Profiles Visual Arts

The Art of Philanthropy

Jean Shafiroff

Fashioned by Sargent,” which was recently featured at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, highlighted how the portrait maestro’s wardrobe styling skills, and expertise at capturing textiles, made his well-heeled subjects more than models: they are immortal role models, as strong and confident as they are divinely chic. One gets the distinct impression that conversing with these impeccably dressed beauties would be a memorable experience.

Today, thanks to Instagram, we have the opportunity to dialogue with a charismatic contemporary woman whom Sargent would surely have liked to paint—an elegant role model who is an artist in her own right. She is Jean Shafiroff, a philanthropist with a sublime, Sargent-worthy sense of style. The author of Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give, Shafiroff invites Instagrammers to follow her along the international charity gala circuit. In each post, wherever her travels take her—whether attending a NYC formal event in her signature opera-length gloves, or navigating an airport escalator in casual-chic sneaks—Shafiroff is always reliably dressed to the nines: a soignée Sargent portrait come to life.

At MSeum, the world’s first museum to be built by women, for women artists, we are greatly inspired by Shafiroff’s giving track record, and regard her book as essential reading. Our motto: Everything women do, they raise to art! Ms. Jean Shafiroff raises philanthropy to art, dedicating her time to worthy cultural causes as well as charities that empower women, advance social justice, and protect animals. Shafiroff — proud daughter of a woman artist, and mother to two philanthropist daughters — “paints” with wardrobe, accessories, and jewelry. Supporting emerging women designers such as Ese Azenabor alongside more established labels (Carolina Herrera, Zimmermann, Ulla Johnson, among others), Shafiroff creates a daily performance art spectacle fashion followers love.

With a keen eye for conceiving photo shoots, she selects and models outfits by Victor de Souza, Oscar de la Renta, or Alex Vinash, pairing each with the event she’s attending like a sommelier of style. Shafiroff has a seat on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Couture Council, and maintains her own lovingly curated closet of wearable art. “Over the years, I have collected couture, no doubt I have a passion for it,” says the internet influencer who is at once collector, artist, curator, and connoisseur—a true aesthetic polymath. “Fashion is art, and art is fashion,” she astutely concludes, and the New York Times legend Bill Cunningham (who photographed her often) would surely agree.

It is addictively uplifting to watch Instagram videos of Shafiroff making a queenly trek from her Park Avenue lobby to a waiting SUV, the train of her dress floating along the gritty city sidewalk like vivid oil paint masterfully brushed across gessoed linen. She’s regularly seen alongside celebrities ranging from Gloria Steinem to Marc Anthony, yet dog lovers most enjoy seeing Shafiroff with a cherished canine companion, whether her own sweet dogs, Rosita and Henry, or pups offered for adoption by one of the many animal welfare charities she proudly supports.

On the opposite side of the canvas is another creative polymath with an abiding love of dogs: artist Stephanie Drawdy, who was inspired to immortalize Jean Shafiroff in the medium of Sargent and his contemporaries: oil paint. Drawdy, an attorney, produces and hosts the “Warfare of Art and Law” podcast, while working on her first novel. An avid admirer of Sargent and Cecilia Beaux, the artist “described as Sargent’s female equivalent, [whose] gender relegated her to near obscurity,” Drawdy has a trio of faithful studio assistants, Affenpinschers named after her favorite painters: Beaux, Sargent, and Marc Chagall. Cecilia Beaux is one of the many great Unknowns it is MSeum’s mission to re-visibilize, and Drawdy is proud to be her sister portraitist’s champion. With the painting on this issue’s cover, Drawdy aimed “To highlight Jean Shafiroff’s elegant, humanitarian essence.”

Portrait of Jean Shafiroff by Abigail Chang

Abigail Chang is another artist inspired by Shafiroff’s online presence. The high school senior plans to study art and computer science at college—and her charming digital painting, titled “Artist of Philanthropy,” indicates that Chang is a rising talent to watch, an emissary from art’s ever-higher high-tech future, whose work reassuringly suggests that AI might also stand for Artistic Inspiration. Says Chang, recipient of MSeum’s inaugural Promising Future Unknown Award, “It is definitely an honor to have my work published in Gallery & Studio and recognized by MSeum. Jean Shafiroff is a very beautiful, ethereal subject.” G&S Instagram: @jeanshafiroff and @jeanshafiroffatwork Instagram: Instagram: @drawdyatelier

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