Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bring It On:
A Former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Tackles the New York Art World 

Posted by James at 9:45 AM ET

By Elisa Lipsky-Karasz
W Magazine
It’s a crisp fall evening at Manhattan’s Pier 40, and the cavernous space, by day an industrial parking garage, has been transformed into a palace of eco chic for the third annual Guggenheim International Gala. Under a ceiling festooned with recycled cardboard swirls, dealers Larry Gagosian, Barbara Gladstone and Tony Shafrazi mingle with such collectors as Peter Brandt and Stephanie Seymour, artist Richard Prince and—oddly enough—Owen Wilson. But even against such a star-studded background, one buxom, tan creature stands out. Her long blond hair spills down over her formfitting, feather-trimmed black dress and preternaturally perfect cleavage. Her face is precisely made up with highly arched brows and frosted pink lips. The look is completed by elbow-length black gloves, fingerless to better accommodate the Elizabeth Taylor–worthy rings—one diamond, one emerald—on her French-manicured fingers. As she makes her way to her table, she’s stopped at every turn, here by a man inviting her to a collectors’ dinner, there by an elderly admirer who looks her over and says, teasing, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Given her bombshell appearance, the attention is not unexpected, but what is somewhat surprising is the fact that this woman, who looks more Legally Blonde than West Chelsea power player, is Amy Phelan, a newly appointed trustee of the Guggenheim board. And as dinner starts, there is only one thing on her mind: “I want to meet Owen Wilson!” she gushes in her Texas drawl. “Where is he? Tell him to come over here and have a drink with us!”

Amy Phelan
Amy Phelan in the master bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment. Over the bed and dresser are works by Ed Ruscha.

The 36-year-old Phelan has managed to crack the notoriously insular art world remarkably quickly, especially considering she started collecting seriously just six years ago, shortly after she moved to New York from her native Dallas to marry her husband, investment fund manager John Phelan. In April she became only the seventh woman on the 29-member Guggenheim board. (Another recent addition, Linda Macklowe, a longtime collector from a renowned New York real-estate family, fits the typical profile a bit better.) Regardless, Phelan is being considered to cochair the Guggenheim’s 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2009, a job for which she is well prepared, given the fact that venerable collector and 11-year veteran of the Whitney board Melva Bucksbaum tapped her to head up the 2007 gala at the Whitney, where John sits on the board. “She was unbelievable. She left me in the dust,” says Bucksbaum. “I learned a lot from Amy on that job. I followed her around like a puppy dog.”

Not only has Phelan impressed the collector crowd; she’s popular with artists too: Photographer Marilyn Minter counts her as a muse, and Phelan can often be found palling around with painter Delia Brown, with whom she has regular sleepovers. “We stay up and eat M&M’s and drink white wine in bed,” Brown says. Sculptor Jim Hodges is another Phelan favorite, and he’s introduced her to downtown denizens like Fischerspooner’s Casey Spooner, who is now a close friend as well.

Read the rest of the article here. Amy on the web at AmyPhelan.com.

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