Mingling With Giles Bensimon’s Elles in the Lobby at the Sofitel New York

What hotel wouldn’t kill to bring Charlize Theron, Cindy Crawford, Naomie Campbell, Christy Turlington, Uma Thurman, Ines de La Fressange, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears (on a good day) together in one room?

The prize goes to the Sofitel New York. It got the job done, never mind that the women are present in photographs taken by French photographer Gilles Bensimon.

Twenty-five celebrated beauties comprise Elles, a show of portraits mainly in black-and-white taken between 1993 and 2010 by the 69-year-old photographer and former international creative director of Elle magazine. (Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, Catherine Deneuve and Audrey Hepburn are down the hall.)

The Sofitel has hosted a parade of photography exhibitions during the hotel’s 13 years in its

West 44th Street tower. Bensimon’s beauties serve a dual purpose, imparting a shot of glamour and Francophilia to a hotel that pushes elegance and isn’t shy about reveling in its French roots. (A tribute to the photographer in the show’s catalog is written by former French First Lady Carla Bruni, captured looking pensive in jeans and a tank top on a fashion shoot.)

Not surprisingly, the images are gorgeous, a nod, no doubt, to Bensimon’s skill behind the camera but also to the fact that it seems preternaturally impossible to take a bad picture of most of his subjects, especially when they’re expertly coiffed and lighted and, in most cases, flaunt designer clothes.

“People give you a short time of their life to take a picture of them, to make them look good,” Bensimon told Gotham magazine. In other words, don’t expect grunge.

If you’re on 44th Street this month, stop by. Sofitel’s lobby is of that increasingly rare breed where you can curl up on a sofa or club chair without being ordered to buy a drink and meet up with a friend, check your messages or just enjoy the art.

Elles is on view at Sofitel, New York, 45 West 44th Street, through the end of April. The show will travel to Sofitel hotels in Washington, D.C. (May-June), Chicago (July-September) and Beverly Hills (October-December).



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