and Loewe sandals. Michael the III (right) wears Loewe swimwear and Loewe towel.

“Hi! I’m Brenda Maloney.” Someone said this directly in my ear, quite excitedly and I could already tell she wasn’t from this world—for no one introduces themselves around here. “I don’t find myself in these places very often,” she giggled and I already liked her. “I’m what you call ‘Friends & Family’—a friend of the Blintzes.” She struggled. “Blunsts.” I smiled in admiration of her honesty as well as the knowledge that she had been sampling Vermeer’s Vermouth. She donned what I thought was a model ensemble for those unaccustomed to art openings: a well-proportioned white button-up, and a cozy denim vest, styled with wide denim trousers: all perfectly pressed. It could have been Vetements! She went on, “Oh sure, I love art, but I’m afraid a lot of it is lost on me. Well, but, let me see. If I had to pick. I mean, if I had the space for it, I’d probably buy that one.” She pointed to a massive portrait of a woman. “That one, the woman eating the banana.” I wondered if she knew it wasn’t a banana. “Oh but I simply adore the watercolor! Now, that I get!” I hadn’t noticed any watercolors. “Yes, yes, I’m sure it was a watercolor. Oh, oh, well, oh. Maybe you wouldn’t have seen it. No, of course, you just wouldn’t have,” Brenda giggled, “it was in the women’s washroom.” Thanking her, I moved along.

Michael the III wears HOPE coat and Maison Margiela boots.

Then there was Jenny King, 49. I recognized her immediately as the heir to a multi-million-dollar watch fortune who earned her respect as the curator of all curators. Known to her enemies as “Jenny from the Clock”, she’s worked overtime, over-curating some of the world’s most prestigious collections. It’s been said she’s known all the modern greats. When she met Picasso, he said, “Please, call me Pablo P.” And I believe it was Andy Warhol who told her “Excuse me, ma’am, you’re on my shoe.” Her work has been so impactful that upon seeing her exhibits, several New York artists have given up art entirely, focusing instead on specialty soaps. Some say Etsy owes itself entirely to her.

Jenny was wearing a coarse brown skirt and a cotton, sleeveless top. Let’s just say it was Loewe. It could have been Loewe. Her hair was piled high on her head, pinned there by a humble beige pencil, unsharpened for safety. Her footwear hung in puddles under her feet, so rooted did she look in spaces dedicated to the arts. In her right arm she slung a Burberry trench coat and in her left was a happy looking wicker tote, decorated with emblems of artists I could not recognize, but which I would pretend to know anyway. I bowed down. “Arise, my liege,” her deep tone was majestic and I couldn’t help but offer her a piece of gum to pay my respects. She accepted, and we got to chewing.

She led us on a walk through the gallery, gathering several well-known artists on the way: Thomas Jetti (wearing a lime-green smock and a lemon baseball cap), Camille Parvenu (wearing a rooster-print cocktail dress), Nina Takahashi (wearing a tapestry), Lusan Bonprix (wearing a garment made of 3-D printed aloe vera leaves), Rita Reverón (wearing a slip and some slippers), Jamal Smith (wearing a lightweight singlet and over-sized socks) and finally Sven Karlsson (wearing The Gap).

“Paula’s work is very somber, don’t you think?” Jenny pointed. There were spectators in the way of the art and fabulously dressed, I might add, in Balenciaga, or was it Givenchy? It’s so hard to tell European turtlenecks apart. I replied, “Somber? Oh yes, I find it very much so.” Jenny, the star-curator she was, continued. “But,” she hesitated, “it has a certain optimism, don’t you think?” Again I was blocked by some handsomely dressed individuals. Was that a skort? I love a skort. “Optimistic? Oh yes, I find her work very much so.” Jenny led us further. “And yet,” she closed her eyes for a moment, perhaps to forget and then suddenly remember the work of art before her, “it really could be anything.” She wasn’t wrong. The work we were looking at was one giant emoji face that had been painted and then re-painted, each time with a new mood. “Oh yes,” I replied, “I find it very much so.”

Later, with a half-hour until the closing of the event, you wouldn’t believe what happened. Out came a girl and her boyfriend (impeccably dressed for the occasion by the way, in his Fall/Winter ‘14 Raf Simons x Ruby Sterling shirt). Oh, you’ll never believe what she did. I almost don’t want to say but if I don’t tell you, you’ll hear it anyway from someone else. Well, in the direction of an innocent painting of a rainbow and with considerable nerve, she uttered, “Even I could do that.”

Well, you know how I am about art. You know how I get at art openings. It was simply too awful. I nearly tumbled to the floor right then and there. And it’s a good thing I hadn’t, or someone could have mistaken me for a piece of performance art. A lot of good wild applause would do me at a time like that. Thank goodness for the spiffy chap in Comme des Garçons Homme who let me lean on him. And lean on him I did! I practically piggybacked him and before I knew it a crowd began to form. Yes it was that ghastly. It’s a good thing I’m the humble type of person who actually flourishes with attention and so it only took a clean shot of tequila and the last of the olive-topped crostini before I was steady enough to balance on my own. Of course, by that time the offending creature was long gone, probably off to see a foreign film with her clever-looking boyfriend, probably already complaining to him about having to read the subtitles by the time I was even able to grab my second, needed drink.

This turned me into a sort of circumstantial celebrity. Over came Greta, Marc, Arthur, Jenny, Brenda, the Carlton Triptych, Mary, Sven, Camille, everyone, even Miss Paula Blunst herself who lay me in her lap like we were the Pietà. I blushed but didn’t exactly disagree with my heroism.

The next day the front cover of Art à la Carte would read: “Michael the III’s Big Opening: A Night to Remember, if Only He Could Forget … Artist and part-time member of the press Michael the III, wearing Off-White, Saint Laurent and Lanvin, gallantly saved art last night when, upon hearing the practice of renowned artist Paula Blunst dismissed, consumed four olive-topped crostinis, three jars of olive tapenade and all of the remaining liquor. Although some mistook the commotion as a deconstructed piece, on the matter, Michael the III had this to say: "To all those out there who believe in art: don’t ever stop! If you can do it, do it! Go out to see art tonight! Email your congresswoman! Buy an easel! Rent a Mondrian! Expand your mind by challenging yourself to understand what you don’t. And always, always, dress to impress at an art opening. You’ll never know what will happen! Thank you!”

Michael the III (left) wears Saint Laurent turtleneck, Off-White trousers, Lanvin boots and Off-White belt. Michael the III (right) wears Pleats Please Issey Miyake poncho.

Michael the III is a writer, actor, spokesmodel, freelance art-theorist and part-time self-help-guru. To protect the innocent, all names, places and titles have been changed.

  • Text: Michael the III
  • Photography: Michael the III
  • Styling: Michael the III
  • Photo Editing: Michael the III
  • Hair and Makeup: Michael the III
  • Feet: Jesús Bastardo