When Two x Two for AIDS and Art descends upon The Rachofsky House this month for its annual weekend benefiting amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art (last year’s extravaganza broke $4 million), 10 atypical totes will fetch not only fashion envy but likely wildly high bids.
by CHRISTINA GEYER
“There are brilliant ideas,” says Santiago Barberi Gonzalez, “and then there is brilliant execution.” The son of handbag designer Nancy Gonzalez and the president of his mother’s namesake line is a famously private and passionate collector of contemporary art. So when his longtime friend Jim Gold — the president of specialty retail for Neiman Marcus — introduced him to Two x Two for AIDS and Art founders and megawatt collectors Cindy and Howard Rachofsky this spring, it was just a matter of time before megawatt ideas started brewing.
“I invited Santiago to come to Dallas for the weekend to see the Dallas Art Fair,” says Gold. “While in town, I thought he would enjoy seeing some private collections. When we got to the Rachofskys’, he hit it off immediately with Cindy and Howard.” The new best friends, as Cindy and Santiago now refer to each other, began plotting to shake up the silent-auction component of this year’s Two x Two. The idea? Ten Nancy Gonzalez handbags, in rare albino crocodile skin, each to be re-imagined by a top artist. Enter Two x Two’s 2012 gala chairwoman, New York collector Amy Phelan, a former Dallasite. She and Santiago assembled a shortlist — from Two x Two 2012 honoree Richard Phillips to Josephine Meckseper to the one-named Kaws — and asked each artist to work magic on one of the totes. The catch? The deadline was three months away, lightning-quick in the world of handcrafted bags and for artists who often take months or years to create a single work.
Just two examples: Jenny Holzer’s piece, with the words “Protect me from what I want” embossed on the white-leather inside lining of the bag. Holzer sketched her words on the bag’s paper pattern, carefully measuring, even taking the seams’ placement into consideration. Then, Nancy Gonzalez artisans in Colombia created an exact replica of the word pattern and stamped the leather with a hot press that Santiago borrowed from a friend. Artist Lawrence Weiner’s bag was also a feat. He envisioned crocodile-skin words applied to the façade of his bag, but there was no device capable of cutting out letters in such a size. Cookie cutterlike tools were created to match each letter of Weiner’s custom-designed font.
Indeed, these works of wearable art will be right at home among the Lambies, Mapplethorpes and Bresses at The Rachofsky House come auction night. “The difference between a good artist and a great artist,” says Santiago, “is a great artist knows how to brilliantly execute and brilliantly deliver.”
For information about the Two x Two events on Oct. 18 and 20, and to browse the auction catalogue , click to twoxtwo.org. photographs: Naoya Fujishiro and akihiro Sakai