It’s a common refrain: New York just isn’t what it used to be. The lament differs depending on who’s musing: Mad Men era New York nostalgists, dirty 1970s New York nostalgists, or art-world-boom 1980s New York nostalgists. New York changes but never wipes clean. Every new is layered on top of the old, the city is cobbled and palimpsestic. A Godfather figure of mine once took me on an architectural tour of Wall Street and Tribeca. We smoked cigars and he showed me how you can, “slip into any decade you want in this city.”
The latest issue of Acne Paper, which launched last night at the Four Seasons on 52nd and Lexington, takes Manhattan as its theme. The content is as varied and diachronic as its subject, a thick visual record of the borough past and present. Previously published texts are balanced against new stories. The old: F. Scott Fitzgerald writing on the Empire State Building in 1945 with Tom Wolfe on the Upper East Side in 1987; poems by Edwin Denby curated alongside images by Rudy Burckhardt; street photography spanning from the forties through the nineties by Saul Leiter, Beuford Smith, Vivian Maier, Frank Horvat, and Katsu Naito; a retrospective of Steven Meisel’s editorials set in Manhattan. The new: a walking tour with Fran Lebowitz; a fashion editorial by Viviane Sassen; another editorial, dog walking in Central Park; an interview with Ground Zero architect Kjetil Thorsen; Françoise Mouly at The New Yorker.
The launch had a nostalgic note. Held at the Four Seasons hotel, in a plush banquet hall, Moët was guzzled as a handsome live band in black tie jazzed it up. Acne Papers were on display throughout, spreads secured open on brass music stands.
Acne, a Swedish studio, recently opened its first US flagship store in Soho and this theme issue and party staked a belonging to the city. Guests left the hotel site toting the now-Soho-staple pink Acne shopping bags, a Paper in tow.
What did the guest list tell us about Manhattan now? Celeb/models Alexa Chung and Clemence Poesy, Sofia Coppola, one of the Gallery Girls, Acne’s Mikael Schiller and Louise du Toit, art critic Peter Schlesinger, Creative Ambassador of Barneys Simon Doonan, designer Olivier Theyskens, illustrator Jeremiah Goodman, and models Caroline Winberg, Lily Donaldson, Dorothea Barth Jorgensen, Hanne Gaby, Mirte Maas, and Alana Zimmer; fashion. Fran Lebowitz may be the cover girl, but the snarky New York staple was nowhere in sight. Last time I spotted her she was delightfully digging through the bargain shelves at McNally Jackson Books.