French New Wave Hits the Lower East Side with ‘Le Turtle’

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Photography: Leta Sobierajski & Wade Jeffree

On the corner of Chrystie and Rivington in the Lower East Side, modern french restaurant, Le Turtle, sits chicly with the cool laissez faire of any member of the downtown crowd. Inside is a decor dream with an all marble bar, raw concrete accents, a plush pink velvet perch, Horween-leather lined seating and nods to architectural icons like Carlo Scarpa and Sol Lewitt.


HyperFocal: 0Photography: Scottie Cameron

Founded by Taavo Somer of Freemans and Carlos Quirarte of The Smile, Le Turtle is all about atmosphere. The scene is a mix of fashion types, creatives, film stars and a table of patrons that were surely Andy Warhol’s friends. At the bar, you’ll overhear a debate about whether or not Purple Rain was the greatest record of all time and under the neon lit tables conversations are adamantly declaring that Julianne Moore saved the new Greta Gerwig movie.

When it comes to music direction, expect a soundtrack transitioning between old school Biggie, Major Lazor, Rick Ross, Jay Z and ’90s R&B. There might be a moment when Rihanna comes on and the host starts dancing to “Work,” which infectiously inspires the rest of the restaurant to begin moving their shoulders, as well. What else would you expect from a staff outfitted in straight up jump suits?

Oh, and the food is great, too. Order their signature Whole Sasson Chicken For Two. It’s the best in the city.

A Lower East Side Staycation: The Ludlow Hotel

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Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.

Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).

Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street. Here’s how to do it:


1431 Ludlow Hotel

Loft King Room at The Ludlow

Saturday

Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM:  Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
4 PM:  Pop out to contemporary galleries like Richard Taittinger, Rachel Uffner and Marianne Boesky, to get a vibe on the burgeoning LES art scene—which has been stealing the conversation away from Chelsea. Stop in for a naughty souvenir at Babeland.

Taittinger Gallery

Richard Taittinger Gallery

1495 Dirty French/The Ludlow

Dirty French at The Ludlow
7 PM:  Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
8 PM: Do early cocktails at the sceney Leadbelly, or catch the next indie darling at the Rockwood Music Hall.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.

Sunday

10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening  bit of LES history.
Noon:  Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.

Freeman's Restaurant NYC

Freemans

New Museum Bowery NYC

New Museum
2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums  Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.

Monday

9 AM:  Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.

1471 Ludlow Hotel

The Ludlow

Andy Warhol’s Upper East Side Studio Hits the Market For $10 Million

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Photo via Cushman & Wakefield

During the early ’60s, Andy Warhol was working primarily as a commercial artist, having just begun to assert himself as a fine artist and local provocateur. In January 1963, he moved into an Upper East Side studio, his first private space, which was then an affordable fire house, available for only $150 per month. More than half a century later and following years of gentrification, Warhol’s historic site, 159 East 87th Street, is on the market for a steep $9,975,000 and “offers a developer a blank canvass [sic] to create boutique condominiums, a mixed-use rental or a luxury townhouse.” 

Six months before the iconic pop artist moved into his UES space, he’d established a polarizing name with his newly debuted Campbell Soup Can paintings. “In 1963, [Warhol] was only just becoming known as a fine artist, so it’s no wonder he didn’t invest in a fancier studio,” said Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik to Artnet NewsThe building was “a wreck, with leaks in the roof and holes in the floors, but it was better than trying to make serious paintings in the wood-paneled living-room of his Victorian townhouse, as he’d done for the previous couple of years.” Despite the shifty environment, Warhol still managed to create several pieces from his revered Death and Disaster series, as well as portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.

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Brillo Box (Soap Pads), 1964 (Photo via MoMA)

Warhol’s lease ended the following May, more than half a year before he moved into his legendary Silver Factory and unveiled his 1964 sculpture exhibition, Brillo Boxes—work philosopher Arthur Danto labeled the end of art. “What Warhol taught was that there is no way of telling the difference [between art and non-art] merely by looking,” Danto said. “The eye, so prized an aesthetic organ when it was felt that the difference between art and non-art was visible, was philosophically of no use whatever when the differences proved instead to be invisible.”

The two-story building, located between Lexington and Third Avenue, is currently being used for art storage and marketed by Cushman & Wakefield as a “boutique development site”—a far cry from its humble Warholian roots and testament to NYC’s ever-evolving real estate landscape.

The Creators: Jean Lauer

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Jean Lauer photographed by Skye Parrott for BlackBook Magazine

Of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on home renovations in the United States last year, a respectable portion came from the startup Sweeten, which listed projects totaling over $150 million. Jean Lauer, the site’s founder and chief executive officer, expects to see that number grow, and the trend lines point in
the right direction. Last year the National Association of Home Builders’ chief economist, David Crowe, said in a statement that the only roadblock to a “slow, steady recovery of the housing industry” was a “shortage of qualified labor and subcontractors.” Sweeten aims to correct this market inefficiency by making it easier to find a contractor.

The platform operates like this: Homeowners list their project and all of its details, while contractors, architects, and designers bid. Once a contract is awarded, Sweeten checks in at the beginning, middle, and end of construction to make sure all is well. Centralizing the process introduces a wealth of safeguards against fraud and shoddy work. Sweeten’s projects range from $15,000 renovations to a $15 million residential development in Queens. “Whatever price point they are working at, the contractors just have to be great at what they do,” Lauer says. Installing new kitchens or ripping out bathrooms might not seem like an area rife for digital disruption, but just as Uber flipped the old hand-in-the-air method of taxi-hailing on its head, Sweeten may turn out to be revolutionary in its own right.

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.

New Website Provides Digital Tours of NYC Window Displays

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One thing that New Yorkers always look forward to during the holidays is the unveiling of their city’s festive window displays. Brand boutiques and department stores alike get in on the action, offering window-shoppers superior eye candy for their morning strolls. City residents and visitors used to be the only ones with access to these visuals, but thanks to TurnHills.com, the world can now experience Manhattan’s legendary windows from the comfort of their homes.

TurnHills.com launched last Thursday and offers high-quality images of approximately 37 NYC store displays, from high-fashion (Chanel, Dior, and Burberry) to fast-fashion (Zara, American Apparel, and H&M). In addition to viewing the full images, users can zoom in on specific products displayed, allowing them to digitally scan the store’s exhibited goods.

Currently, images are submitted by the company’s team of photographers, but in the near future they’ll be allowing users to upload their own window snaps (which, we hope, will be highly monitored to avoid shoddy photography). While the site promises that pictures are updated as soon as the display content changes, there can be a 2 to 3-day delay in some cases.

This is a convenient concept overall and a great way to utilize today’s technology to bring the city’s magic to the masses, but we wonder if this service lessens the sentimental value of the first-hand experience.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost at WAN*DER*LUST

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The mission statement of WAN*DER*LUST—a collaborative exhibition featuring the talents of New York artists Jody Levy, Yarrow Mazzetti, Artem Mirolevich, Reka Nyari, Peter Ruprecht and Dara Young—called to those clustered by the crowded doorway before they even set foot inside 72 Wooster Street. Scrawled in black paint on a wall just beneath the vaulted ceiling of the filling gallery, the objective of the exhibition introduced itself:

"Wanderlust is about the primal impulse for exploration. The work assembled expresses a freedom pulsing through the body blood.

The collective narrative in this exhibition is informed by the journeys unknown; inspired by the surprise of every given moment. The work is meant to inspire a state of constant flow and transformation. Through these works on paper, canvas, photography, sculpture and furniture we express the human craving for discovery.

Welcome to Wanderlust. We invite you to suspend in your reality."

Though I’ll be hard-pressed to make a connection between a portrait of a naked woman tonguing a flaccid chicken, an intricate illustration of a boat in the middle of a city that looks like it was ripped from one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s plotlines and a hand-hewn table of Southern Heart Pine and stainless steel, I can see how under the umbrella of “exploration” any and all of these thought-provoking works could somehow wind up in the same room.

With a number of mixed media collages, furniture pieces, photos and installations scattered throughout the gallery, each artist’s contribution and their redefinition of “journeys unknown” was only made stronger when juxtaposed against the work of one of their colleagues. The best example of this could be found on any given wall, with one of the brightest featuring a vibrant, Technicolor portrait of an ornately clad woman sitting in the middle of a smoldering desert scene by Ruprecht (Ascension), a series of monochromatic canvases (Levy) and a number of blackened steel shelves by Mazzetti that showcased these smaller-scale paintings. Steps away, Young’s Diamondback pieces—tables and bookshelves which seemingly bear the skin of a serpent—flanked Nyari’s provocative photography, with the curves of nudes in varying degrees of exposure serving up a sharp contrast to the clean lines of the wooden structures before them.

The works of Mirolevich (the aforementioned magic realist illustrations) and Ruprecht may have adhered to Wan*der*lust’s articulated themes most obviously, in that both put forth vibrant, engaging pieces that clearly played with place and time, but taken into consideration with the drastically different missions and styles present in its collection, it’s clear to see that every artist (and visitor) will walk into Wan*der*lust with a different destination in mind—and an unpredictable journey through these paradoxical artistic pairings as a result.

Synth-Pop Singer-Songwriter Charli XCX Talks True Romance, Tasting Sweat, & Lena Dunham

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Charli XCX is no newbie to the music scene, though her age might indicate otherwise to those not in the know. The 20-year-old Brit, born Charlotte Aitchison but recognized by her hotly debated stage name, has been making people move since she was an adolescent.

At 14, XCX was already on the radar, albeit far from mainstream, discovered on MySpace and invited to play raves at the weekend. An only child, her parents would drive her to and from performances—sometimes staying, watching on like ever-adoring chaperones—then take her to school come Monday. What might have remained a fond memory or a passing phase, however, evolved into a career, with a capital “c,” her warehouse party past giving rise to a girl who knew her pop hooks and dance beats.

The past half-decade has seen her morph from girl to woman, as well as release several solid songs, among them one of her best, “Nuclear Seasons.” At 16 she signed a record deal, catapulting the former club kid from promising act to legitimate artist with a single signature. For the past four years she’s worked towards today, which sees her major label release of True Romance. Her lyrical prowess and knack for catchiness continue to impress with this sweeping and anthemic debut, a 13-track album featuring favorites like “Lock You Up,” “What I Like” and “Cloud Aura.”

XCX, who also co-wrote Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” (which, if you’ll recall, was a huge hit following a particularly entertaining episode of HBO’s Girls) is currently touring Europe and the U.K. with Ellie Goulding, and will touch down in the States come May. New Yorkers can catch her supporting Marina and the Diamonds at Rumsey Playfield on May 29 and alongside Little Daylight on May 31 at Glasslands Gallery.

In the meantime, hear from the hard-hitting goth-pop princess herself. She’s got plenty to say, from her outlook on love (which she’s in, with Ryan Andrews) to her fantasies surrounding calling all the concert shots (think outlandish creative direction as it pertains to set design, à la Girls dreamboat douchebag Booth Jonathan).

You titled the album True Romance. Is this record the embodiment of “true romance,” to you? It’s such a bold statement to make. To say, like, Here it is. This is the definition.
This record is, for me, what true romance is. I’ve been writing the record for the past two to three years, but one song I wrote when I was 16. So, I feel like I’ve been writing this album as I’ve been growing up. Your views on love and life change over time. You experience different relationships, that kind of thing, and I think the record is kind of about that. It’s about love from different angles. Different periods of your life. There’s a bratty breakup song, when you went out with a bad boy. Then there’s a song about falling in epic, amazing, real, true love. And I feel like that’s what happened to me during the process of writing this album. I feel like I’ve fallen in love, massively. I feel like the record looks at how you can be on this love trip, in this dream state, but at the same time you can feel lonely and isolated. I think it’s interesting how schizophrenic love is. And that’s what the record is to me. It’s schizophrenic. It sounds that way. It sounds like love.

Did the title come at the end?
The title came last, actually. It was kind of, like, a reflection. I never wanted to make a concept album and come up with the title track and write songs around the title. I wanted to write the songs as naturally as possible and as naturally as they came to me. It just so happened they were about love. Once I started writing them, I supposed that was an appropriate title.

Makes sense. Can you tell me a bit about being so young coming up in the music scene?  
It was kind of crazy. At the beginning, I was very, very excited about everything. I was 15, signing a record deal. I was so elated by it. So, whenever there were highs and lows—which there definitely were, and still are—I took them really personally. It was a quite traumatic experience making this album, especially when I was younger. It can be emotional making an album, putting all your thoughts and feelings on a CD. I found the industry very difficult. There were so many expectations I thought I had to live up to. I was unsure who I was. I wrote the song “Stay Away” then. I began to find myself and what kind of music I wanted to make. I feel like I’ve changed a lot. I realized I don’t have any criteria I need to meet. I’m just doing my thing. I’m not feeling like I have to please anyone.

Even with the tumult, it had to have been a blast.
It was really fun. When I was younger, I’d go to raves, and that was crazy. Then, I’d go to school on Monday, and that was weird. But, it was cool. I kind of feel like I got sucked into that. I’m glad I left that scene and started making real music on my own.

Oh, yes. You’re talented, your debut’s a gem and, on top of that, you’ve traveled the world touring in support of Coldplay, Santigold, Ellie Goulding. Was it difficult to adjust to the limelight? MySpace and late-night raves are one thing, but stadiums are another thing all together. That’s rock star status.
For me, I can’t think about going on stage as the “limelight.” I think about it as playing my songs for people and losing my mind. When I’m on stage, I feel completely free. I feel completely inspired. I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m getting lost in the moment. It’s like one big trip.

Speaking of trip, do you have a favorite place to play?
I love America. I love L.A. and I love New York. And I haven’t been there yet, but I know I’m going to love Tokyo so much when I go. It sounds so magical.

It does. So, which one: New York or L.A.?
I don’t know. People compare them, but they’re so different. It’s so difficult to compare the two. I feel like L.A., maybe, for me, just because it’s so different from London. Whereas New York is so similar.

Aww, shucks. So, do you have any down time when you tour?
Never. It’s constant. But, that’s fine. It feels good to play shows and have people come listen to my music. That’s really nice. I mean, it’s weird doing promo every day. You have to talk about yourself all the time, and I don’t really like doing that. It’s just strange. I’m starting to get used to it. It’s all right.

You’re adjusting. How’s tour going so far with Ellie?
It’s fun. The crowds are big. She’s cool. I think I managed to convert her into a platform shoe-lover. She tried on my Buffalo platforms and was like, Oh my god, these are amazing!

How would you compare the experience of performing at big venues versus small?
Playing big venues is always less personal. Like, when I was doing the Coldplay tour, there were, like, seven screens. Only the front, like, five rows can see you up close. But, in a club it’s wild. You can taste everyone’s sweat, which I really like. I feel so much more alive. You can really get in touch with the crowd and make it, like, an apocalyptic, end of the world party. So, I really like that. Obviously, it’s a dream to play in front of as many people as possible, so big stages are good. But, when I have my own massive shows, I want the walls and ceilings and floors to be made of screens. So you’re in a screen box. And it’s, like, my favorite videos and mash-ups of my favorite movies playing. It’d be a mindfuck.

Do you watch Girls?
Yeah! Like that artist [Booth Jonathan]’s thing. Exactly like that, except on a massive scale.

That’s also, as you know, the episode featuring the song you wrote, performed by Icona Pop.
That was really cool. I’m a big Lena Dunham fan. I feel like she’s this sexy, hilarious, fierce super-girl. So, it was really cool seeing her singing that song. It was quite funny.

Is Hannah your favorite character on the show?
I don’t know. I also really like Adam. And I really like Shoshanna. And I love to hate Jessa, because I know so many people like that and they’re so frustrating.

Do you have a lot of super-fans?
I do, actually. They’re all sweet, but they’re crazy. It’s cute, though. They’re all young. They message me all the time. Like, everyday. It freaks me out that my music can mean that much to someone. I didn’t have that. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have had the power to tell them, because I didn’t have Twitter. Now, everyday, you can build up this false relationship in your mind. It’s scary. It’s mad.

I’d agree with that. After all this, the journey so far, what do your parents think?
They’re proud. Whenever I’m in London they’ll come to my show. They’re really supportive. They took me to the raves when I was younger, came with me and were really cool. I’m really thankful for that, actually.

That’s awesome. I imagine a lot of parents wouldn’t be as nurturing when it comes to their young daughter rocking the sometimes seedy rave scene. You also dress pretty provocatively. From where does your aesthetic sensibility derive?
I’m really inspired by movies. The Craft. Clueless. Empire Records. I just love that nineties aesthetic. I like basics, grungy stuff. I’m a big fan of the Spice Girls. Some of their music videos are my favorites. Like, “Say You’ll Be There.” I feel like I came through the third wave of the club kids in London. I was watching Party Monster, finding out who Michael Alig was. Part of me will always be interested in that world. DIY, but high fashion at the same time.

So, do you have a dream collaboration?
I’d love to work with Bjork. She’s incredible. I admire everything she does. Her voice is like butter. So angry but so sweet and beautiful at the same time. I think she’s wonderful.  

Whose music are you really into right now?
Jai Paul. I’ve always been a big fan of his. Kitty Pryde. I think she’s really cute. I love her lyrics. I always listen to the same stuff on repeat. Like, Uffie, Kate Bush, The Cure. Robert Smith is, like, my hero.

Last but not least, what would you be doing if not this?
I’d be crying probably. 

What New York Needs Is More Jaywalking

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The first paragraph of this New York Times article on street safety analysis says it all, I believe: “Pedestrians struck by cars are most often hit while in the crosswalk, with the signal on their side.” So why bother. You need to cross a street, jaywalk that shit.

To someone driving a car, a person in the crosswalk may as well not be real: they’re like another traffic signal. You’re not supposed to plow right through them, but you might if you’re in a big enough rush. You’re not supposed to take a corner at warp speed to cut in front of an old bag lady pushing a wheelie cart; it is, however, quite tempting.

Now, say you just jump out between parked cars in the middle of the street when you want to cross, so you don’t have to go all the way to the corner. You can bet a driver will notice you then. They’ll brake hard and honk and probably lean out the window to curse at you, but mission accomplished: you’re alive and on the opposite sidewalk. The motorist will then be angry enough to run someone over in a crosswalk—just not you, you sneaky devil.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter

?uestlove, Rhazel Surprise Soho With Improvised Set

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Yesterday in New York was beautiful—hot enough to get a sweat on, even—and if you were lucky enough to take your midday walk through Soho you may have run across an unusual sight: a pop-up concert featuring ?uestlove on drums and Rhazel on the mic.

The duo freestyled for twenty minutes, with Rhazel doing some vicious beatboxing, for a very appreciative lunchtime crowd of about three hundred. The event was affiliated with Red Bull Music Academy, a music festival of sorts that spans the entire month of May—“37 events with over 230 artists at 34 venues across New York.”

In a nod to the street-level nature of the performance, Rhazel asked the crowd if this show were as good as one you’d see on the A train. He also asked where Mayor Bloomberg was at, scanning the audience to no avail.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter