Friday, August 27, 2010


Collecting Wine- Tips by Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud

Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier, Bar Boulud

Collecting wine, how to collect wine, what to do, where to look…. These are such vast topics, they each deserve a blog post (and more) on their own. However, it is my mission to make things simpler and a bit more accessible than what they seem to be. So I went after Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud, social media master (follow him on Twitter and overall, a really cool and down to earth guy who absolutely loves what he does. Despite the long hours managing the cellar, buying, budgeting and running the floor, talking to diners, tasting wine….

Bar Boulud

Bar Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s fabulous Upper West Side bistro, which, besides having delicious food, is very wine centric. Michael’s preferences inform the wine collection at Bar Boulud. The majority of the outstanding wines at this über-cool spot are Burgundy and Rhône, because they really complement the restaurant’s menu. They are also extraordinary wines.

The day-to-day cellar in the basement of the restaurant is truly AMAZING!

Every night, based upon his weekly discussions with the chef, Michael selects a Magnum (1.5 liter bottle for all regions) or Jeroboam (3 liter bottle of Bordeaux) or Methuselah (6 liter bottle of Burgundy) or Imperial (6 liter bottle of Bordeaux) to be poured and sold by the glass. He also Tweets his choices. The selection is always distinctive, including fabulous vintages, Grand Crus, and more. And no glass of wine is ever more expensive than $25. Michael’s Twitter followers don’t walk, they RUN to Bar Boulud to drink from the coveted bottle and everybody has a blast. As a bonus (and what a bonus), the art that is hanging on the walls of the restaurant is a whole series of wine stains made especially by Vik Muniz for Daniel. Here, Vik explores the duality that exists between something as divine as wine and something as despicable as the stains they leave behind. Brilliant.

One of Vik Muniz's wine stains photographs.  Since Rhone is one of Michael's faves, I chose Guigal "La Turque" 1991, a Syrah that got 99 points by Robert Parker

So I asked Michael to give me his tips on how to collect wine. He feels the most important thing that collectors or aspiring collectors should do is read a lot: understand the wines, the production, the philosophy behind each vineyard and the passion of a winemaker. It also helps to understand the nuances of the wine market without jumping to buy whatever is being offered on the internet or at auctions (which are often priced higher than the wine is actually worth). My own favorite references in this area are “The Wine Advocate” (Robert Parker’s famed bimonthly super-specialized magazine) and Wine Spectator, which is fun, colorful and filled with excellent advice and information. On the blog side, I like Dr. Vino and of course, Gary Vainerchuck’s Wine Library TV

Michael's "Hall of Fame"

One other thing that Michael mentioned a lot is how the crazy wine market can make affluent people spend inordinate amounts of money for cases of wine that aren’t really worth that much. As an example, he mentions the Californian wines of 1999 and 2000 , describing the frenzy they provoked but the ultimately disappointing quality of the wines. Michael also advises to be very careful at wine auctions: prices will always be increased due to premiums and other fees and most of the time, for the really good wines, there will be other guys pushing very hard to get a case of that fabulous (and hard to find) Burgundy or Bordeaux.

One of Michael's selections of the week! Le Pergole Torte, a fab Sangiovese!

Michael’s advice for collectors who love French wines (and who doesn’t?)—explore the northern Rhône region, which he finds (and I agree) spectacular and still accessible; including the reds from Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, which have some of the best Syrah out there. All in all, Michael’s passion is contagious and his love affair with wine is one of those things that must be experienced in person. If you are in NYC, go and have dinner at Bar Boulud, or, even better, check what’s being poured tonight and get excited on your way there! À votre santé!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Dolores Olmedo: A Fascinating Story

Frida in 1939

I’ve always been intrigued by Frida Kahlo-- her paintings, her style, her weird relationship with Diego Rivera (whom she married not once but TWICE after divorcing him in 1940), her impulsiveness, her tortured life and her absolutely amazing and passionate art. It’s very hard to actually buy one of Frida’s paintings. She didn’t paint much, and much of what she painted can be found in museums and in some of the most important private collections around the world. When any of her oil paintings (my favorites) hit auction houses, final prices are often millions of dollars. It’s impossible to talk about Frida without talking about Diego, with whom she had a very open marriage. They were both very promiscuous and had many lovers while married to each other. In the case of Frida, she had both male and female lovers, while Diego had an affair with Frida’s sister. Their relationship was so unconventional and the society they lived in so conservative. This contrast makes the story even more captivating, and defines Frida’s work, since she expressed all these infidelities in her art.

Frida and Diego in 1929

I decided to interview Mr. Carlos Phillips Olmedo, who is the Director of the Museo Frida Kahlo; Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño and Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli who kindly and patiently told me one of the most absorbing art world stories that I’ve ever heard. Mr. Phillips Olmedo, who actually met Frida during her lifetime and knew Diego Rivera personally, is the son of Dolores Olmedo Patiño (also called “Doña Lola” by friends and family), another fascinating woman, collector and entrepreneur who was a very close friend of Diego Rivera. Dona Lola disliked Frida because both of them had had the same boyfriend prior to Diego entering the picture as Frida’s lover. Due to Doña Lola’s close relationship with Diego, she not only became one of Rivera’s most unconditional supporters but also one of his most important collectors, amassing the whopping number of 127 of Rivera’s works by the time she died. But because Diego was crazy about Frida, even after Frida had passed, he begged Doña Lola to buy 27 of Frida’s pieces that belonged to a private collector who had died and whose family didn’t want the artwork anymore. Frida wasn’t a big name at the time of this acquisition which occurred between 1954 and 1955 so Doña Lola didn’t pay that much for the entire collection. Doña Lola didn’t know what to do with Frida’s works (remember, she despised her, and a Latin angry woman can harbor resentment forever...) so she stored them in a closet for years and years. However, a few months prior to Diego’s death, he set up a trust and bequeathed all his possessions (including Frida’s “Blue House” which is today the Museo Frida Kahlo) to the people of Mexico and instructed Doña Lola to lend her Fridas to the museums that were to be created to show these vast collections.

Doña Lola posing for Diego in 1955

Nowadays, the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino hosts the largest collection of finished oil paintings by Frida. Most of the amazing works in this museum come from Doña Lola’s collection, and which has some of the most iconic works that Frida painted, including the “Autoretrato con Changuito” (Self-Portrait with Monkey); “El Camion” (The Bus); Hospital Henry Ford and “La Columna Rota” (The Broken Column). As the Director of all three museums, Mr. Phillips Olmedo continues and expands the work that his chic and brilliant mother started more than fifty years ago. He not only presides the executive committee of the trust that oversees Frida’s copyrights which is able to authenticate any Frida piece that’s brought before it but has also a veto power over things like for example grating Salma Hayek (after lengthy negotiations) the rights to reproduce Frida’s paintings in the movie that Salma produced and starred (and which earned her an Oscar nomination back in 2003). If you want to visit any of these Mexican museums, bear in mind that Frida’s paintings are always being requested on a loan to travel the world to be shown in different museums, so make sure to call before to get accurate information about the whereabouts of the pieces.

Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1945 (Coleccion Museo Dolores Olmedo)

The Broken Column, 1944 (Coleccion Museo Dolores Olmedo)

My nurse and I, 1937 (Coleccion Museo Dolores Olmedo)

The Bus, 1929 (Coleccion Museo Dolores Olmedo)

Friday, August 13, 2010


I ♥ Os Gêmeos

Here I am, hanging out with Os Gemeos at PS 11!

Recently I have been obsessed with two things: 1) Street Art and 2) Brazilian contemporary artists. So, it was a marriage made in heaven when I got to meet “Os Gemeos” (which in Portuguese means “The Twins”). I have been following these guys for a long time; they travel a lot and are difficult to pin down but they let me know when they were going to be in NYC and we hooked up! Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo are identical twin brothers from Sao Paulo who, for two decades have been painting together and expressing themselves through the coolest art. They started as graphic designers, but when they met Barry McGee in Brazil circa 1993, their life changed and so did their art. Sixteen years later they have become part of the Brazilian “royalty” of contemporary art, and also some of the most important street artists in the world. I really enjoyed meeting them and hanging out while watching their progress in painting a mural that occupies the entire west façade of PS 11, a public school in Chelsea (about six floors high). It takes about a week to get a mural of this size completed and these guys work really hard, standing at considerable heights on top of giant cranes under strong sunlight. Even though they are Brazilian, their skin is fair although both their faces are covered by thick beards!

This is how the mural looked like last Sunday

Front view of the mural and the cranes

Hundreds of spray paint organized by color rest on the floor

This is the mural completed!  Futura2000 collaborated with Os Gemeos and added some of his characters
(Photo courtesy of Os Gemeos)

The details are impressive, not to mention the sharpness of the colors and the amazing technique!
(Photo courtesy of Os Gemeos)

While talking to them, I gathered that Os Gemeos’ source of inspiration comes from everything and as they told me, their murals, pieces, and installations are always deeply influenced by their Brazilian roots, the folklore, politics, and the economic disparities that are so marked down there. World politics also play a role, and to confirm that, just check below the picture of the mural that they did in Portugal at the same time that they were having a fabulous show in the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon (which is still running until September 19th). But these guys are also imaginative and playful; constantly talking about a secret place in their shared dreams, a placed called “Tritrez” that’s magical but sometimes sad. No wonder that the names of some of their shows and exhibitions sound so ethereal-- for example: “Too Far Too Close”; “Pra quem mora lá, o céu é lá” which vaguely translates into “For those who live there, heaven is there”; or ““Nos Braços de um Anjo” which means “In the Arms of an Angel”.

This is one side of the mural in Lisbon, take a look at the logos in the crown!
(Photo courtesy of Os Gemeos)

This is a recent mural in the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego

They also curate their own shows in museums and galleries around the world, in such spectacular way that I can’t think of points of comparison. The quality of their technique is reflected in their paintings and other pieces, which are impeccably and flawlessly executed. Also, of the amount of color they use, originality and utilization of space where everything is fair game including the floors and ceilings and who knows what surprises will be added to subsequent shows.

Absolutely amazing show in the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon
(Photo courtesy of

More Lisbon
(Photo courtesy of

Fabulous detail, still in the Lisbon show!
(Photo courtesy of

Os Gemeos have been invited to all sorts of exhibits around the world. Their work has been shown in the Havana Biennial, the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the Museum Het Domein Sittard in the Netherlands, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and The Saatchi Gallery in London just to name a few.

If before meeting them I was a fan, now I’m totally sold: I ♥ Os Gêmeos.