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Spencer Bailey

Spencer is co-founder of The Slowdown, editor-at-large of the book publisher Phaidon, and the former editor-in-chief of Surface magazine. He has written for publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Spencer Bailey's Articles


Courtesy Artisan Books

Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray on “Durag Diplomacy” and the Beauty of the Bronx

Over the past decade, the Bronx culinary collective Ghetto Gastro has—through a combination of creative finesse, clever tactics, linguistic gymnastics, and food alchemy—risen up in the worlds of art, fashion, and entertainment, serving up a new, raw form of cultural ambassadorship. Unofficial representatives of their home borough, the group’s co-founders, Jon Gray (the guest on Ep. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast), Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, practice what they call “durag diplomacy,” bringing the Bronx to the world and the world to the Bronx. The trio’s scope and impact is vast, from collaborating with French luxury house Cartier on a “Bronx Brasserie” pop-up in Paris, to launching kitchen appliances with Target, to cooking with Wolfgang Puck at this year’s Oscars. An unabashed gastronome and the group’s self-described “dishwasher,” Gray has the agility and energy of a frontman: Currently an artist-in-residence at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he’s perhaps best known for his 2019 TED Talk, which has been viewed nearly two million times. Serrao and Walker are seasoned chefs with backgrounds in top restaurants, including at Cracco in Milan and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s now-closed Spice Market in New York, respectively.

The Sculpture Gallery at The Glass House. (Photo: Michael Biondo)

Robert Stadler Has a “Playdate” With Philip Johnson at His Glass House

It’s a serene, bluebird-sky day, a slight chill in the air, and I’m walking with the Paris-based, Austrian-born designer-artist-provocateur Robert Stadler along a central pathway on Philip Johnson’s 49-acre Glass House estate in New Canaan, Connecticut. We’ve just exited the property’s whitewashed, brick-floored, glass-ceilinged Sculpture Gallery, a transfixing space of light and shadow built in 1970 that’s home to works by artists including Michael Heizer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Now, for one of the first times ever, a temporary installation by a contemporary artist—Stadler—is being shown among the sculptures of these art-world giants.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Shaku chair for Koyori. (Photo: Hiroshi Iwasaki)

With Jasper Morrison at Its Creative Helm, Japanese Furniture Company Koyori Makes Splendid Seats

With practically everything they do—or at least with their many time-honored ceremonies and traditions, from yuritsuki gardening to the brewing of gyokuro—the Japanese bring great care. Gift-wrapping is no exception. Taking cues from the island nation’s rich, detail-driven heritage, and celebrating the latter art, the new Japanese furniture maker Koyori chose its name. Meaning “twisted paper cords,” Koyori references the primary material of mizuhiki, the decorative paper cords commonly used in Japan to tie paper-wrapped gifts. The metaphor is apt: Koyori’s exquisite wood furniture creations tie together Japanese aesthetics and craftsmanship with leading-edge designers from around the world. Rooted in Japanese tradition, Koyori is a global company of the now, beyond borders. At the creative helm of this new venture—which launched this month at the Triennale di Milano art and design museum, during Milan Design Week—is the British product and furniture designer Jasper Morrison, who serves as its “brand directing advisor.” Tapped by executive director Koda Munetoshi, Morrison collaborated on Koyori’s identity with the Tokyo-based Swiss graphic designer Sebastian Fehr. The debut collection’s five chairs—three of them (the Kawara, the Musubi, and the Skaku) by the Paris-based brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the other two (the Miau and the Edaha) by the Danish-Italian duo Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi, who run the Copenhagen-based firm GamFratesi—emphasize rigor and comfort, evoke a poetic intimacy, and highlight tradition without getting bogged down in it. Each chair conveys its own sort of personality: The Bouroullecs’s simple, high-backed Shaku winks, casually and not in any overt way, at Shaker furniture; GamFratesi’s Miau practically smiles in form, its elegant bent armrest made from a single piece of wood. It is serious design, but joyful, too.

Installation view of the “Hermès in the Making” exhibition in Troy, Michigan. (Photo: William Jess Laird)

In Detroit, a Six-Day Hermès Exhibition Celebrates Craft and Community

Detroit is a city of craft. Of carmakers and Carhartt. Of Motown Records and Eminem. Of iconic midcentury design (Isamu Noguchi’s Hart Plaza and Dodge Fountain, buildings by Mies van der Rohe and Minoru Yamasaki). Of the Cranbrook Academy of Art (in nearby Bloomfield Hills), the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Heidelberg Project. So it’s fitting that, following previous iterations in Copenhagen, last fall, and in Turin, Italy, last month, the French luxury house Hermès has headed here—to the suburb of Troy, specifically, where it also recently opened a store—to present its latest “Hermès in the Making” exhibition (through June 15). A playful, Willy Wonka factory–like presentation of the company’s know-how, the display offers “an opportunity to peek behind the curtain,” as Kamel Hamadou, one of the company’s expert silk scarf-makers, cheekily puts it. Poppy and pompy, it is a verifiable high-craft wonderland and a joy to behold. One would be hard-pressed not to smile while walking through it. Divided into four sections—”A Culture of Traditional Craftsmanship,” “High-Quality Materials,” “The Talent of Our Regions,” and “Time, Our Ally”—the exhibition functions as a crash course on the Paris-based company, founded in 1837, and its 52 workshops and production sites across France (which employ nearly 6,000 craftspeople). At the “Printing the Silk” display, Hamadou guides viewers through the mesmerizing, nearly hour-long, step-by-step process of silk-screen printing, using a flatbed-screen technique that requires three years of training under a tutor to master. “It’s like cooking a family recipe,” Hamadou says of making an Hermès scarf. “A secret!” Beyond, stations feature artisans in saddle-stitching, porcelain painting, gemstone setting, glove-making, leather working, watchmaking, and leather repair. Throughout, various gadgets, gizmos, and displays delight, from phones featuring “after-sales anecdotes,” to leather odor diffusers, to a circa-1990 Volvo steering wheel covered in calf leather, to a Mars meteorite fragment found in North Africa (and used in the Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune watch dial).

Rebecca van Bergen. (Photo: Wesley Law)

For Rebecca van Bergen, Craft Is a Means to Change the World

For the past 16 years, Rebecca van Bergen has been laying the groundwork for a more equitable, inclusive, and transparent environment for those in the business of artisan handwork. For her, “equitable,” “inclusive,” and “transparent” aren’t marketing-speak hype-words; she means them in their truest sense, as paths toward greater economic power. As the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Nest, van Bergen has woven together a potent platform for change. Its name is as clever as it is befitting. The notion of building a nest—a protected place of birth, care, support, and growth—is indeed the very embodiment of her organization’s ethos. From the start, Nest has sought to forge a resilient handworker economy. Not only has Nest pioneered “micro-bartering” (in which artisans receive loans they pay back in the form of product), it has also built a 1,600-plus-member guild of craft-based businesses (spanning 120 countries, it comprises an 88 percent female workforce); created a set of now widely adopted handworker protection standards; and partnered with brands including West Elm, Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher on things such as production compliance, responsible sourcing, and connecting designers and craftspeople. This is just to name a few of the fruits of van Bergen’s labor. The pandemic has seen engagement skyrocket: Between 2020 and 2021 alone, Nest saw its guild grow by 84 percent. This week, in partnership with Hermès, as part of the French luxury house’s “Hermès in the Making” exhibition in Troy, Michigan (open to the public from June 10–15), van Bergen will lead conversations on the subjects of repair and regeneration, and also launch a program for Detroit-based makers. Here, we speak with van Bergen about the pandemic-led rise of home-based work, the links between craft and activism, and Detroit’s maker legacy.

MASA gallery’s exhibition “Intervención/Intersección” at Rockefeller Center

Embracing Playfulness, an Exhibition Engages in the “Creative Porosity” Between Mexico and the U.S.

In 1938, two years after completing one of his first realized public artworks, “History Mexico,” a sculptural, colored cement mural on the second floor of the Abelardo L. Rodríguez Market in Mexico City, the Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi, then 33 years old, won a public competition to create a frieze at the Associated Press Building (now called 50 Rockefeller Plaza) at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. Completed after a year of labor, the 20-foot-tall cast stainless-steel bas relief sculpture, called “News,” remains installed there today, above the main entrance. Depicting five larger-than-life, bulkily-armed, broad-shouldered, media-making men—one on the phone, the others writing, typing, observing, and picture-taking—it is a shining example of his early work. Considered together, these two pieces represent a young Noguchi building toward what would become an incredible output of poetic, boundary-pushing, public-oriented work across six decades, from playscapes and furniture to stone sculptures and Akari paper lamps (manifested perhaps most magnificently in the form of his namesake museum in Long Island City, Queens, which he founded in 1985).

Vuslat Doğan Sabancı in front of artist Giuseppe Penone’s sculpture “Idee di Pietra–Olmo,” commissioned by the Vuslat Foundation for the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. (Photo: Enrico Fiorese)

Vuslat Doğan Sabancı Imagines a Better, Brighter World Full of “Generous Listening”

From 1996 to 2018, Vuslat Doğan Sabancı worked her way up the ranks of her family’s business, Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper publishing group, one of the largest media companies in the country. During that time, she helped lead the firm’s transition to digital, and pushed for greater coverage around gender equality and human rights—particularly women’s rights and domestic violence. In her last decade there, she served as the company’s board chair. For her, the experience was a heady whirlwind, an opportunity to bring a large, influential media operation into the click-click-click internet age, and to do so, in part, through social cause and action.

A Letter from Mother Teresa, submitted to the Museum of Material Memory by Siddharth Sunder. (Courtesy Museum of Material Memory)

A Digital Museum Tells Time-Honored Stories of the Indian Subcontinent Through Everyday Objects and Family Heirlooms

A gold dial Titan quartz wristwatch with a worn-out brown leather strap. A 32-caliber Colt pistol. A dekchi, or brass cooking pot for cooking the traditional rice dish biryani. A signed letter from Mother Teresa. An Imperial Bank of India checkbook. These are but five items in the collection of the Museum of Material Memory, an online repository of objects from across the Indian subcontinent, dating from or before the 1970s, including books, photographs, magazines, maps, jewelry, and family heirlooms.

Elyn Zimmerman's 1993 World Trade Center bombing memorial

Elyn Zimmerman Created a Memorial to the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing—Then It Was Destroyed on 9/11

Elyn Zimmerman will never forget the exact moment when, on February 26, 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the World Trade Center’s underground parking garage, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand. The artist and sculptor’s studio at the time was in Tribeca, just off Varick Street, and when the bomb went off, it was felt, both literally and figuratively, across downtown New York City. It would become a traumatic precursor to the even more harrowing events to come, less than a decade later, on September 11, 2001.

Menu items from Stephanie Goto's ice cream and champagne Omakase

Pairing Champagne and Ice Cream, Stephanie Goto Masterminds an Extraordinary Omakase

Stephanie Goto thinks about champagne and ice cream in similar ways to how she does design: spatially, materially, and as an intricate array of layers and forms. With her friend Nicholas Morgenstern, the chef and owner of Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, the New York–based architect recently merged these seemingly disparate interests into a wholly original, decidedly unusual, extraordinarily sensorial limited-run omakase. Starting July 20 and running through August 10, the seven-course pairing menu—celebrating the release of Dom Pérignon’s Plénitude 2 Vintage 2003—will be available on Tuesdays, with seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., by reservation only at Morgenstern’s Sundae Bar, part of its flagship location in New York’s Greenwich Village. (Those wanting to try a single pairing can make a reservation to do so between noon and 10 p.m.) A Dom Pérignon collector and long-time friend of the brand, Goto worked closely with the company’s chef de cave, Vincent Chaperon, throughout the process of creating the menu, learning the details and nuances that go into constructing a Dom Pérignon vintage—“the structure of the wine, and the deeper definitions of why it is what it is,” as she puts it. With Morgenstern, Goto selected some of their favorite Japanese ingredients, such as tamago, soy sauce, and dashi, and then she designed an edible experience that playfully reimagines and transforms these ingredients into a theatrical story about ice cream and champagne, presented in three acts. Among the over-the-top offerings (featuring plates designed by Goto, as well as various tableware items from her personal collection) are a nori cone with sushi rice ice cream and Black River Caviar’s imperial-grade Russian Oscietra Caviar, paired with a glass of the Vintage 2010; a toro burger with a side of soy sauce ice cream and ginger “fries,” paired with a glass of the Rosé Vintage 2006; and a sundae cube made from matcha, red bean, vanilla, and dorayaki, paired with the Plénitude 2 Vintage 2003. Here, we speak with Goto about how the exquisitely executed project came to be. When and how did your relationship with Dom Pérignon begin?

Potter Edmund de Waal with books

Master Potter Edmund de Waal on the Necessity of Revisiting the Past

Practically everything the artist, master potter, and writer Edmund de Waal touches turns to dust. Or at least toward the idea of dust. In each of his books—2010’s The Hare With Amber Eyes, 2015’s The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession, and the just-published Letters to Camondo (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), out this week—dust serves as a profound metaphor. Throughout his work, whether in pottery or prose, de Waal explores various notions around the archive and the library, digging into the dusty corners of the past to pull together the lost and little-known. “Dust is the uncontrollable bit of history, isn’t it?” de Waal says. “It’s the unnoticed, it’s the gratuitous, it’s the stuff that Walter Benjamin talks about, which is the forgotten, ragpicker ends of history, the bits in the archive which haven’t been looked at.”

A concrete home with a large window flanked by two trees

A New Book Surveys 11 Transcendent, Light-Filled Homes Designed by Tadao Ando

The Covid-19 pandemic, by its very nature, has led to a universal turning toward—or even retreating to—home. The very notion of dwelling as fundamental to humankind has been all the more dramatized in these precarious times. It seems appropriate, then, that into this complex moment comes a beautiful, clarifying book, Tadao Ando: Living With Light (Rizzoli), out this week, that presents 11 extraordinary residential projects designed by the Japanese architect, who has created more than 100 homes over the course of his five-decades-plus career. The winner of the 1995 Pritzker Architecture Prize, Ando is known for his impeccably constructed concrete structures verging on the spiritual (or sometimes they’re literally spiritual, as in the case of his 1989 Church of Light in Osaka, Japan), as well as for his ability to sculpt ephemeral forms with daylight, using it as an architectural material itself. Drawing nature inside, and blurring the lines between indoors and out, his transcendent spaces heighten the senses and function, like a clock, as connection points to time, nature, and the seasons.

Stylist Kate Young in her office with high fashion dresses hanging in the background

Hollywood’s Go-To Stylist Kate Young on Her New YouTube Show

Kate Young, the stylist for red carpet luminaries such as Sienna Miller, Margot Robbie, and Michelle Williams, grew up in a family of academics. She attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, then transferred to the University of Oxford, where she studied English and art history, before going on to work in magazines—first as Anna Wintour’s assistant at Vogue, and later, after several years in the Vogue fashion department, as fashion editor-at-large of Interview magazine. On her new YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young provides an inside peek, through her own distinct, high-low perspective, into the world of fashion. In the weekly series, which premiered on Tuesday, Young highlights the quality, craftsmanship, and enduring value of clothing, objects, and accessories, and shows each piece in detail. Exploring everything from streetwear to haute couture, she invites various people from the fashion realm to pop in for quick yet illuminating conversations. On the debut episode, Young talks about how she and actor-singer Selena Gomez, a client of hers since 2014, created their latest project together: the photographic art for Gomez’s new album, Revelación. In addition to detailing the various looks—including a Valentino haute couture dress—Young FaceTimes with fashion icon Giambattista Valli, floral designer Laurel St. Romain, emerging British-American designer Harris Reed, and Gomez herself. Here, we speak with Young about the impetus for the show, and her hopes for Hello Fashion as a whole. How did Hello Fashion come about? Why YouTube?