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Newsmaker

What Is Anna Wintour Doing in the Art World?

By

What Is Anna Wintour Doing in the Art World?
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, flanked by Met director Thomas Campbell (left) and designer Riccardo Tisci (right)

WHO IS SHE?

As the editor of Vogue since 1988 and artistic director overseeing all the Condé Nast magazines since last year, Anna Wintour is not only the most powerful force in the fashion world, the most powerful editor at the most powerful publishing company in the world, and the biggest Roger Federer fan in the world. She's also one of the most well-connected fundraisers in the cultural sphere, a talent that President Obama drew upon in his re-election campaign (nearly offering her the ambassadorship to Britain in return), and that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has benefited from to the tune of $125 million, the sum she raised for the institution through the 15 Costume Institute benefits she has chaired there since 1995.  

HOW HAS THE MET THANKED HER? 

This week, in acknowledgement of Wintour's spectacular fundraising through her annual Costume Institute galas that draw the glitziest crowd this side of the Oscars, Met director Thomas Campbell has announced that he is naming the redesigned complex housing the museum's fashion collection—set to debut in May after a $40 million renovation—the Anna Wintour Costume Center. It is an unprecedented honor for the Met to name a section of the museum after someone who is not a donor (c.f. Robert Lehmann, Arthur M. Sackler, or Leon Levy and Shelby White). 

WHAT ARE HER NON-FASHION TIES TO THE ART WORLD?

For one thing, Wintour is a muse. She has been portrayed by artists from Alex Katz (whose painting of her is in London's National Portrait Gallery) to the emerging talent Andrew Yang, who sculpted her as a rag-doll. She has also inspired two films, one a documentary and one a fictionalized satire. Her magazine occasionally features articles on artists—notably by her powerful contributing editor Dodie Kazanjian, who is also the curator of the Metropolitan Opera's gallery and the wife of New Yorker art scribe Calvin Tompkins—and includes allusions to art history in its photography, such as Annie Leibovitz's cover for the December 2013 issue that recreated Victorian artist Frederic Leighton's 1895 painting Flaming June with Jessica Chastain as its star. (Wintour's signature hairstyle might be taken as an allusion to one of the barbutes in the Met's Arms and Armor galleries.) New York's encyclopedic museum is not her only institutional cause, too: she is a habituée at MoMA's annual garden party, and has attended LACMA's galas out West. 

WHAT DOES SHE COLLECT?

Unlike her boss, S.I. Newhouse, a ravenous accumulator of postwar masterpieces, Wintour is not known to be an avid collector of paintings, sculpture, and the like. However, as one would imagine of the editor of a magazine like Vogue, she is an enthusiastic collector of photography, including work by some of the lensmen who made her publication famous—she is particularly fond of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Mario Testino, and Steven Meisel.

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