The worlds of fashion, art and media over the weekend remembered Ingrid Sischy as immensely talented, passionate, creative – and, above all, fun.
Sischy, the former editor in chief of Interview, died Friday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from breast cancer, according to her friend, Ed Filipowski. She was 63.
Her career took her from Artforum and The New Yorker to Interview and Vanity Fair. Sischy’s stories were well written, researched, and truthful, and she strove to get the story first. She was the first to sit down with John Galliano after he was dropped by Dior for anti-Semitic comments, writing a major piece in Vanity Fair. Her friends ranged from Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld to Madonna and Elton John. In fact, Sischy and her spouse Sandy Brant are godparents to Elton John’s son, Zachary.
“What I loved about her is that she was really the best friend that anyone could have,” Klein said. “She had this extraordinary command of the arts and architecture and literature, photography, painting, pop culture. She knew about everything, and yet at the same time, she was so grounded and such a lack of any pretension whatsoever. And funny, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. We just would laugh so much. Ingrid and Sandy and I and often, Donna, the four of us.
“We traveled through Africa, we just did wonderful things together. Laughing all the time. And often at Ingrid’s ability to imitate people. She got the voice down perfectly. With her sense of humor, the combination, we would be doubled over laughing, throughout Africa, North Africa, Morocco, we’d just have the best times,” Klein said.
Versace recalled the times they spent together with her late brother Gianni. “I cannot express how sad I am about Ingrid’s passing. Ingrid was part of my family, she was always there for me. I lost a family member today, but the world lost a genius talent today. Ingrid will stay in my memories forever, I will always remember how happy Ingrid, Sandra, Gianni and I were when we traveled together through Italy,” she said.
Karan remarked on how Sischy was able to bring the worlds of fashion, photography, art and music together. “I’ve never met anybody more dedicated and more passionate. She understood fashion from the inside out. She was beyond fashion. There are very few people in this world who are total and complete, whether it was music, art, fashion, theater or celebrities. She had an understanding and appreciation for every writer, photographer and designer.
“She had so much love,” continued the designer. “The love she had with Sandy, I don’t think in my entire life have I seen two people who loved each other more. She introduced me to Art Basel. We traveled to Africa together. We went to Europe together.”
Ralph Lauren said, “Ingrid was one of those rare creative souls who thrived not only on the life of the artist, which she herself defined so uniquely, but on everyday life, as well. She was so intelligent that you thought she might intimidate, but she never did. She had a passion and an eye for so many things, but mostly for people. She loved the people in her life — the writers, the artists, the designers. They were part of her job and part of her joy. I ran into her recently in Montauk with Sandy and asked them if they knew a good trainer. Right away they shared with me the name of theirs. ‘Now, don’t tell anyone,’ Ingrid laughed. I knew Ingrid for a very long time. She was larger-than-life, a one-of-a-kind with a lovable spirit that will continue to touch me.”
“The loss of Ingrid is a terrible loss to all the people who knew her. Ingrid was her own ancestor, she created every bit of herself. Incredibly smart and sensitive, a brilliant writer, she was also a very loyal friend and a true citizen of the world,” said Diane von Furstenberg.
Giorgio Armani said, “I remember many social encounters with Ingrid Sischy – at parties, shows, exhibition premières, different, always vivacious and interesting. What struck me, though, was a work appointment: a long interview for the book that accompanied the exhibition that the Guggenheim Museum dedicated to my work. It was a moment of particular intensity and truth that I remember well and with pleasure also after many years. Ingrid was an extraordinary journalist, a fine observer of lifestyles and social rites, a critic of artistic contemporary movements. I always appreciated her work and the ability she had to influence the system without being excessively involved.”
Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive officer of Condé Nast International, recalled Sischy’s journalistic prowess and the relationships she forged.
“Ingrid, along with her partner Sandy, made a unique and powerful contribution to Vanity Fair as international editors of the Italian, French and Spanish editions. She was plugged into the worlds of Hollywood, art and fashion like nobody else and conveyed these glamorous realms to our readers. She was a fearless journalist who combined curiosity, toughness and humanity in her reporting and always got the best story. She worked behind the scenes for Vanity Fair in a thousand different ways which brought delight to our readers. There was nobody else like her and there never will be.
“Beyond her journalistic professionalism, a key to her success was a gift for relationships. She was admired, trusted and beloved by a wide network of friends, and I was lucky to be one of them. They loved, as I did, this incredibly smart, funny, talkative, clever and caring woman. She will be deeply missed,” said Newhouse.
Bruce Weber also recalled the laughs he and Sischy shared. “It’s really hard to talk about her right now because I’ve just lost the best friend I’ve ever had. She was always getting me in trouble and we would just laugh about it. She made me look at photography and clothes and girls and guys in a whole different way. She shook me up and she made me blossom. If I’ve risen through clouds and above the trees, it’s because of her.”
Adman and photographer Peter Arnell, said, “Ingrid saw everything from the inside out. Her sensibilities and vision on how to approach creativity was simply amazing. Her legendary contributions to the entire world of creativity from fashion to art to architecture to journalism will remain a significant mark on the landscape of popular culture forever. She was able to see what wasn’t there and replace it with a vision.”
Sischy was born in Johannesburg and raised in Edinburgh. She graduated Sarah Lawrence College and earned a Ph.D. in the humanities from Moore College of Art in 1987. She also did a Museum of Modern Art National Endowment for the Arts curatorial internship for John Szarkowski from 1978 to 1979.
Sischy began her career at Artforum, where she served as editor from 1979 to 1987. She championed both established and new artists and brought many female artists to the forefront. She then became a photography and art critic at The New Yorker from 1988 to 1996, where her milestone pieces included those on Robert Mapplethorpe at the height of the AIDS crisis and the Corcoran cancellation, as well as the first profiles on Miuccia Prada, Alexander McQueen and Azzedine Alaïa.
Sischy became editor in chief of Interview in 1989, building on Andy Warhol’s success and becoming a mover and shaker in the cultural world. She and her partner Brant chronicled pop culture and were at the forefront of mixing art, fashion, entertainment and celebrity through high-profile interviews and photography. Arguably one of Interview’s best-known covers featured Madonna in the June 1990 issue, which depicted the artist grabbing her crotch with the minimalistic cover line, “Madonna!” She also interviewed Elizabeth Taylor in February 2007 in a question-and-answer, and the issue included original art commissions devoted to Taylor.
“Ingrid was a true visionary. She was able to bring the worlds of fashion, art and entertainment in a melting pot under her leadership at Interview. Never had the magazine been so close to fashion before. Ingrid knew everyone and was liked by everyone. She will be dearly missed,” said Fabien Baron, editorial director of Interview.
“Ingrid’s Interview was everything I love in a magazine — clever, irreverent, surprising. And fun,” said Keith Pollack, Interview’s current editor in chief. “When I got the job, I inherited an office filled with back issues, which I’ve spent many days poring over. Just recently I found one from 1991, a cover of Kathy Bates by Timothy Greenfield Sanders. The logo was carved from an ear of corn and the headline read: ‘The A-Maize-Ing Issue!’ or something like that. She took such risks. We certainly do our own thing, but Ingrid’s Interview most definitely embodies a spirit that we still try to honor. She’ll never not be with us.”
In 2008, Sischy stepped down from Interview when Brant decided to sell her 50 percent stake in Brant Communications (which was co-owned by her former husband, Peter). “Sandy and I have worked together as a team, and that has been a huge part of the fun of it,” said Sischy at the time.
Since 1997, Sischy has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, penning such cover stories on Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, as well as major features on Galliano, McQueen, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Jean Michel Basquiat. She had been an international editor of Condé Nast International with Brant since 2008, She contributed to German Vogue, French Vanity Fair, Spanish Vanity Fair and Italian Vanity Fair.
Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair, posted a remembrance of Sischy on vf.com on Friday afternoon. “She could write about anything, but what interested her most were art and fashion, and she traversed those two hothouses like a bemused empress,” wrote Carter. “She had a crisp mind and an almost uncanny focus when she sat down to write. She was a fun, conspiratorial gossip, but never with malice or envy — the working tools of so many gossips. That conspiratorial manner was evident in her work life as well. I adored cooking up stories with her.”
David Remnick, editor in chief of The New Yorker, said, “I first got to know Ingrid as the central character in Janet Malcolm’s astonishing portrait of the art world in the Eighties. And then when I got to the magazine, in the Nineties, I encountered the real thing, and she was no less ferociously intelligent and funny and full of life as she was on the page in Janet’s story. She was a wonderful colleague in the all-too-brief time I got to spend with her here, and when I would run into her on my occasional forays into the world of fashion, she was a welcome sight. She knew which way was up and what was nonsense. I liked her immensely and am deeply sorry to hear this awful news.”
In 1996, Sischy became artistic director of the first Florence Fashion Biennale co-conceiving and organizing the exhibition, which occupied 26 museums throughout Florence and its outskirts.
Klaus Biesenbach, chief curator at large at MoMA and director of MoMA’s PS1, said, “Ingrid was always on the pulse of the times, incredibly curious and at the same time thoughtful. Supporting and welcoming the young, emerging and newcomers. For many, she was one of the first to meet arriving in New York and she kept these connections over decades. A true New Yorker she made everybody coming from abroad feel at home in her ever inspiring moving circles.”
Amanda Sharp, co-founder of Frieze in London, agreed, saying, “Ingrid was an inspiration to us. At the time we were starting Frieze magazine she had blazed a path for art magazines by understanding that art was part of a bigger cultural conversation which included popular culture. After Artforum she hit a golden period in the early ’90s with Interview magazine, making it a must-read publication again. She will be very missed.”
Michael Ward Stout, president of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and a personal lawyer to Sischy said, “I’ve known Ingrid for at least 35 years, and I knew her as the editor of Arforum and as a great writer, writing for The New Yorker and editor of Interview. I was her personal lawyer for many years. I’m kind of devastated. She was a brilliant intellectual who had a unique vision of popular culture. It didn’t matter whether she was writing about fine art or fashion or literature or music or Hollywood. She was a brilliant and insightful contributor to the world of popular culture and the history of popular culture. She could tie it all together from paintings to movie stars to fashion designers to academics. She was amazing and had great charm,” he said.
“She had tireless curiosity,” he added. “She was well educated and very well read and she was so curious about everything and everybody. There’s no other writer who covered all those fields with such insight. She was a fantastic promoter and supporter of photography. Interview featured every great photographer.”
In addition to her journalistic skills, Sischy was praised for her work for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“Ingrid Sischy was one of our most brilliant, insightful and influential editors, and yet that was too often less known,” said Leonard A. Lauder, chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “She is our unsung heroine. “She worked tirelessly for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, above anything anyone could have done. Not only will I miss her personally, but the world doesn’t know who they lost and they lost a great lady.”
“Ingrid was that rare combination of intelligence, humor and great curiosity,” said Michael Kors. “When I think of her I think of what a loyal friend she was to so many people and how many lives she touched. She had boundless energy and inevitably after a fashion show she would be the first backstage. Her talent, friendship and exuberance will be sorely missed.”
“Dee and I were so sad to hear of the tragic loss of one of the fashion and art worlds great writers and editors. Ingrid understood the modern era as so few have, and was able to translate over four decades the intersections of fashion, art, music and entertainment that have defined pop culture,” said Tommy Hilfiger.
Known to foster young talent throughout her career, photographer Chris Makos recalled Friday how Sischy was the first to publish his “Altered Images,” during her Artforum days. Makos was an Interview staffer, under Sischy’s stewardship. “She was always coming up with new, edgy ideas. One of the things she got going was to have a designer interview another designer,” Makos said. “She was the closest to understanding Andy’s mind-set. More than anybody who ran the magazine, she very much did an Andy philosophy of getting like-minded people to talk to like-minded people.”
Throughout the years, Sischy remained “such a cheerleader” for up-and-coming young artists. “She always seemed like this young, vivacious, crazy, on-the-go girl, who was always doing different stuff,” Makos said.” We haven’t had a minister of culture and art in the city for a long time, but if anybody may have arbitrarily come close to that and steered others – she was the one.”
Carine Roitfeld, founder and editor in chief of CR Fashion Book and the global fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar, said, “Ingrid will be missed. She used to call me ‘Hey Frenchie’ every time she walked past me on the front row. She was loved by fashion and art.”
Stephen Gan, president of Fashion Media Group and creative director of Harper’s Bazaar, said, “She told me a lot about how to run a magazine. She was one of the most generous editors I have ever met, and one of the funniest dinner partners.”
In addition to her spouse Brant, whom she married several weeks ago, Sischy is survived by her mother Claire and brother David Sischy.
Donations can be made in Sischy’s memory to the Studio Museum in Harlem and City Critters of New York. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.