What Were Tom Wolfe and Jerry Saltz Doing at the Nudes Sale?

Everyone was asked to wear white.

Jerry Saltz Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

“I’ll tell you the story,” literary legend Tom Wolfe told artnet News last night, gesturing to a cane he was holding that was topped with a wolf’s head. “My son, who is here tonight, was going along the highway and he saw a roadside store and he was going like 80 miles an hour but he stopped, and got this cane.”

Wolfe, wearing one of his signature bespoke white suits, was at the New York Academy of Art’s “Take Home a Nude” benefit auction at Sotheby’s where he was an honored guest alongside art critic Jerry Saltz. But it was his cane that quickly became a major topic of conversation. “I think it’s really well done,” he said. “I always say it is a self-portrait.”

To the auction, Wolfe had donated a small sketch of a nubile woman riding a bicycle, her short skirt lifted by the breeze. “I think of it as an ‘almost nude,'” he told us. “It’s something I did in 1978 and I had forgotten about it until now.”

Since attendees had been asked to dress in white in homage to Wolfe’s signature ensemble, we had trouble spotting the Bonfire of the Vanities author initially and even confused him with the writer Glenn O’Brien. “He’s a personal hero of mine,” O’Brien told us. “Actually, I think he’s a personal hero of everybody’s!”


Tom Wolfe, Dustin Yellin Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Tom Wolfe, Dustin Yellin
Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Saltz, who was not wearing a white suit, was hamming it up for the cameras, flashing his signature “thumbs up” pose. When asked why he was defying the sartorial theme, he looked a bit sheepish. “No one told me about the dress code!” he insisted.

Saltz may have missed the dress code, but we missed the evening’s big pun. It took an offhanded comment from one of the guests for us to realize the evening’s two big-name honorees were a play on the classic cartoon Tom and Jerry.

Naomi Watts Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Naomi Watts
Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Apart from white clothes, the evening’s main theme was “celebrating Instagram.” The Academy touted it heavily leading up to the event, calling on Insta-famous friends like Will Cotton, Pari Ehsan, and Hannah Bronfman (all of whom were also in attendance) to flout the social network’s policies on nudity by posting shots of their favorite nude artworks.

“[Marshall] McLuhan taught us that the first use of new media is to use it to reproduce the forms of old media,” Ryan McGinness told artnet News. “99.9 percent of Instagram accounts are used to make reproductions of a world that already exists instead of making work specific to Instagram. I am using Instagram as a distribution vehicle for site-specific work.”

Ryan McGinness—who also has a sizable following thanks to his frequent black-and-white word art posts—created a site-specific installation for the event called InstagrAM. Featuring a different Instagram image that McGinness uploaded every day for a period of three years, the colossal photo collage is the first artwork created using Instagram as an actual medium.

Most guests, of course, were just happy to use new media to show off their snaps next to a traditional media legend.

Sheila Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Myra Biblowit. Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Eileen Guggenheim, Tom Wolfe, Sheila Wolfe. 
Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Bob Colacello  Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Bob Colacello
Photo: Liam McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com.

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