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February 14th, 2011, Style

At last night’s RETNA opening, the room was thumping and vodka was served on the rocks. It may have felt like more of a warehouse party than an art exhibit, but don’t be fooled: According to Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, who co-organized the event with Andy Valmorbida, 90 percent of the works had sold. And that was mid-event.

Perhaps better known for their playboy circle’s partying ways, the two have recently been helping relatively undiscovered artists find the spotlight. Last year, Richard Hambleton was their project; now, it’s L.A. street artist Marquis “RETNA” Lewis, who got on their radar via Pat Tenore, founder of California skater label RVCA. The New York show is the first of three (sponsored by Bombardier and VistaJet) planned in different cities around the world.

As the likes of Lily Donaldson and Brian Atwood circulated, the artist was applying paint to an installation in the center of the room. His hieroglyphic canvases lined the surrounding walls. “I walked in and it felt like a club in the early nineties, with Keith Harings all over,” Stephen Gan noted. “But when you come up close it’s definitely not that—it’s a lot more, sort of, typographic.”

“It’s not only fashion—I’m trying to present him to a broad audience,” Restoin-Roitfeld explained. He did a better job of it during the gallery portion of the evening than at the Indochine after-party, where Mary-Kate Olsen was squeezed into a banquette and Carine Roitfeld got up out of her seat to pose for Olivier Zahm. But there, too, the room was thumping—and vodka, in some cases, was served on the rocks.

— Darrell Hartman


RETNA: The Hallelujah World Tour Opening Night Photos

February 14th, 2011, Billy Farrell Agency


Location: 560 Washington Street, NYC
Photo Credit: Neil Rasmus/

See all photos:

Retna “Hallelujah World Tour” Show

February 13th, 2011, TATS CRU

This show was crazy the space was huge and the many canvases were huge as well Retna killed it. Huge letter sculptures, wine and lots of people what can we say it was a great turn out congratulations to Retna on a great show we wish you much continued success. Got a few shots with a few notables that night. Keep doing your thing Retna big shouts to Revok and the rest of the crew.

A plane with artwork by Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Retna. VistaJet, Swiss operator of 31 private aircraft, commissioned Retna to paint the tail of its largest corporate jet, the Bombardier Global Express XRS, this spring. Source: Nadine Johnson PR via Bloomberg


Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Retna used to get arrested for spray-painting buses, trains and other commercial property.

Now, he gets paid to do this.

VistaJet, Swiss operator of 31 private aircraft, commissioned Retna to paint the tail of its largest corporate jet, the Bombardier Global Express XRS, this spring.

“It’s a $60 million canvas, so we decided to start with just this one,” said Nina Flohr, head of branding and communications at VistaJet.

Together with Bombardier Business Aircraft, VistaJet is also sponsoring a traveling exhibition of Retna’s paintings, “The Hallelujah World Tour,” with a $4 million budget.

First stop: A 13,000-square-foot warehouse in New York displaying 35 large canvases and one sprawling sculpture of the artist’s name.

Hung cheek-by-jowl around the perimeter, the works bristle with mysterious symbols, resembling a cross between Asian calligraphy and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Retna’s imaginary alphabet has roots in Old English, gang graffiti, Arabic and Hebrew.
Furious Mother

“Even though I don’t understand them, I’m really intrigued by them,” said Retna, 31, who speaks English and Spanish. “I just really love writing.”

Retna, who grew up in downtown Los Angeles, got into graffiti as a 9-year-old Catholic-school student.

“I’d see graffiti on a freeway going to school,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything else. I just wanted to draw, draw and draw.”

Over the years, he tagged freeways, public parks and bridges. Along the way, he got arrested for vandalism, he said.

His mother, who moved to the U.S. from El Salvador and had to work two jobs (including a night shift as a parking-lot attendant) to put Retna through a private school, was furious.

“She was worried that something would happen to me,” said Retna. “I put her through a lot of pain.”

He said his pieces include Spanish curses his mother hurled at him as well as names of dead friends.

Retna completed the largest piece — an 8-by-20-foot canvas filled with five rows of squat black and red runes — in a single day this week.

“That speed comes from working on the street,” he said, as he walked around the freezing warehouse while a production crew was busy arranging his paintings and adjusting the lights. “I am talking about hanging on a bridge. We’d have to finish in 45 minutes before the cops got there.”
Middle East

Decoding these enigmatic messages could take a lot more time. You’d need a guide to explain how a sparse composition of silver symbols — vertical lines, zigzags and curved shapes — translates into “stoned to death.” And that’s the simplest piece in the show.

The exhibition’s producers, Andy Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, are still working on the tour’s next destinations.

“We want to show it in the Middle East,” said Valmorbida. Egypt would have been a good idea a month ago. Not so much now.”

Prices for the paintings range from $25,000 to $180,000. The show runs through Feb. 21 at 560 Washington St.

– Katya Kazakina


Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld and business partner Andy Valmorbida once again bridged the gap between art and fashion at last night’s opening for Los Angeles street artist RETNA’s Hallelujah world tour, drawing a sea of socialites, downtown types and general pretty people.

Notables including Bryanboy, Stavros Niarchos, Jamie Johnson, Irina Lazareanu, Olivier Zahm and Nur Khan and the impeccably chic Carine Restoin-Roitfeld flocked to the warehouse-style gallery housed in the former Bloomberg building on Washington Street to see RETNA’s newest project, a series of black and white paintings inspired by global typography as well as a monumental sculpture installation dealing with similar themes. The works featured influences ranging from Old English graffiti to east Asian calligraphy and even Incan and Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the show, curated by fellow Californian and founder of the popular lifestyle brand RVCA PM Tenore, undoubtedly blurs the increasingly obscured lines between street culture and high art.

Hallelujah marks the second show this pair have hosted during New York Fashion week, following retrospective for Richard Hambleton, the so-called “godfather of street art,” during the height of the Spring 2009 shows. “I have a fascination with street art, but I haven’t only been looking for street artists,” notes Restoin-Roitfeld. “We mostly try to follow our instincts and what we like when we see the works of different artists, so of course there is going to be some continuation between them, but I think street art is becoming very big right now, and [Retna] is one of the most talented artists I’ve ever seen… I wanted to give art lovers in New York a chance to see his work, and I think this is going to make a lot of noise for him.” As to the title of the show, a seemingly loaded word, Vlad remains in the dark: “He’s always kept [the meaning] very secret. He’s never even told us about it.”


RETNA Kicks Off Fashion Week

February 12th, 2011, WWD

Andy Valmorbida, PM Tenore, Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and PC Valmorbida.

Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Mary-Kate Olsen Photo By: Steve Eichner

The New York premiere of Los Angeles-based graffiti artist RETNA’s show, “The Hallelujah World Tour,” presented by Andy Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, packed in partygoers almost to the rafters of a gigantic space on Washington Street in the West Village Thursday night, as the fashion week party-hopping began in earnest. The artist’s large-scale monotone works lined the walls, and recently used brushes and paint cans divided the cavernous room in two. Still, no one was really looking at the art.

“God, I want to be a Roitfeld,” one partygoer sighed, while watching Vladimir and Julia Restoin Roitfeld pose with their mother, former French Vogue editor, Carine.

“Is it only the first day?” Kyleigh Kuhn asked. “Oh, fashion week begins.”

David Lauren made a brief appearance at the show, departing just as Irina Lazareanu sauntered in. Olivier Zahm snapped a photograph of Richard Phillips and Amanda Hearst. Pro surfer Danny Fuller snuck a cigarette near Eddie Borgo, Brian Atwood and Brian Grazer, while a very pregnant Stacey Bendet-Eisner posed with Cory Kennedy for friend Mark “the Cobrasnake” Hunter. Later, Stavros Niarchos and PC Valmorbida led the charge to the private after party at Indochine. A horde of model-esque females followed suit.

At the party, Carine Roitfeld took a moment to dispel rumors of a reunion with Tom Ford.

“I want to do something new,” she said with a laugh.

Nearby, daughter Julia, with beau Robert Konjic in tow, shimmied into their own booth and danced in their seats to the music. As the night entered the wee hours, Mary-Kate Olsen appeared and slid into Vladimir’s booth, cuddling between Niarchos and Valmorbida. Byrdie Bell arrived as the party wound down, just before Alexandra Richards snuck behind the DJ booth to sit with boyfriend Nick Cohen, who promptly spun the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”


As darkness fell on the first day of New York Fashion Week, we headed west to check out some art courtesy of Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld’s curation, and show off our faux fur at PETA’s fashion week party.

The first stop was a warehouse on the desolate Washington Street where Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida were hosting RETNA: The Hallelujah World Tour. The open and dim space smelled of fresh paint (there were splatters of it on the floor) and graffiti artist RETNA’s canvases filled with abstract black and white symbols lined the walls. The crowd, sipping on what we’re pretty sure was straight vodka, was as eclectic as the art itself. Fashion folk like Eddie Borgo and proud mama Carine Roitfeld mingled with a young flock of skateboarders (boards in tow), older women in hulking fur coats, and disheveled yet chic Parisian-looking men.

Next, we hit up Stella McCartney’s meatpacking boutique for the PETA Fashion Week Party. DJ Lady Bunny manned the turntables while Tim Gunn held court in a corner entertaining a cluster of giddy girls. Attendees kept their eyes on the step and repeat for anti-fur celebs like Joan Jett and Taraji P. Henson, who recently posed for PETA’s ‘I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur’ ad campaign.


RETNA Takes New York By Storm

February 11th, 2011, Art Lovers New York

RETNA – at the opening of his first ever NYC solo show – last night – THURS FEB 10, 2011 – in a pop-up downtown west side New York City space – presented by ANDREW VALMORBIDA and VLADIMIR RESTOIN ROITFELD – and, yes they did BLOW everyone away – it was that great !!
it was beyond great – it was: MAGIC.

The magic started from the get-go – with a long black tunnel – entrance. it felt like a museum show already – yep. the production, the design, lighting, and concept of the show, the venue itself large with high ceilings – was that great. but this time around VLADIMIR and ANDY – had the most important element down too – the work. the work was superlative, cutting edge and well, damn well – historic.
and this is just a pop-up, dudes. better get over here this weekend – it comes down Monday Feb 21, 2011.
something about art – rhymes with fashion week !!


RETNA’s Hallelujah World Tour Opening, NYC

February 11th, 2011, Vandalog

Last night I had the chance to check out the opening of RETNA’s Hallelujah, presented by Valmorbida (the people behind Richard Hambleton’s show last year) and curated by RVCA’s PM Tenore in a giant pop-up space on Manhattan’s west side. RJ saw the show in the process of being set-up, and the finished product was certainly spectacular (not to mention really crowded. Cue me getting nervous as people bumped into the work). The artist’s glyphic pieces were presented on a series of very large mediums – most were canvas, some were ink on handmade paper, and a few had plaster (I think) letters rising out of the piece itself. Five sculptures in the middle of the room spelled out a monumental RETNA.

What the script on the pieces spelled out, I’m not entirely sure  – but the effect was certainly cryptic, not to mention really beautiful. Others seemed to think so too, as the vast majority of the work had already been sold by the show’s opening. Like a lot of his other stuff, the pieces subsumed the space, covering nearly the entire wall from floor to ceiling, and in the dark of the warehouse, it was completely immersive.

When I could get close enough to a piece to really see it, the intricacy of his process was apparent, with the handmade paper and ink pieces, the textured paint on canvas, or his evolving use of negative space.

The sculptures I mentioned before, particularly their surroundings, were the only parts that may have taken away from the general strength of the show. Scattered around/under/on top of the sculptures were ropes, industrial pallets, and empty paint cans. Whether it was about paying homage to the process, or likely to his more graffiti-oriented beginnings, the props seemed unnatural in the space, particularly in the whole glamorous-company-collaboration context. If anything, it made me want to see his work outside of this setting, or at least caused me to question what it means, and whether its good, bad (or both) to move from street to a show like this.

Hallelujah will be making two more stops, in Venice and London, as it completes its tour. You can check out the New York show at 560 Washington St. in the West Village. Also, if you haven’t seen it, make sure to watch the epic video that accompanies the show.

Photos by Frances Corry


Superstar ‘Friends’ Reunite

February 11th, 2011, The Wall Street Journal

Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Dionne Warwick perform 'That's What Friends Are For' at the amfAR gala.

By nature, fashion shows are brief and ephemeral. Send a few text messages, glance at the run-of-show, blink a few times and it’s pretty much over.

By nature, AmfAR events are long and exhaustive. You could clean out your entire e-mail inbox during one. (The organization raises money for AIDS research.)

The reason for this comparison: Wednesday’s black-tie amfAR gala at Cipriani Wall Street served as a sort of unofficial kickoff to New York Fashion Week. The major fashion magazine editors were there as were many, many other members of the fashion community: Carine Roitfeld (whose son Vladimir, in an interesting play for momentum for his gallery show opening this week, donated a large scale painting by Retna to the live auction), Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Maggie Rizer, Karen Elson (who sang “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”), Iman and Kenneth Cole, the charity’s current chairman.

Once again, Mr. Cole made his favorite groan-worthy joke about “how amfAR” the cause still has to go, but at least on Wednesday he admitted he’d used the quip several times before, much to the chagrin “of all the cringers.”

The evening brought out some celebrities (Harry Belafonte, Rosie O’Donnell, Richard Gere, Julianna Margulies, Patrick Wilson, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn) who perhaps wanted to show their support for the charity’s 25 years in existence and, perhaps, also the honorees: Bill Clinton, Diane von Furstenberg and Elizabeth Taylor. Mr. Clinton was introduced by his daughter, Chelsea, who arrived with her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, as well as by Harvey Weinstein. Everyone was particularly excited by the prospect of getting a glimpse at Ms. Taylor, but, alas, she did not show.

Ms. von Furstenberg was introduced by her husband, Barry Diller, who, in advance of her appearance—her face is a little black and blue—described a recent ski accident the fashion designer had during their trip last week to Aspen. To speak publicly about Ms. von Furstenberg, Mr. Diller said, “I don’t need to consult an autobiography. I don’t need to ask around. My little earth mother wife is the sympathetic ear to anyone in trouble. Like the honors for the President and La Taylor”—yes, Mr. Diller called Elizabeth Taylor “La Taylor”—”this one’s been earned.”

When Ms. von Furstenberg went up to the podium, she gave Mr. Diller a double-cheek kiss and handed him the amfAR award. “Thank you,” she said. “Now you can take it home.”

The problem with amfAR parties is that though they are star-studded, they tend to have breaks between food courses, long live auctions, even longer speeches. But after a four-hour wait on Wednesday, there was an extremely worthwhile pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: a reunion, for the first time in 23 years of Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Elton John singing “That’s What Friends Are For.” Proceeds from the song have gone to the charity.

“Tonight, history will be made,” said Patti LaBelle.

“And they’ve agreed to do it again 25 years from tonight,” said Mr. Cole.

Ms. Warwick introduced the song. She mentioned that it stemmed from “running into Elton at a grocery store.” She added that Ms. Taylor—or La Taylor, if that’s what you call her—was in the studio with the artists the day they recorded the song and agreed to give up their share of the profits.

“I’ve been teased by Clive Davis for years, ‘You gave up the biggest record of your entire life,'” Ms. Warwick went on. “But look at all the good it’s done.”

Then the quartet sang their famous tune about smiling, shining, and “knowing you can always count on me.” Just hearing Mr. Wonder on the harmonica: well, it’s going to be hard for anything Alexander Wang sends down the runway to top that.

A few moments before going on stage, Ms. Warwick had been downing cans of Pepsi. She said she and her compatriots hadn’t really rehearsed much these last few years. “Well, we did a sound check today,” she said.

Was she nervous? She laughed at the prospect. “After 50 years? No.”


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