Madame Rosebud, a petite woman with rainbow hair and makeup, posed nonchalantly in the corner of the Raven, a dark lounge in New York City's Meatpacking District. She was completely naked, except for a blue rhinestone necklace and matching earrings. A spotlight reflected off her body as the artist Skye Ferrante busily shaped and shifted a simple piece of wire in her likeness. The purchaser who ordered the three-hour long live nude sculpture, which was indexed on the Raven’s bottle service menu for $10,000, sat adjacent to the model and watched as his artwork began to form.
I arrived 30 minutes into the session, and the wire already resembled the face of Madame Rosebud. My view was somewhat obstructed by the Big Hair Girls, Lizzy Lightyear and Venus, who stood with their arms crossed in matching glittery jumpsuits. They looked like sexy bouncers from A Clockwork Orange. Occasionally the duo would pass out business cards printed with “You can’t afford it.” At ten stacks a pop, that was a sentiment I certainly couldn't argue with.
Some people crowded around, snapping shots on their iPhones of the naked lady, while others were more preoccupied with enjoying their $1,000 bottles of champagne elsewhere in the bar, but Skye’s presence isn’t just about creating a spectacle set to shitty house music. His work is about exploring the consumerism of wealthy young people.
“You never know when I am going to show up, but when I do someone is going to get naked and spend money. It is a challenge that I have imposed upon myself—to see if I can sell to a class of affluent young people that usually spends money on accessories and ego,” said Skye.
Skye started wire sculpting after a career in ballet 20 years ago, selling his pieces for $20 on the streets of SoHo, where he quickly gained a following. After the economic downturn in 2008, he quit selling his art in galleries and instead created a private burlesque salon, where he sold his art during cocktail parties with live jazz and performance artists. Over the years he has sold over 10,000 works of art to customers like Henry Stimler, the owner of the Raven, where he has now appeared four times.
“I began sculpting in wire after I realized I didn’t have the patience for bronze and it’s too expensive. Of course, other people play with wire, but my influence really came from dance. Everything is about lines and movement. When art works it moves. I have worked with 800-plus performing artists in New York—men, women, and people in between. I can’t help but bring out some of that ballet from my past and be a bit of a performer. Madame Rosebud clearly has a dance background. I love how she is aware of every part of the body.”
Before making appearances at the Raven, Henry commissioned Skye for a piece on permanent display at the lounge—a dominatrix scene sculpted out of one piece of wire, which took three-and-a-half hours to complete.
“Since Henry is British, I thought of a dominatrix because the Brits like to be spanked. I made some calls to my dom friends. A woman and her thug were booked for a modeling session, but at the last minute, she canceled because even though I have a $500 modeling budget, I couldn’t compete with her $300-an-hour cock and ball torture. I made a call to another friend, so her and her friend posed for me. I started on the dom’s eye and finished on the signature, which somehow ended on the ass of the sub.”
After Skye finished sculpting Madame Rosebud, someone lit the sparkelabra, a contraption invented by Skye, and brought it to the buyer's table.
“The sparkelabra has ten nightclub sparklers on a 9'' candelabra. I created that so people could see when $10,000 was spent, in this case on artwork. Because people aren’t buying bottles in a nightclub, they are buying sparklers and attention. When I figured that out, I said, ‘If I am going to sell art, it better come with a lot of sparklers, because there is no way my art is going to be sold for less than overpriced bottles of champagne.’”