The Art of Traveling Light: See How Three of the Art World’s Most Stylish Jet-Setters Pack for Their Holiday Vacations
Study up before Labor Day.
In the last weeks of August, before the busy fall season returns, the art world gets ready for its final and longest round of summer vacations. With this in mind, artnet News decided to reach out to three of the industry’s coolest women—photographer Sophie Elgort; the Wing’s resident art curator, Lolita Cros; and Gagosian’s art liaison, Sarah Hoover—for advice on a topic that can make or break even the most glamorous of adventures: How do you pack?
From investing in a must-have prop for overnight flights to sending toiletries on ahead to your destination, these women shared their tried-and-true tricks for getting where they need to go in style—along with some exciting summer art highlights and travel plans.
Sarah Hoover, Art Liaison at Gagosian Gallery
Tell me about your summer so far. How’s it going and where have you been?
So far, so good! It’s short, as usual. I haven’t traveled a ton this season since I did a lot of travel in the spring. So I was trying to stay “as put” as possible this season.
I was in Japan for a month in April—my husband [Tom Sachs] is an artist, and he had an exhibition at the Tokyo Opera City Gallery and was also shooting a film, so we were there for quite awhile with my little kid. It took us about a month to get over the jet lag—and then I had to go to Art Basel. Then I went to Paris to open a show of Ellen Gallagher’s work at Gagosian. Then I came back to New York for two weeks, and flew back to Paris in July for couture week, for Chanel. Then I went to Aspen for my mom’s birthday—I missed ArtCrush by a few days, but I kind of appreciated missing ArtCrush—and now I’m going with my family to California through Labor Day, just to relax and swim in the water.
How do you like to pack?
I’m really psychotically organized about my clothes. In my normal life, I pick out all my outfits on Sundays and I write them out—even down to the accessories and underwear, sometimes. It can be excessive. But if a bra strap shows, it ruins the whole thing and I need to start all over again.
When I travel, I do the exact same thing. I go in my closet, and I stand there, and I pull out everything that I think I might want to wear, and then I put together the outfits. I’ll package them in these cloth Chanel bags that you can see in my photo. If you buy something from Chanel, they give you those. Once I bought a dress from them, and they gave me like 20 of them. I was like, “Thank you, kind sir!”
I also love the Paravel packing cubes. I do one for my workout clothes and underwear, one for hair accessories, one for socks. I hate when stuff gets messed up when you travel and you have to pay to get it all dry-cleaned again, so if I need to, I use tissue paper as well to pack. The important thing to me is the autonomous packing bag. When I get to the place I’m going, I unpack right away. Also, if I’m going away for a long time, I usually Amazon Prime my toiletries to my destination so that I don’t have to carry them because they take up so much room.
What are some things you always have to have with you? Your non-negotiables, regardless of where you’re going.
On the plane itself, I need to have some sort of lip balm because my idea of hell is being stuck in a dry climate without it. I also have to have dental floss—I’m an oral hygiene addict. And a book, of course, is essential, so that you can completely zone out.
In my suitcase, I always bring workout clothes, my bikini, and a passport—I don’t care if I’m in literally Des Moines. You might meet some rich lady who thinks you’re fun and says, “Come on my yacht!,” and you don’t have a bikini or a passport. You’re an idiot. I hate bringing heels in the summer, so I always bring some really pretty flats, and black liquid eyeliner from Stila. It’s the best.
What does packing for your son entail?
My husband customizes a lot of my son’s clothes and makes some of them, too. He kind of has a uniform, so I just usually bring versions of that. Tom made a line for Nike; the shoes are called Mars Yards, and when my baby was born, Nike gave us a lifetime supply of baby ones, which don’t officially exist. They just made them for him. So when we travel, my family travels in matching outfits. We all wear Mars Yard sneakers and customized matching tracksuits. Even my nanny wears it. We all travel as a crew. We’ve gotten a lot of stares in airports.
I send diapers and swim diapers to the hotel ahead of time. You can make anything a toy for a kid that age, too. He never has an iPad at home—ever—but I do bring one with kid stuff on it for the plane, because I don’t want the rest of the world to hate me, and it’s such a treat for him. That’s sort of it. He’s obsessed with airplanes, too, which really helps.
Packing for a child definitely takes more organization and you have to think a little bit more. I try and pack for him a day before we go and I pack for myself the night before. I used to never check a bag—I used to go to Fashion Week with a carry-on. I was an absolute professional. And now there’s so much more stuff because of him.
What’s the best art you’ve seen this summer?
The best show I’ve seen all year actually is “Reframing the Black Model” at the Musee d’Orsay. It’s unbelievable. It’s so relevant, and a wonderful exhibition. It began here at the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia, and it’s obviously expanded in Paris and has Manet’s Olympia and so many other historical paintings that made me feel really sorrowful. It’s really poignant because it’s about all of the black figures that are and were so important in art history, whose names we don’t even know. They were overlooked even though they were so important to decades of work. It was just amazing, really beautiful and moving. I saw it twice.
I saw the Sally Mann exhibit at Jeu de Paume, which was also so very beautiful. She took these incredibly haunting photographs of scenes from Civil War battlegrounds. And of course Ellen Gallagher at Gagosian, which I worked on, was great. She is remarkable. I think we’re probably all thinking a lot about race right now, as we should be, and those three shows all deal with race in direct and indirect ways.
Number one packing tip?
Be realistic. The thing that you don’t wear in New York, you’re not going to wear in Paris or whatever. And be comfortable—you don’t have to bring the six-inch heels.
Lolita Cros, Curator at the Wing
What does summer look like for you? Where are you going?
Summertime is full of familial obligations. They’re always good ones, but usually my opportunity to discover a new place is in April or May. At the end of July—I actually time it to the village fete—I spend time with my family in the South of France in a little medieval village called Puisserguier. It’s the most beautiful place. It’s in the middle of the vineyards, and we go there and eat lots of good, grilled food, and beautiful tomatoes, and drink beer with the local villagers.
Then usually I have a week back in New York, between this vacation and the next, with my boyfriend’s family in Harbour Island in the Bahamas. That’s a little more relaxing. We stay at Ocean View, which is a beautiful hotel that he’s been going to for years. We usually spend a week there.
When I’m back, this summer, I’ll be in New York for 24 hours, and then I’m flying out to London to do a studio-visit marathon for the opening of the Wing London. I’ll be visiting a lot of artists, a lot of galleries, and checking out the scene there. There are many artists I already work with in London, so I’m excited to either meet them in person or see their studios, because I’ve never seen their spaces. So it’s all very exciting—but super rushed, going from vacation mode to insane art-marathon mode.
How do you pack for all this?
I’m more-or-less organized, but I need to start making a punch list of all of the items that have to make it into my bag. There’s always one I forget. I’m not a checked bag sort of person—I haven’t checked a bag in years. In that way, I can be an under-packer. I’m a big under-packer of t-shirts—I always tend to run out—but I’m an overpacker of underwear. And shoes.
For the South of France, I basically just wear two outfits the entire time. It’s a lot of shirts, a pair of running shoes in case I feel like working out at some point, lots of shorts, and comfy clothes. I always, no matter where I go, bring one fancy-ish outfit. My mom is the queen of buying dresses that are impossible to get wrinkled. I have a lot of those I inherited from her.
For Harbour Island, a lot of my friends like to go there at the same time as us, so I pack colorful things for going out, for dancing… lots of nice shoes! I need to go to the Repetto store this evening to buy a new pair because the ones that I have have holes everywhere. I prep more outfits for Harbour, because it’s fun to try out fun things for a beautiful, tropical setting with your boyfriend and friends.
London will be a lot of suits, pants, shirts that I’ll need to iron as soon as I get there. I anticipate a lot of small rainstorms, of course, so I’m planning for that. I’ll pack probably one pair of heels for London in case there’s a dinner that’s happening or I go out with an artist.
What do you wear while you travel, and what do you bring on the plane?
I’m not someone who wears sweatpants when I travel. I like to look somewhat decent on the plane. I think Europeans are raised that way, sort of sweatpants-averse. I have my unique linen pants, which are the best travel pants, and some comfy shirts that I don’t need a bra for.
I have a new obsession, which I advise everyone to get for their plane rides: an inflatable foot rest. You don’t realize that, when you’re trying to fall asleep on the plane, the thing that you’re lacking is just something to put your feet up on, like an ottoman. It’s made a huge difference. You just feel like you’re sleeping horizontally rather than at a hard angle. That thing is a life saver. I used to just use a bag and then I invested in this $20 footstool, and now I can’t live without it.
What art have you seen this summer that you’re excited about?
Outside of seeing my family, the second most important part of my trip to France is flying to Arles for the Les Rencontres d’Arles photo festival. I stay at the Nord Pinus hotel while I’m there. My favorite exhibition this year was Mohamed Bourouissa’s showing at the Monoprix [the French chain store].
I’ve been running around so much for the Wing—where all the artworks are on sale—and making sure that pieces get safely to the homes of their clients, but I still have to go see the Whitney Biennial before it closes and MoMA PS1’s “MOOD: Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2018–19.” Two of the Wing artists have work there now: Allison Janae Hamilton and Tschabalala Self. I’ve been working with Tschabalala since 2012—I’m so amazed by her career and the way she’s developed her practice. It’s also incredible to see so many other artists who are equally good, but who haven’t yet gotten that little kick. And she’s a really big supporter of younger artists, so it’s pretty amazing to talk to her. There’s actually a talk that I did with her that I uploaded on my YouTube channel, which is one of the favorite talks I’ve done. She’s super honest about her career, and the art world in general.
And then in terms of other art projects, I am trying to do more events and curated studio visits for collectors and smaller groups of people, which I want to put online so everyone can have a peek. I’m looking forward to the next “Studio Visit of the Month” as they’re called. It’s a video series I do for artists I work with, featuring their spaces. The next one will hopefully happen in the fall at some point, when I lock down the time.
Sophie Elgort, Photographer
Where are you off to and how has your summer been so far?
We’re going for a week to northern Wisconsin to visit my husband’s family. They have a cabin there, and it’s a particularly unique and special place because it sort of goes back generations. There’s something like 12 cabins, all in the same area—it’s like a camp, and there’s a cafeteria and when the bell rings, you go down to have your meals. There’s water-skiing and tennis; they have different activities and games you can play; people organize poker nights. There’s a square dance and outdoor picnics. It’s like this crazy week-long getaway tradition we all partake in, and it’s pretty unplugged because the service is terrible up there. It’s one thing to talk about disconnecting, and another to really do it because you’re sort of forced to, which is nice. You get to really escape.
That’s our main vacation. Other than that, we spend most weekends with my family in Southampton. I went to Chicago for the first time ever a few weeks ago for a wedding, too. It’s one of those places I couldn’t believe I hadn’t visited before. It was a really hot weekend, so we ended up going to Ohio Street Beach, which interestingly exists in the middle of the city. It was amazing to be able to walk from the city streets right into the water.
Walk me through your packing routine.
I wish I were the sort of person who packed well in advance. My dad leaves his suitcase out a week before he has to go somewhere and starts putting things in gradually, which is such a good idea. I always end up packing at midnight with a 6 a.m. departure, and by the time we have to go, I’m still rushing to finish.
But as disorganized as I am about the process, I’m not someone who can just throw things in a bag. Everything needs to have its proper place. I try to bring exactly what I need and maybe a few extra pieces. I try to pack in outfits, so I know what I’m going to wear when. And since we had our daughter, there’s a lot more stuff. I never used to check a bag. Now I’ll often pack one very large suitcase, and my husband and I will each take a side. He likes to put Stella’s stuff in with ours, in the middle, and I get why that makes sense but I just don’t like to mix it. We’re basically trying to figure out how to remain organized with all her things now.
As a fairly new parent, do you feel like you underestimated what it’s like to travel with a child?
Yeah. I’m pretty good about doing it, because it’s nice to continue to have the experiences, but I definitely didn’t realize how much work it is. You don’t get to relax on the plane, or really do anything that you want to do. Even if they’re behaving well, it’s this constant squirming and need for entertainment and making sure they don’t dive into the seat of the person next to you or crawl down the aisle. Because she’s under 2, she doesn’t need her own seat yet and it’s getting a little crazy. I keep telling myself it’s all good, it’s all temporary. [laughs]
What are some things you always bring along with you?
I always bring a robe. And it’s usually a big fluffy one—I just think it’s great to have for lounging around in in your room. I always bring dry shampoo. Especially after a long flight, it helps to give your hair a little body. I get a travel-size version. I also always bring my cameras—usually one digital and one film camera, with an extra roll of film. I like to bring sheet masks on the plane and eye patches so I can hydrate as I’m going. Air travel can be very drying. I bring snacks with me, too, like Kind bars. I also always bring sock-slippers—you know, the ones with the grippy things at the bottom.
What art highlights have you seen during your summer travels so far?
I made it to the Museum of Contemporary Art when I was in Chicago, which was great. I went to see the Virgil Abloh show and ended up getting there right when the MCA opened, so I got to go through the entire museum, which was cool. Brendan Fernandez has a dance-based installation there which was interesting, because he’s doing something for the Whitney Biennial that my brother’s girlfriend, Violetta, dances in. We saw that earlier in the summer.
I was also at the opening of the Pierre Cardin exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, which was really cool. For a bachelorette party, we went up to Storm King for the day, and I hadn’t gone there in about four years—it’s such a beautiful way to spend the day.
Staley-Wise Gallery in Soho carries some of my work, and they have an exhibit for Joel Gray, who is actually the guy who plays the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. He takes these beautiful pictures of flowers on his iPhone, and blows them up—life-size, so that they almost look like paintings. So I recently saw that when I was in the gallery showing some of my new work.
Funnily enough, in northern Wisconsin, where I’m going for this camp, every year they ask an artist to do a show. So I have a show going on there right now. They hung a bunch of work for me back in June, which I shipped them out from New York. While we’re there, we’ll have a little reception for it, too. I made the theme of the exhibit “Summer”—it’s a combination of personal and commissioned work, all things that felt like summer to me.
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