Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — Art, fashion and philanthropy aren’t such strange bedfellows after all.
The bronzed duo of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were on hand Wednesday at the Whitney Museum of American Art to promote the third annual “Madison Avenue: Where Fashion Meets Art” project. Handpicked art pieces will be showcased at 56 participating retailers along the exclusive Madison Avenue stretch from 57th Street to 86th Street. One of the aims of the two-week, 29-block exhibit, which begins April 29, is to raise money for the Whitney Museum’s Family Art Programs, which foster interest in art and facilitate the exposure of it to children, young adults and their families.
“It’s a strange combination of art and fashion, but the most important thing is that we love children and charity. And so the idea that children will benefit from this meeting of art and fashion is wonderful,” said Gabbana. The fund-raising effort includes silent auctions at each boutique, with items donated by the store. Offerings range from a python tote with matching heels from Ungaro, a collection of Helmut Newton prints at Wolford and a red alligator carryall from Coach valued at $7,500.
An expansive block party will be held to kick off the project on the evening of May 2. Each store will host a reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Afterward, an invitation-only gala will be held at the Whitney and will feature a live auction of “art-inspired” fashions and jewels. Dolce & Gabbana donated a one-of-a-kind black lace and chiffon gown flown in for Wednesday’s press conference from Milan. “The point of the auction is to make money. And I think this dress will certainly raise money,” said Gabriella Forte, president of Dolce & Gabbana USA, eyeing the vampy gown with a mischievous laugh.
The entire event is being chaired by Sylvie Mousseron of Sonia Rykiel and cochaired by Gail Winston of Richemont North America and Nicole Hannafan of Ralph Lauren. Additionally, a celebrity — still to be confirmed — will serve as the event’s auctioneer. An honorary committee was also formed for the event comprised of patrons of the museum and the boutiques, which includes Cece Cord, Felicia Taylor, Jacqueline Anderson and Donna Karan.
The art objects displayed within each boutique are selected according to the retailer’s taste. For example, Ralph Lauren has decided on Sheila Metzner’s black-and-white photographs of Manhattan, including pieces from her New York 2000 series. “Ralph has known Sheila for quite a long time and is a great admirer of her work,” said Ellen Maguire, director of corporate communications and special projects at Polo Ralph Lauren. “It’s the perfect subject matter and an ideal fit for this event that celebrates New York art and fashion.”
Donna Karan is showcasing the works of her late husband Stephan Weiss, Calvin Klein will host artist works from this year’s Whitney Biennial, Barneys New York will display an exploding screen print by Damien Hirst, and Versace will feature oil paintings by Ross Bleckner and Philip Taaffe from the private collection of the late Gianni Versace.
Although this is the third year Madison Avenue BID has organized the event, the significance of the effort has changed. “There has never been a stronger sense of wanting to give back to the city and to the community, especially after Sept.11,” said Matthew A. Bauer, Madison Avenue BID president. According to Bauer, they hope to raise more than $100,000 from both the silent and live auctions. Last year, the project raised $60,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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