On the Town with Shinan: Olivia Wilde and Ashley Benson go cuckoo for Koons

By Shinan Govani


Photo courtesy of H&M

A hive of millennials swarmed a 59-year-old man in a black suit in New York City the other night, with a particular woman in pigtails sunk under a silk baseball cap truly seizing the day: she pulled out a black Sharpie, then her white iPhone, and handed it to the guest of honour as I gazed on. “Will you sign this?” she asked.

Jeff Koons formed his mouth into its best non-sheepish circle, and nodded.

It was Koons-a-palooza alright, not to mention a selfies-fest, as America's most famous contemporary artist helped inaugurate H&M's mega, new flagship store on Fifth Avenue. By mega, I mean, oh, only six floors and 57,000 square feet! And by Koons – the man who'd lured such celebs as Olivia Wilde on this night – I mean, of course, the dude who's owning Manhattan this summer with the opening of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum said to be the largest show devoted to a single artist in the venue's history. Lest we forget, this year has also seen one of his pieces go for $58.4 million – the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist.


Photos courtesy of H&M

“I love it!” Ashley Benson was saying, in a little roped-off area on the second floor. Sporting a tight bun and looking city-that-never-sleeps chic, the star of Pretty Little Liars and Spring Breakers was exclaiming about the alt piece of art that Koons cooked up with H&M, the retailer having branched out from their usual high-low fashion collabs. We're talking a limited-edition Balloon Dog handbag with an image of Koons' iconic sculpture gracing the sides. Yours for $49.95, baby.

“I love the pillow cases,” someone else was saying, holding two glasses of pink something on the escalator a little while later. Pillow cases?! Where? Could it be... a chance to nap with Koons? I made sure to bullet all three questions. “ floor up,” I was kindly told, in this space that is the first North American store to sell H&M's home collection. And as for the specifics of the pillow cases...no, no, they weren't Koons. Just plain white. Sad Face.

As the Grand Central Station-sized store filled up further – British songstress Birdy taking the stage to sing at one point, Nicky Hilton hitting the red carpet at another – the rows and rows of army-like mannequins looked on from a ceiling-soaring ledge. Art. Fashion. Commerce. We got the drift. It wasn't a fluke; it was Koons.

Meanwhile, back in Toronto:

By this time of the summer every year, the conversation among the cognoscenti has already turned to TIFF, the film festival, with speculation about premières and stars being flopped around like pancakes on a griddle. And with the first slate of announcements coming out in days, the conjecture reached a feverish pitch this week. The smart money? It would have to include Reese Witherspoon's second bid for an Oscar, Wild, based on the runaway Cheryl Strayed book. (It's directed by Canada's Jean-Marc Vallée, who was here last year with the critical success Dallas Buyers Club.) Add to the mix: Before I Go to Sleep, the second big-screen co-star vehicle for Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth; The Imitation Game, complete with British crumpet Benedict Cumberbatch; as well as Robert Downey Jr.'s The Judge.

Some other films in the conversation? They include Life, with Robert Pattinson; Jon Stewart's directorial debut, Rosewater; St. Vincent led by Bill Murray ; and –film fest Gods willing – the period piece Carol, courtesy of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

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