Nicole Berry opens her black book of style

The executive director of New York’s The Armory Show art fair lives for vintage Dior, kitsch snow globes and strong cheese, says Victoria Woodcock. Photography by Nicholas Calcott

Nicole Berry in her New York home
Nicole Berry in her New York home | Image: Nicholas Calcott

My personal style signifier is my platinum pixie cut. I cut my hair short about seven years ago; it used to be red, but when I dyed it blonde people were like, “Oh my goodness, you can’t go back.” I also wear a lot of large statement jewellery, including a Murano glass necklace by two brothers with a studio in Venice, called Attombri; another I got in Bogotá, also in glass, by Lucette Mugnier. 

My current art crush is Derek Fordjour. I was first introduced to his work during his residency at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Harlem, in 2017; his immersive exhibition, Parade, was amazing. Since then he has exploded onto the scene and is now represented by Josh Lilley. He’s an incredible talent, but also such a sweet person. It’s always nice to see good people do well; I hope his star will continue to rise.

Berry likes to wear a lot of statement jewellery
Berry likes to wear a lot of statement jewellery | Image: Nicholas Calcott

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Doris Salcedo. Her art deals with the trauma the Colombian people experienced in the civil war. It’s powerful but beautiful. The first piece I saw, Untitled, was at Tate Liverpool; it stopped me in my tracks. The work, from 1998, is made up of an old armoire, its doors and drawer removed, and a chair inserted on its side. Salcedo fills the furniture with cement, giving it an almost tomb-like quality.  

The best gift I’ve received recently is a gold bracelet from my parents. Each year before the fair, they have one made for me at a little jewellery store, Dell Fox, in Santa Fe, where they live. Last year’s was engraved with “The Armory Show 2019” and had a diamond; another says, “Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment”. I wear all of them on the opening day of the fair; they keep me grounded in the busyness.

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An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Australia. It was on my bucket list, and getting to drive the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles did not disappoint at all. The natural beauty was breathtaking. We went to Melbourne and to Sydney, where we stayed at a cute boutique hotel called Little Albion. The location, in Surry Hills, was great for exploring the city. Little Albion, from $306.

The beauty staples I’m never without are Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, Diorshow mascara and my MAC red lipstick, Viva Glam I. Mascara and red lipstick are often all I need. Dior Diorshow Mascara, £28. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, from $46. MAC Viva Glam I Lipstick, £17.50.

Gold and silver engraved bracelets given to Berry by her parents
Gold and silver engraved bracelets given to Berry by her parents | Image: Nicholas Calcott

If I didn’t live in New York, the city I would live in is London. I lived there for a short time, when I was an intern at Sotheby’s. I love Hyde Park and Fortnum & Mason, and there are so many great galleries: Victoria Miro, Simon Lee, Josh Lilley and Richard Saltoun, to name a few – all exhibiting at The Armory. And then there are the institutions like the Barbican, and smaller non-profits like Parasol Unit, whose wonderful exhibitions I always try to get to. There is something so civilised about London. I always stay at Dean Street Townhouse – they treat me like family. Dean Street Townhouse, from £150.

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Finding Your True North by Bill George, a businessman and Harvard Business School professor. I read it before a leadership conference at 1440 Multiversity – a truly innovative non-profit learning centre in northern California, named after the number of minutes in a day. I thought I’d simply build a skillset to bring back to my team, but it was so much more. I gained many professional and personal insights. 

Her beauty staples include MAC Viva Glam I lipstick, £17.50, and Dior Diorshow Mascara, £28
Her beauty staples include MAC Viva Glam I lipstick, £17.50, and Dior Diorshow Mascara, £28 | Image: Getty Images

And the one I can’t wait to read is Hold Still, the memoir of photographer Sally Mann. I saw her recent show at the High museum in Atlanta, which was unbelievable.

The last thing I bought and loved was a piece of art from the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair by Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi, from his Pain Relief series. He’s nearly 90 and has chronic back pain, and he did this series of small drawings on his medication packaging. The act of drawing takes his focus off the pain. It’s very moving. 

The next book on her list is Hold Still, the memoir of photographer Sally Mann
The next book on her list is Hold Still, the memoir of photographer Sally Mann

And on my wishlist is an Isamu Noguchi coffee table – the sculptural glass-topped style – for my new apartment in New York. I also have my eye on a past-season Alexander Wang Rockie bag. I have wanted one for a while; perhaps it will be my gift to myself after the fair this year. Table, from $1,895.

My favourite room in my house is my bedroom. After visiting fairs and exhibitions around the world, it’s always nice to come home to my bed and be surrounded by my own artwork. I have a beautiful artwork of an endangered plant by Colombian artist Nohemí Pérez: the simple beauty of the charcoal on raw linen with pink flowers overwhelms me every time I see it. Another favourite is by Maxwell Alexandre, whose paintings of everyday life in the Rio favelas have great personality and vibrancy.

Pain Relief series by Ibrahim El-Salahi
Pain Relief series by Ibrahim El-Salahi | Image: Nicholas Calcott

The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are snow globes. I bring one back from every trip and now have about 30, much to my partner’s chagrin. It started with a beautiful one from Venice of the Rialto Bridge, but now I tend to go for the kitschest version I can find – like a genie in a lamp from Istanbul. People want to give them to me, but that doesn’t count; I have to purchase it from that place and go through the ordeal of getting it home. One from the Vienna Secession was nearly confiscated because I left it in my carry-on, and I brought another back from Madrid, put my bag down at my front door, and… well. The challenge is absolutely part of the process. 

An object I would never part with is my diamond and gold ring by Ruth Tomlinson, the London-based jewellery designer who makes handcrafted, unique pieces. My partner, Bruce, gave it to me for our fifth anniversary and I never take it off. 

On Berry’s wish-list is a past-season Alexander Wang Rockie bag
On Berry’s wish-list is a past-season Alexander Wang Rockie bag

My style icon is a combination of Lauren Bacall and Cate Blanchett. Bacall, like Blanchett, was not afraid to take risks, but also balanced that masculine/feminine quality very well. They both make pants and a blouse look very sexy, but in a unique way. There’s one image of Lauren Bacall in a puffy-sleeved shirt where she looks just stunning. I also admire Iris Apfel for the way she wears big jewellery. 

The last music I listened to was The Beautiful Ones by Prince. I miss him. He was a musical genius. 

Berry’s bedroom with an artwork by Nohemí Pérez
Berry’s bedroom with an artwork by Nohemí Pérez | Image: Nicholas Calcott

My favourite apps are New York magazine, which I read cover to cover; See Saw, an app of gallery listings in New York and other cities that is very handy; and Headspace for meditation.

In my fridge you’ll always find Cashewgurt – a dairy-free alternative to yoghurt – fresh berries, champagne and some good cheese. I love getting new local cheeses from Union Square Greenmarket or the speciality-cheese shop Murray’s. Morbier and Oma are two of my favourites – the stinkier the better.

Her snow-globe collection – she brings back “the kitschest I can find” from every trip
Her snow-globe collection – she brings back “the kitschest I can find” from every trip | Image: Nicholas Calcott

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an actress or a dancer. When I was young, I took ballet and jazz lessons and dreamt of being on a television show called Solid Gold

A recent “find” is Chalait, a matcha café in my new neighbourhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I’m addicted to matcha lattés and this is my new spot. They serve coffee, too, but that’s not my thing.

Berry’s gold and diamond ring by Ruth Tomlinson
Berry’s gold and diamond ring by Ruth Tomlinson | Image: Nicholas Calcott

Indulgences I would never forgo are massages at The Well and yoga at YogaMaya studio in New York. It’s not for everyone because it’s very calm. Initially, I thought it was too slow, not athletic enough – but in a city like New York, I need that calming influence.

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a vintage Dior coat that I found in Amsterdam, in La Doyenne Vintage. I love it. It’s black, long, double-breasted, and fits me like a glove. I also bought an outfit from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago while the Virgil Abloh show was on. It’s going to make quite an impression. It’s a suit in an off-white silky material by Planet by Lauren G, with a short-sleeved jacket and these fabulous wide-legged pants. It’s fancy but comfortable; I think I’ll feel like I’m wearing pyjamas. 

Lauren Bacall is one of Berry’s style icons
Lauren Bacall is one of Berry’s style icons | Image: Getty Images

My beauty gurus are Bonnie and Melissa, who cut and colour my hair. When I was living in Chicago, I found a salon that I love, Marianne Strokirk – in fact, Marianne is a collector herself – and have stuck with them. With short hair, you can’t hide a bad haircut, so, yes, I fly to Chicago and get my hair done, but my partner is also there currently, and so is my dog. 

I have a collection of art – unsurprisingly! I’m drawn to figurative and representational work with a bit of humour or an important message. I have works that were given to me by artist friends like Rob Wynne and Anne Peabody, as well as pieces by more well-known artists I have been following for quite some time. I love my works by Matthew Brannon, Katherine Bernhardt and recent acquisitions by Paul Mpagi Sepuya and the late John Giorno.

A tote from the New York speciality cheese store Murray’s
A tote from the New York speciality cheese store Murray’s

The best gift I’ve given recently is foie gras. Whenever I travel to Paris, I get my dad the best I can find – from Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie on my last visit. He has a very sweet ritual of always sharing it with my uncle. From €26. 

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose SoHo in New York for the MoMA Design Store, big-name stores like Rag & Bone and the smaller boutiques on Mott Street. Then I’d pop into Crosby Street Hotel for lunch at The Crosby Bar.

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The last meal that truly impressed me was at Balagan, an Israeli restaurant in Paris. It was just delicious – every moment of it. I had the seabass with roasted vegetables, which was cooked to perfection and beautifully presented, with the sauces on the side. It was also fun, because while I was sitting at the bar with my meal the bartender offered me tequila

The Armory Show runs from March 5 to 8; thearmoryshow.com

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