Newly anointed real estate developer Michael Shvo turned on his megawatt smile last night to welcome bespectacled art aficionados and stiletto-wearing scenesters to an exhibit he curated at Sotheby’s auction house. The theme of the exhibit? You guessed it — sheep.
Indeed, Shvo’s penchant for the work of the French artist Claude Lalanne, whose epoxy and bronze sheep sculptures form an ongoing exhibition at his development site at 239 10th Avenue, was evident from the pieces on show. Plenty more sheep were on display, as were bear, rabbit and apple sculptures in bronze. A moss-covered floor continued the pastoral theme.
The exhibit, dubbed “Les Lalanne: The Poetry of Sculpture,” was co-curated by the artist’s New York City dealer Paul Kasmin, who owns a namesake gallery in Chelsea. But the man of the evening was undoubtedly Shvo, who soaked up the attention of his friends and former real estate colleagues.
“I just want to take off my shoes” and walk on the grass, said one high heel-wearing attendee.
“Go ahead,” responded another. “[Shvo] won’t care. Take off all your clothes.”
When one person asked Shvo why he required round-the-clock security at his High Line development site, he balked: “The sheep are worth more than the land.”
Indeed, he was later heard saying that the sheep are worth more than $750,000 apiece. He would know; the developer and his wife, Seren, who roamed the event in a black corset top and a mini-skirt, have one of the largest collections of Lalanne’s work in the world. They own over 100 of the sculptures, some of which are housed in Shvo’s full-floor apartment at the Time Warner Center. Lalanne’s partner, Francois-Xavier Lalanne, whose bear sculpture was on display, died in 2008.
Shvo has plans to develop the Chelsea High Line site in partnership with development company Victor Homes into art-themed condos. He’s also working on a larger 30-story condo project he’s doing with the Keystone Group at 100 Varick Street.
Not all art fiends were entirely impressed by the layout of the exhibition. In a small back room off the main gallery thoroughfare, one remarked that a blood-red painting dubbed “Cabo After Dark” by the artist Richard Prince, which hung as a backdrop for some particularly fluffy sheep sculptures and other critters, didn’t seem to gel entirely with the theme of the show.
“What does ‘Cabo after Dark’ have to do with all this?” he asked. Another answered: “Absolutely nothing, but they don’t tell you that.”
After a long evening, it occurred to The Real Deal that the fluffy friends had gotten off easy. The waiters, after all, were serving lamb burgers.