Rogan's Gallery

New York

Left: Designer Rogan Gregory with Ali Hewson and Bono. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Salon 94's Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn with daughter and Bono.

All those still lamenting fashion’s invasion of the art world were right to stay in hiding on Sunday afternoon. While the Rolling Stones prepared to play the Super Bowl, Edun, a rock-star-financed clothing line, was at Salon 94 to stage a promotional event featuring its retro-grunge outfits, a jazz combo from New Orleans, and two dozen small artworks by the likes of Cecily Brown, Marilyn Minter, Rob Pruitt, Marlene McCarty, Erik Parker, and Laura Owens.

The few artists in attendance were virtually ignored by the platoons of entertainment-television crews and fashion photographers all hoping that Bono—whose wife, Ali Hewson, founded Edun with designer Rogan Gregory—would attract other celebs. Lindsay Lohan was expected. So was Robert de Niro. Neither showed while I was there, though apparently de Niro arrived later. But Moby came—and went. (“I never expected this event to be such a clusterfuck,” he said, on parting.)

For those who haven’t been, Salon 94 is the former orphanage where Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn has a gallery on the ground floor and, in the most stylish fashion imaginable, lives with her family and art collection above the shop. The immense Julie Mehretu painting in her living room quickly became the favored backdrop for interviews by reporters from Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment Television, and more—not exactly the kind of press that most openings attract. (Unless, of course, they’re for Damien Hirst.)

Left: Moby. Right: Artist Marilyn Minter.

With her baby daughter in her arms, Rohatyn paced the floor dressed in a form-fitting Edun T-shirt and stiff blue jacket, clearly having misgivings about the whole affair. “They don’t understand that we’re installing Wolfgang Tillmans in here,” she said, eyeing the photographs taped to a wall painting by Chiho Aoshima. New Museum curator Laura Hoptman looked equally bewildered. “What are we doing here?” she asked, as she scurried to a couch at some distance from the cameras where Hewson and Gregory were giving interviews every eight minutes. Since I wasn’t on the schedule, I had to jump in during the few seconds it took to change crews.

“What is your role with this company?” I asked Hewson, who seemed perfectly nice. Before she could answer, Rogan jumped in. “I’m not a conventional designer,” he boasted. “And Ali and Bono are not conventional company people.” Hewson added, “Rogan is the best designer in the world!” Then a publicist whisked them away.

Organized for Edun by onetime SoHo gallerist Bronwyn Keenan, the party was planned as an old-fashioned salon where artists, musicians, and designers could let down their hair in good conscience. Edun, you see, is a company with a mission—in addition to the mission to turn a profit, that is. (“Make no mistake,” Bono would tell me later. “This is first and foremost a commercial enterprise.”) One that actively promotes “conscious consumerism.” The clothes may be sold at stores like Saks, Barneys, and Nordstrom, but locally owned factories make them in poor African towns—something to do with sustainability and providing a living wage in places where the Bonos hope to “shift the focus from aid to trade.”

Left: Actor Peter Sarsgaard. Right: Ali Hewson, Lou Reed, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

I didn’t really get how it worked, but I know that in the world of the celebrated, Bono is as serious a social activist as they come. (Edun is also doing things like building wells and a medical center in sub-Saharan Lesotho.) “Alicia Keys . . . Angelina . . . they’re an inspiration to me,” I heard him tell one interviewer. “Oh, stay with me, stay,” he pleaded, taking my arm as the publicist tried to drag him away again. “Let’s keep talking.” Clearly the Grammy powerhouse preferred the art world to the entertainment world. Can’t say I blamed him.

Bono also put a toe in the fashion world by wearing the rosy Armani wraparounds that he introduced at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. (Profits from the glasses go to fight AIDS in Africa.) His clothes, however (black hoodie, black leather jacket, black pants), were not by Edun. “I'm the bodyguard,” he said. “I’m not much of a model. I just make sure people pay their bills.” The U2 frontman really seemed intent on the African thing. “Was that a Chris Ofili painting I saw over there?” he asked Rohatyn. He had never seen one in person. Explaining that she was a dealer as well as a collector, she offered to show him some drawings in the back, but he seemed to lose interest when she also offered to send him an invoice.

Later on Bono and Hewson were to select three of the paintings contributed to the event for an eventual sale of limited-edition prints thereof. Profits will go to the villages Edun is helping. But when I went downstairs to the jam-packed party, no one was looking at the art, or the artists. Not even at Jeff Koons. Did he ever wear Edun? “I don’t really buy clothes,” he said, with a rueful nod to his conservative style. He was there for Bono. Me too, I thought, and after Cabinet magazine editor Sina Najafi talked me into buying a piece of Cabinet-size land in New Mexico, for one cent, I went home to soak my head.

Linda Yablonsky