Private Arts Patrons Set Up Public Museums

In a sign of the expanding role that private wealth plays in public life, well-off collectors are inaugurating their own exhibition spaces—often in countries where contemporary-art scenes are growing and government support of the arts remains paltry.

New Galleries Heat Up New York's Art Market

The financial crisis may have been the best thing to have happened to New York’s art scene since Andy Warhol. At its peak in 2007, the market was certainly ripe for a takedown: too many galleries selling subpar work at inflated prices, centered in one neighborhood—Chelsea—where prohibitive rents allowed only the most commercially successful to survive. Now, in yet another sign that the financial meltdown may finally be behind us, several significant new gallery spaces have begun to open their doors in Manhattan. And with the freedom that comes from reinventing the system, they are pursuing unconventional curatorial programs and, in some cases, setting up shop in unexpected places.

Sleeping With the Devil

For most people, knowledge of this exotic Australian island begins and ends with the animated antics of a Looney Tunes character, which isn’t surprising considering that the journey to Tasmania from America or Europe can take more than 24 hours.

Learning to Play Polo

When I was growing up, I was on a first-name basis with Polo, Ralph Lauren's line of preppy staples. But I've come to understand that the little mallet-wielding man on a horse embroidered on my shirts is more than just a logo; it's a symbol of one of the world's most storied sports. And polo is becoming an increasingly popular leisure pursuit, thanks in large part to canny marketing and the crossover appeal and tireless efforts of star players like Nacho Figueras, himself a Ralph Lauren–brand ambassador and model. As captain of the Lauren-sponsored Black Watch team, Figueras has propelled himself into the nexus of New York's social and fashion scenes. His celebrity exploits—he's a frequent guest on the Manhattan-Hamptons party circuit—are tirelessly chronicled in gossip columns and glossy magazines. The sport's self-styled spokesperson, Figueras sees his widespread visibility as part of a larger effort to rebrand polo as the sport of choice not just for the privileged set, but for a...

Fashion Shows Go Live Via the Web

The seating arrangement at a fashion show has always telegraphed power and prestige; Vogue editor Anna Wintour, for instance, sat front and center at Jason Wu this season, draped in fur and dripping with jewels, flanked by The September Issue's breakout star, creative director Grace Coddington. But that hierarchy is being upended by the industry's hottest new trend: streaming shows live, which bestows first-row status on anyone with a laptop and a high-speed Internet connection.This season both Emporio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana streamed their fall-winter 2010 shows live from Milan. Armani sent out models draped in black velvet, transmitting the show to the label's new Web site, while D&G's show was viewable exclusively on iPhones, showing off the newest strict but sexy designs. Burberry one-upped them by offering not just a live Webcast but also providing 3-D viewing to select members of the press, who gathered at locations in Tokyo, Dubai, Los Angeles, and Paris, where...

Dining as Extreme Sport

High-end adventurers have plenty of options, from luxury safaris to guided Antarctic treks. But few think of food as a frontier offering the same kind of adrenaline-rush-inducing excitement. Maybe they should: a growing number of restaurants offer new opportunities for those bored with traditional dining. Forget wearing a sport coat while waiting for a soufflé; this is eating as extreme sport.Dinner in the Sky elevates top chefs, along with other staff members and 22 guests, to unmatched heights—up to 50 meters in the air, to be precise—where they can enjoy open-air bird's-eye views and Michelin-starred cuisine. The dining platform is raised by a crane, and can be erected anywhere as long as there's an available surface of approximately 500 square meters on the ground. Each dining event is customized to reflect the organizer's preferences; Dinner in the Sky provides the technology and helps secure the desired talent, such as Alain Passard of the three-Michelin-star L'Arpège in Paris...

The Art of Louis XIV, on Display at Versailles

When it comes to the contemporary conception of luxury, the Western world is forever indebted to Louis XIV, the French monarch who can take credit for elevating lifestyle to a fine art. With his extensive acquisitions and ambitious projects, the "Sun King" embraced a pattern of conspicuous consumption echoed in the hypermaterialist culture that has defined the past 20 years. We may be living through the repercussions of our latest spending frenzy, but our fascination with the finer things in life remains undiminished. And Louis XIV: L'Homme et le Roi, a new exhibit set in the Baroque splendor of the Palace of Versailles (through Feb. 7), sheds a timely light on the spirit of decadence.The exhibit is the first investigation of Louis XIV as the man behind the crown. In brainstorming the exhibition, three years in the making, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the president of the organization that oversees Versailles, put aside the conventional idea of exploring the history of the palace and...

A Few Luxury Hotels Buck the Trend of Restraint

A year ago, travelers were still flying high, booking deluxe ocean-view suites without a second thought. Today luxury is a six-letter word that most tourists are resigned to living without, instead seeking special deals and bargain promotions. Faced with little choice, most hoteliers have tried to accommodate them; in New York the average daily rate year-on-year fell 30.1 percent in September, according to Smith Travel Research. But a select group of premium hotels around the world are bucking the trend, expanding rather than curtailing their indulgent offerings. ...

Hi-Tech Home Visions at the Milan Design Expo

In the last decade, as wild financial growth was accompanied by an explosion of ostentation, the world of high-end furniture—perched between pragmatism and corporeal comfort, and enjoyable primarily in the confines of one's home—remained a bit less giddy. Today, as the rest of the luxury industry is stripping away layers of bling, the home-furnishings world is focusing on creating a satisfying post-crisis life. The products reflect both an ongoing infatuation with high-tech progress and an urge to live on a more intimate, modest scale.Such impulses were abundantly clear at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, the design world's most important annual event, where thousands of designers, retailers, manufacturers and spectators gathered from March 22 to 27. With baroque gestures out of vogue, the most striking wares on display betrayed these two urges: toward experimental technology and a simpler, handmade esthetic.The Dutch collective Droog Design staged a large show of nine...

Fashion: Luxury Brands Get Back to Their Basics

Before Yves Saint Laurent revolutionized the world with his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1966, fashion was a luxury that fell under the purview of the select few who could afford to spend thousands of dollars on a bespoke evening gown or suit. Everything else was just clothing. Today it's the opposite: what once would have been considered just clothing now aspires to the label of fashion—explaining the success of brands like J.Crew, the Gap, Topshop and H&M, which deliver the look of fashion for the price of mere clothing.The current retail climate is undoubtedly friendlier to this model of design, but luxury designers aren't about to give up. After a dismal holiday shopping season, in which the sector's sales declined 34.5 percent over last year, according to MasterCard Inc.'s SpendingPulse unit, the luxury-fashion industry is making a prudent move to get back to basics. That means more than just simple but stylish garments, like a pair of $500 hand-dyed, custom-washed...