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Inside Antwaun Sargent’s Hyperspeed Art-World Ascent



Inside Antwaun Sargent’s Hyperspeed Art-World Ascent

On the Thursday after Labor Day, the Gagosian gallery held a dinner at Altro Paradiso, a haute pasta spot in New York’s SoHo. Each year that September evening is a rite of passage in the art world. The Chelsea galleries throw open their doors to the big fall shows, the public floods the blocks between 10th and 11th Avenues, and a select few get invited to dinners to celebrate it all, with cocktails flowing late into the evening.

Of those galleries hosting dinners, Larry Gagosian’s is the biggest, with 19 locations around the globe. That evening the Houston-based artist Rick Lowe had debuted a suite of paintings at Gagosian in his first New York solo show, which had come on the heels of his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial earlier in the year. A line snaked down West 24th Street, and staff had to ensure passage for certain VIPs: Met director Max Hollein, Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak, former cultural commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, the Ghanaian British architect Sir David Adjaye. The opening was set to close at 8 p.m., but by 8:30 the gallery was still thronged. Lowe, 61, finally arrived at Altro around 9, flanked by a dozen family members from Alabama, many of whom had never been to New York City. The restaurant was crowded with well-wishers. David Breslin, who would be announced as the new modern and contemporary curator at The Met in a few weeks, was chatting with the artist Cy Gavin. Gagosian COO Andrew Fabricant ate at a table stuffed with collectors. The artist Awol Erizku held court at another without ever removing his Marni sunglasses.

Coat by Bottega Veneta jacket and pants by Bianca Saunders shirt by Bode hat by Esenshel sunglasses by Gentle Monster.


At the center of it all sat the show’s curator, Antwaun Sargent, who joined the gallery as a director at the start of 2021. Dressed in an outfit typical of his style—Gucci loafers with a Comme des Garçons jacket and Esenshel wool cap—Sargent occupied a seat reserved for Tyler Mitchell, the young photographer whose own Sargent-organized show at Gagosian would open the following week in London. Mitchell was occupied for the evening at a dinner hosted by Matthieu Blazy, creative director of the Italian fashion brand Bottega Veneta, at The Strand bookstore.

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“Believe me, if I didn’t have to be here, I would be there—can you believe it, a Bottega dinner at The Strand?” Sargent said, his eyes wide.

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Sargent is 34 years old and speaks with the authority of someone much older while still exhibiting the excitability of a Gen Z TikTok star. His proclamations, which he can pose as outrageous provocations without indicating that his tongue is fully in his cheek, often end with a dramatic upswing in pitch. He’s lithe, a former cross-country runner who still bikes hundreds of miles a week, and often coils his body as he begins a story, affecting a pounce when he hits his crescendo.

At Altro, it was difficult for tablemates to shift the subject as Sargent opined, sipping a negroni and then a second negroni. We discussed the sheer improbability of a dinner for a Lowe show at Gagosian, the world’s most sales-obsessed gallery. The artist’s practice has long been concerned with community organizing in Houston’s Third Ward, about as far from the transactional temple of Gagosian’s white cube as you could get. Yet Sargent had landed him.


“In the middle of the pandemic, I called Rick and I said, ‘I heard you’re making paintings,’ ” he told the audience at the dinner in an all-eyes-on-me toast that had been preceded by screams of “Antwaaaun.”

It was, in many ways, Sargent’s night as much as the artist’s—a characterization the curator would strenuously disagree with, telling me in the hours leading up to the event that “Tonight is all about Rick, it’s about Rick.” Even so, as those pre-toast chants indicated, it was also undeniably Sargent’s stage. In his two brief years at Gagosian, Sargent, who not so long ago was scraping together rent writing online, has become one of the more fawned over, buzzed about, and mystifying forces in the commercial gallery world.

Sargent’s trajectory from outsider to consummate insider has come amid a movement to bring Black artists more into the programming at blue-chip galleries and top-flight institutions, where for centuries they’ve been marginalized or not shown at all. No one has done this more visibly than Sargent, becoming an art world micro-celebrity along the way, with nearly 100,000 Instagram followers. Openings for shows he has curated have looked more like concerts, with young kids spilling out into the streets, generating waves of press and celebrity attention. When Jay-Z stopped by the gallery’s London outpost during the Sargent-staged show “Social Works II,” he was given a private tour by Sargent.

Inside Antwaun Sargents Hyperspeed ArtWorld Ascent

As dessert arrived around midnight, Sargent showed little inclination that he would soon be heading back to the apartment in Downtown Brooklyn he shares with a roommate. In a few days’ time, he was set to fly to London to start installing the first Gagosian show for Mitchell, a major step in the photographer’s continued ascendance.

In one of our several interviews, in early September, I asked Sargent about the place he now occupies among the tippy top of the art market’s highest elevation, and how exactly he reached it despite the odds stacked against him—and some forces still at play.

“I do understand that there is a space that I carved out, and I am sensitive to that,” he said. “If you would’ve asked Antwaun what he would be doing when you’re 33, I would’ve never said this. Never in my life would I have said this.”

“You get attention, people hate. But no one has done it to my face.”

For the last few years, many major institutions and blue-chip galleries have gone out of their way to correct the long-standing inequity of Black artists in programming and collections—between 2008 and 2018, just 2.37 percent of acquisitions at 30 prominent American museums were of work by Black artists. Since then, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum both deaccessioned works by white artists in order to have an endowment to acquire works by women and artists of color. Black artists, especially those who work in the field of figurative painting, have seen their prices skyrocket on the secondary market and have waiting lists for work on the primary market so long that even some of the world’s top collectors can’t access the work.

Sargent is arguably the most recognizable face of this movement, a red-carpet-walking social-first curator-slash-dealer cloaked in custom Bode jackets and Issey Miyake pleats. “Young Gifted and Black,” a show of work from the collection of former media executive Bernard Lumpkin and his husband, Carmine D. Boccuzzi, that Sargent cocurated with Matt Wycoff, has been touring for three years and is currently on view at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Sargent organized “Figures of Speech”, the massive exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of work by the late Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh that saw enterprising streetwear dealers buy out gift shop merch to flip at resale. This year Sargent was asked, with Aimee Ng, to put together a show of paintings by Barkley L. Hendricks at the Frick, the first time a Black artist has had a show at the museum. In the fall, Sargent taught a photography course at Yale, a fact he casually dropped as he tracked down our Uber outside the Brooklyn Museum one afternoon this past summer after a walk-through of the Abloh show where he was gawked at by the designer’s young devotees.


“You get attention, people hate. But no one has done it to my face.”

Inside Antwaun Sargents Hyperspeed ArtWorld Ascent

As he’s gone about his work, Sargent has overhauled the typical notion of an art curator as an egghead entombed within the institution. He is out on the town constantly. When he released the 2019 book The New Black Vanguard, it came with a signing in Milan hosted by Gucci, attended by Tyler, the Creator; Arthur Jafa; and Maurizio Cattelan. In March, following the Academy Awards, he attended Vanity Fair’s after-party, then moved on to Madonna and Guy Oseary’s bash, then went to Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s at the Chateau Marmont, then straight to his Sunset Tower suite to retrieve his bag. He had to be back in New York for a dinner honoring Lowe’s inclusion in the Whitney Biennial. Then he was off for a talk at Savannah College of Art and Design alongside Mitchell, and then Venice for the Biennale, posting an Instagram pic in a pink silk three-piece Gucci suit.

“Antwaun has always been stylish, he’s always been in fashion, he’s always been in music, he’s always been in multiple circles.… Me and Antwaun, we used to say we’re like the Future and DJ Esco of the art world,” Erizku told me, name-checking the trendsetting Atlanta rapper and his producer-manager.

The comparison of Sargent, who has worked to carve out his own lane in his own style and been handsomely rewarded as the industry caught up, was apt. For years, Sargent was a freelance critic, writing for The New York Times and The New Yorker. He has reached his lofty curatorial perch at the world’s most powerful commercial gallery without the usual MFAs and PhDs—and without climbing the ladder from front desk to assistant to dealer to director.


To many in art’s old guard, this deems him unworthy. That this concerns the most air-kissed echelons of the art world, few inhabitants would even voice their criticisms for attribution, but suffice it to say Sargent has his haters, and they typically have two or three lines of complaint. From speaking to a number of arts professionals, many think it’s a bit much to proclaim him a genius for finding market-friendly Black artists and selling their work to loyal Gagosian clients under the aegis of “Black social practice”—especially if he’s making money doing so. Some scholars of photo-based work, meanwhile, have knocked his choice of artists, saying he tended to elevate his friends, who work mostly as—the horror!—fashion photographers. As for the crowds he tends to attract to his openings, well, some find it distracting at best, PR at the worst—as if pursuing populism was the equivalent of the blue-chip galleries turning into the Museum of Ice Cream. Or some say that Sargent is too quick to appear on a red carpet or front row at a fashion show to be treated like a serious curator. As one source put it to me, “Antwaun Sargent was on Gossip Girl. Can you ever imagine Harald Szeemann on M*A*S*H?”

“He’s able to bridge Park Avenue and Bushwick, right?… He’s able to connect the East Side with East New York.”

Then there are the literal critics. In a splashy but quietly devastating review, The Times’s venerable Holland Cotter wrote, “Gagosian is, of course, deeply inside that world and deeply conventional in every way. In fact, the single most surprising thing about ‘Social Works’ is finding it there at all.” The small but influential Manhattan Art Review panned the same show—hard. “At root, the problem is that there’s a persistent assumption that the work has meaning by virtue of cultural associations that stand outside of the artwork’s own qualities,” the site’s much-feared author, Sean Tatol, wrote.

Sargent said he’s aware of the critiques, if indifferent.

Artforum has never reviewed or written about anything I’ve ever done. Ever,” he told me. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. And…I’ve been doing this at a scale that no one has been doing.… So, I think there might be some hateration over there. You get attention, people hate. But no one has done it to my face. ” (In a statement, Artforum editor in chief David Velasco said: “Antwaun Sargent’s writings and exhibitions have been noted in various parts of the magazine. The reviews section is small, and there are hundreds of shows each month competing for attention. We miss many worthy exhibitions all the time.”

Nor has it slowed his ascent. After his multishow takeover of Gagosian’s gallery at Park Avenue and 75th Street, he’ll stage an edition of “Social Works” at the gallery’s Beverly Hills space, followed by two solo shows in Los Angeles, another complete takeover. “Antwaun is a Renaissance man, what the consultants call an ‘ambidextrous leader,’ and what I mean by that is he is truly interdisciplinary,” says Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, the $16 billion art and social justice fund. “And I think he’s a great curator. He’s a beautiful writer. He is a capitalist. All of those things are part of his identity, and he wears it with pride.”

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Olympia Gayot’s Vision for J.Crew Is Inspired by Getting-Ready Rituals



Olympia Gayot’s Vision for J.Crew Is Inspired by Getting-Ready Rituals

hat happens when you have beets?” It’s a sunny afternoon in Tribeca, and Olympia Gayot and I are in a curved booth at The Odeon. She’s just informed the server that she’s allergic to eggs, and I’ve confirmed that there are no beets in the steak salad I ordered. “I have a very strong aversion to them,” I explain. “An extreme dislike.”  

“They totally could sneak into a salad,” Gayot says. She gets it. 

Of course, we’re not meeting to discuss my root vegetable preferences, but it suffices as an icebreaker for two strangers meeting over lunch. Though, as a fashion writer, I’ve been aware of Gayot since she was named head of women’s and kids’ design at J.Crew in late 2020.  

Having previously worked at the storied American label from 2010–2017, the 41-year-old Toronto native rejoined during a pivotal time for the brand, herself, and the world. “They approached me during the pandemic,” she tells me. “It was a conversation that happened over a few months, and I was pregnant by the end of it. I was like, This is going to be intense; I’m pregnant and it’s the middle of a pandemic.” Plus, J.Crew had just come out of bankruptcy. The sterling mid-aughts era marked by soaring profits, Michelle Obama–approved designs, and the Midas touch of former president and creative director Jenna Lyons was in fashion’s rearview mirror. “But I knew that I wanted it,” she says. “It was such an incredible opportunity. I was just really excited.” 

That Gayot ended up in fashion wasn’t completely coincidental, but not inevitable either. “[My mother] was one of the founders of Club Monaco,” she says. “She wasn’t an owner, but she was a designer and there from the very beginning.” For a young Gayot, this meant a wardrobe of striped T-shirts and navy blazers, and a glimpse into the “fun, bohemian” life her parents led. “They were always having parties, always going dancing, always having people over.” As Club Monaco grew, Gayot was increasingly exposed to an international group of designers who moved to Toronto to work for the brand, and spent a lot of time at her mother’s office assisting with various tasks. Her first love, however, was fine art—a pursuit her parents more than encouraged. “My mom was always saying, ‘Don’t go into fashion.’”  

“Really?” I ask. “She discouraged it?” 

“I think she just knew how fast-paced it is. And she just was like, ‘You’re a talented painter, and you can draw, so you should be doing that.’ And I loved it, probably more than anything.”  

After a stint at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston, Gayot hopped on a bus to New York, applied to the School of Visual Arts, and promptly transferred. (She filled her parents in after the fact.) “I was always studying art and painting, and then doing fashion on the side—styling, assisting; I worked at DNA, the modeling agency, filing models’ portfolio pictures.” Living in Murray Hill with a friend she met bartending, it was not the college dorm experience you see in the movies. “I didn’t want that,” Gayot says between bites of salmon tartare. “I was ready to be an adult. I really wanted to start working and live my life.”  

The drive followed her to Paris, where she moved after college with a former boyfriend. “It was always a dream of mine to live there,” she says. “I was doing portraits at the time, so I was surviving off a mix of random fashion jobs and selling paintings.”  

Describing her time there as “amazing,” Gayot maintains she was “always really happy to just go wherever the wind took me. And in the beginning, honestly, I don’t think I had a plan. I just wanted to be busy. I loved art, I loved fashion, I loved getting dressed and going out at night. All that.” 

Back in New York, the balance Gayot had struck between art and fashion began to tilt towards the latter. Painting, she says, “was very solitary,” and also “a boys’ club” that was often discouraging. She was finding more opportunities—and having more fun—doing freelance design projects, assisting on Vogue shoots, and styling retail displays. A friend she met while designing a private label for Urban Outfitters had landed at J.Crew, and encouraged Gayot to interview.  

“I came in and met Jenna and I got hired.” 

Save for a brief moment when I ask Gayot if the woman at the bar in a black crop top is Minka Kelly (I’m almost positive it is), we spend the next 20 minutes discussing what, at the time, was her first corporate job.

“I never thought I would end up at a big brand, but it was so amazing. Even though it is a big company, there’s a family style vibe to it, I think because it’s so creative. It was a really great place to be. I was there during the Jenna years. I stayed for seven years, worked my way up the ranks, and worked with her pretty closely; worked with [former CEO] Mickey Drexler closely. I did knits, I did swim, sweaters, collections—lots of different categories.” 

Recalling J.Crew’s cropped kaleidoscopic pants, glitter pumps, and elevated takes on nautical- and military-inspired dressing at the time, I’m curious to know if she had a favorite.    

“I love designing swim. Everybody’s the happiest when they’re on the beach, right? [It’s] just a joyful category.” The role also came with a welcome dose of nostalgia. “My parents had a place in Florida, so growing up we’d go there for Christmas and we’d always go to the J.Crew store in Miami, or we’d go [when we were] in New York. I loved it. It was so iconic.”  

During Gayot’s initial tenure, J.Crew reached an unprecedented level of popularity. The brand’s collections were breathlessly covered by fashion media alongside luxury counterparts, and the pieces became a favorite among celebrities. Lyons became a star herself—her every outfit snapped by street style photographers and move documented by Page Six. After getting married and having her first child (she says she wore “a tight, black crochet dress with a six-month bump” to her 2016 City Hall wedding), Gayot was ready for a change. “Seven years was a long time for me to be at one place, and I feel like it’s really important to try multiple things to keep things fresh,” she says. “I got an opportunity to leave, and I just took it.” 

That opportunity was at Victoria’s Secret, designing apparel, sleepwear, and lingerie. “Not bras and panties,” she clarifies, “but actual teddies.” It proved to be a tremendous learning experience. “Lingerie is a completely different world. It’s super technical, working with lace and constructing things that [fit close] to your body. It’s literally intimate.” Given the fabrics she was working with and the volume of product the brand was producing, there were also big financial implications tied to her work. “That gets you into business mode, which is important. You can’t just design in a bubble.”  

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The 25 Best Fall Hats To Wear With All Your Fall Fits



The 25 Best Fall Hats To Wear With All Your Fall Fits

As summer comes to a close, temperatures begin to drop, and the leaves change from vibrant shades of green to warm, rusty hues of red and orange. This can only mean one thing: It’s layering season, which means you might want to swap your warm-weather sun hats for something a little more weather appropriate, like the best fall hats of the season to style with your favorite fall boots.

Knit beanies, felted berets, wool fedoras, faux fur bucket hats–the options are endless for this season’s cool-weather headwear. From tried-and-true classics to break-out designs, there are so many to choose from. With that in mind, we know it can be overwhelming—especially when you’re accessorizing oversized denim jackets or trench coats. So, we composed a list of our favorite fall hats to make your search as seamless as possible.

Ready to find the one for you? Keep scrolling to see our picks for this season.


Emily Dawn Long x Maria Dora

A Hat Named Wanda


As seen on Kendrick Lamar, Ella Emhoff, and nearly every NYC It-girl’s head, the Wanda has quickly become a staple for fall. With its flexible shape and variety of color ways, this hat is perfect for the wearer who loves to change up their look.


TheOpen Product

Zip-Up Balaclava


Balaclavas are the perfect way to keep you warm. Layer this under another hat or hoodie or wear it on its own.



Wool Blend Felt Beret


Whether you were inspired by Emily in Paris or not, this is a style so versatile, that you can pair it with any look. This black felt beret from AllSaints is perfect for everyday wear.

A military moment? We think yes. Pair this beret with a classic quilted jacket liner for the perfect military-inspired look this fall.



Hybrid Knit Brim Wool Blend Beret


Blend in with the changing leaves (or stand out) in this vibrant red Sacai beret.



Cashmere Cuffed Beanie

Now 10% off


It’s a beanie made with cashmere…need we say more?

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