Fashion / Style File

Lynn Wyatt Opens Her Closet

Famed Style Icon is Auctioning Off Precious Pieces In a Once-in-a-Lifetime Moment

BY // 02.15.16

On set at the inimitable Lynn Wyatt’s house last July, as we photographed her on the occasion of her 80th birthday and as chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Grand Gala, she tipped us off that she would be donating more than a dozen of her couture gowns and a few of her Yves Saint Laurent posters in an auction hosted by Paddle8 to benefit the Rothko Chapel, where Wyatt serves as cultural ambassador and advisor.

The Rothko Chapel, with Mark Rothko’s son, Christopher Rothko, presently serving as board chair, has quietly launched a capital campaign to fund major lighting changes to the Chapel as it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2021 and Wyatt is fully on board. The sale date has finally arrived, debuting today, February 15, at 1 pm EST, and it is better than we could have ever imagined.

Not only does it include 17 important items of couture from the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s and the aforementioned YSL posters, it also includes important art and printed matter donated by galleries and friends in Wyatt’s honor and fabulous items from her celebrity friends and fellow Rothko Chapel supporters.

Lynn Wyatt in a Yves Saint Laurent couture gown at the Rothko Chapel. (Photograph by Robert Polidori, courtesty of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery)

The online catalogue serves as a brief history and a celebration of Wyatt’s impeccable sense of personal style and taste in art. She has been a collector of haute couture since the early 1970s. Included in the sale is the first couture item she ever acquired — a black silk boucle skirt suit by Chanel, which she credits with beginning her five-decade relationship with the fashion house. Wyatt tells us that she bought it when Mademoiselle Coco was still alive, and added that the suit has a removable white collar and cuffs that can be sent to the cleaners separately. Karl Lagerfeld affectionately calls Wyatt “Black & Wyatt” because of proclivity for wearing black and white.

Under Lagerfeld’s direction, the fabled fashion house hosted the 2013/14 Métiers d’Art fashion show titled “Paris-Dallas” in Texas in Wyatt’s honor in 2014. In a press release, Chanel wrote, “She is also the woman that best embodies the strong link that exists between Texas and Chanel, thus honored at the [show].” Naturally, all of the gowns available in the sale have been worn to the most coveted social invitations from Monaco to Houston and have been featured in the pages of international newspapers and magazines, including Vanity Fair, which inducted Wyatt to its International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1977.

Five of the seventeen haute couture looks for sale in the auction. From left to right: Chanel, 1970s; Emanuel Ungaro 1980s; Givenchy, early 1980s; Valentino, 1980s; Yves Saint Laurent, 1980s. (Courtesy Paddle8)

The printed matter and fine art available for sale also paint the portrait of Wyatt’s colorful personal history. The items from her collection include printed posters from Yves Saint Laurent and a signed Helmut Newton photo book.

“Every Christmas Yves Saint Laurent would send big posters to his friends. Every single one was different, but they all had the word love. I’ve kept them in pristine condition, all in their original containers,” Wyatt says. She is keeping two for herself and generously offering the others in the sale.

Famed photographer Helmut Newton was Wyatt’s neighbor at her home in the South of France. When Wyatt moved out of her massive home (dubbed the “Wyatt Hyatt”) on River Oaks Boulevard into a smaller but stately home nearby, she wallpapered the powder room in leopard print and hung two of her black-and-white Newton photographs. The next time she saw him, she told Newton that she had a whole room dedicated to him in her new house. Wyatt’s husband Oscar told Newton not to get too excited, as it was the powder room. Newton loved the concept, and began sending her more photographs for the room.

Wyatt keeps a collection of his art books, most of them signed, on the floor in the powder room (it’s no wonder guests go in and don’t come out for 20 minutes) and is offering in the sale one of those treasured books.

Also available are a number of important photographic and print works donated from Wyatt’s friends. “I’m so touched and so humbled by the type of gifts being given to benefit the Rothko Chapel. The Texas Gallery, in particular, donated a fabulous Andy Warhol print titled After the Party that I just adore. All of the pieces are so fabulous. I’m so excited,” Wyatt says.

Wyatt felt that her friend Warhol was “the John Singer Sargent of our time” and commissioned two portraits by him that hang in her living room. Also available in the sale by Andy Warhol is a portrait of Judy Garland, mother of Liza Minnelli, one of Wyatt’s friends. The Rothko family donated an impressive collection of rare books and catalogs on Mark Rothko‘s work. Also donated are two of Robert Mapplethorpe‘s photographs of flowers and nudes and Donald Sultan‘s butterfly prints.

Versace sunglasses, 2003. Donated by Elton John. (Courtesy Paddle8)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wyatt production without a few celebrity friends chipping in. Her bestie Elton John donated a pair of his trademark Versace sunglaseses for the occasion. Wes Anderson, Houston native and fellow supporter of the Rothko Chapel, donated a custom Prada trunk owned by Madame D. in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Bono donated a Rick Owens leather jacket (the Irish rock star wore it at one of his band’s concerts). And Tilda Swinton, honored with a Visionary Award by the Rothko Chapel in 2014, is donating a goodnight story via Skype to be delivered on your birthday. Truly priceless.

Wyatt tells us she will be tracking the sale online and is headed to New York next week for a cocktail party in honor of the event, to be held at Monkey Bar. The sale runs on Paddle8 from February 15 through February 29 at paddle8.com/lynnwyatt. Happy bidding!

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