One of the most interesting young men around town for the last few years–everyone who knows him thinks this–has been Alexis Zambrano. He is a multi-talented, multi-tasking artiste-cum-entrepreneur who is always well-mannered, well-groomed and well-dressed. Impeccably so, to the point of obsessively so.
Alexis–he’s 27 but has the sensibility of someone twice his age–is calculatedly, even painstakingly old-fashioned, adopting the mien and persona of a 19th-century Parisian boulevardier. (What’s the matter with kids today?).
For 300 years, the Zambranos have been one of the powerful industrial families of Monterey, the sophisticated colonial metropolis in the north of Mexico. They have always been refined and affluent (think Cemex, a global leader in building materials) but they are refreshingly free of pretension and self-importance. That’s what we like about Old Money.
Alexis is full of ideas (he absorbs bios and social history) and full of energy. He is a co-founder of InSitu, which helps introduce fledgling artists to young collectors and older patrons.
Now he himself has begun painting, and his paintings are whimsical but visionary and intellectually challenging. Earlier this week, he showed his latest crop. They are large canvases depicting in meticulous detail sumptuous salons that display artworks composing his idealization of a fantasy collection. They are clever and commercial. No dilettante, he.
For the vernissage, Alexis rented the James Burden Mansion on East 91st, the closest thing Manhattan has to a Roman palazzo, with 20-foot ceilings and more marble than the Vatican. Not long ago, it became part of the Convent of the Sacred Heart school, next door in the Otto Kahn Mansion, so Zambrano and his team had only a six-hour window, 5:00 to 11:00, to move in the artworks and the bar and musicians, throw the event, and then load the trucks. It was a miracle of clockwork scheduling and it was also a helluva party.
Alexis’s madre, Marisol, flew in with his brother Ivan, 18. Marisol is so youthful and attractive everyone thinks she is Alexis’s sister. I asked Ivan if he was helping host and he said, “I am the backbone”. Indeed he was.
It was thrilling to see Luisana Mendoza in town, up from Washington where her husband Lorenzo Roccia is a financial wizard and unofficial member of Obama’s brain trust. To my mind, Luisana is one of the smartest, coolest and most glamorous women in the world. She was an eminence at Vogue before she chucked it to raise some muchachos.
The Mendozas are perhaps the most venerated family in Venezuela, following generations of philanthropy and service to the less privileged. Like many others of high position and property, they have suffered greatly under the repressive socialist regimes of Chavez and Maduro, but haven’t lost their faith in the Venezuelan people and optimism for the future. As a family with longevity, they take the long view. Luisana’s sister Maria Luisa was also there, with Juana Domenzain, her partner in an art world start-up.
Other art-lovers mingling and tasting the Maestro Dobel Tequila included Ana Perez, a co-founder of InSitu; New York social figure Yolanda Santos, who was once married into the Zambrano family; futures trader Sue Chalom, who snapped up a painting; Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea, whose sculptures were showcased on Park Avenue not long ago; and Ali Cordero Casal, chairman of the Venezuelan American Endowment for the Arts. His daughter Valeria Cordero told me that some patriotic Venezuelans in New York and Miami are already quietly meeting to discuss plans for keeping the country safe and stable if and when the Maduro government implodes.
The Latin colony in New York loves this country, but they love their home countries more. Just as it should be, Gracias a Dios.