Here Comes the Dog!

From the NJ Times Today!
Aaron P. Bernstein for The New York Times (photo)

INDIANAPOLIS, OCT. 20 The couple under the huppa at Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens, with their bulldog.


  • ARTISTS are visual by nature, but Tom Sachs, the artist known for his cheeky takes on consumer culture, first fell for Sarah Sanders Hoover without even seeing her.

Aaron P. Bernstein for The New York Times

The groom at the reception.

They met, by phone, in September 2007 when she was working at the Gagosian Gallery. She was 23, fresh out of Columbia, where she received a master’s in cultural theory on top of her bachelor’s in fine arts from New York University. The gallery’s Los Angeles branch was having a show of Mr. Sachs’s work, and Ms. Hoover was on her first day on the job, where she now works as a saleswoman and artist liaison, at its headquarters in Chelsea. Mr. Sachs called to speak to her boss about the coming exhibition. She answered.

“She was very sassy,” he recalled.

He did not know what she looked like. “I got to know this sassy, intelligent, beautiful person,” he said. “We kept talking, but I didn’t meet her for a month. I asked her to send me her picture, but she’d send me other pictures instead. Once she sent me a picture of the Loch Ness Monster, so I fell in love with the Loch Ness Monster. And that really illustrates the kind of person she is.”

But Ms. Hoover, a stunning, statuesque blonde, did know of him. She was familiar with his work. And he was 18 years older.

When they finally met, a few weeks later at a gallery event, their coy banter snowballed.

“There was a spark, an energy between us,” she said. “For sure I had a crush on him. He’s very sexy. But he was known to not be the sort of person who wanted to settle down. Total bachelor.”

He had what she called “a bad-boy reputation” and was, at the time, also a bachelor with a girlfriend.

 A kind of routine emerged.

“He’d say, ‘When are you going to go out with me?’ and I’d say, “Oh, never,’ ” Ms. Hoover said. Though charmed by his persistence, his style and talent, she said she was daunted by their age difference, as well as the fact that Mr. Sachs had a girlfriend when he was flirting with her. She was also just beginning an entry-level job at the gallery and he was an artist the gallery was working with. (Mr. Sachs is primarily represented by another gallery, Sperone Westwater.) “I don’t think he took it seriously when I finally said ‘Yes.’ ”

By then he was single, and she did most certainly have a crush on him, she said. “He’s the first artist I dated.”

On their first date, in June 2008 at the SoHo restaurant Balthazar, they ordered the three-tier seafood tower to start and steaks to follow. But the food ended up playing second fiddle to the chemistry. Both were too nervous to eat, but the conversation flowed. The spell broke, or at least cracked, when the check arrived and Mr. Sachs announced that he had forgotten his wallet. Irritated, Ms. Hoover paid the check; then Mr. Sachs rubbed salt in the wound by asking the waiter to wrap both steaks for him to take home.

After dinner, he took her to see his studio around the corner where she saw some of his works in progress and he sneaked money for dinner into her coat pocket. She left, and the next day, a messenger arrived at the gallery about lunchtime with a small package for Ms. Hoover: the steak from the evening before, sliced and prepared as a salad, wrapped in fake McDonald’s packaging lovingly made by Mr. Sachs. She was familiar, from her art history studies, with one of his most iconic pieces: the “Hermès Value Meal,” created from Hermès packaging.

It was a perfect surprise for Ms. Hoover, who may subscribe to the theory that food follows function.

She grew up in Indiana, in a family where food was as much a religion as sustenance. Her mother, Martha Hoover, is something of a food celebrity. One of the vanguard of the locally sourced-food movement, Martha Hoover opened her first restaurant, Patachou, there in 1989, a success she has followed up with several other restaurants in Indiapolis.

“Life develops around the kitchen table,” Ms. Hoover said.

The couple began spending more time together, keeping their meetings secret from colleagues. Their casual dating crystallized into a real relationship later that year, when Mr. Sachs accompanied Ms. Hoover home to Indianapolis to meet her family in December 2008.

Once back home in New York, she cooked for him, and Mr. Sachs, now 46, began teaching Ms. Hoover, now 28, how to surf the next summer at Rockaway Beach in Queens. They began to take surfing trips together and traveled to Thailand, Morocco, Italy, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

In their day-to-day life, food became a leitmotif of their dating life.

“I grew up where food was the most important thing,” Ms. Hoover said. “So I remember every date I ever had with him and what we ate.”

And what they shouldn’t have eaten.

On their first trip together as a couple, a surfing excursion to Nicaragua, she was overcome with food poisoning from an airport lunch. Once they landed, she fainted in the town square. He carried her firefighter-style to their hotel and cared for her throughout the night.

“She is an expert in all aspects of food preparation” he said. (And now he knew not everyone else was.)

She was beginning to see a “sweet and kind” side to the bad-boy artist, who has been described by her mother as “like Albert Einstein and Bart Simpson had a baby.”

For New Year’s this year, they traveled to Careyes, Mexico, for another surfing vacation. During the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, they strolled the beach. As they walked, Mr. Sachs alerted Ms. Hoover to something odd lodged in the cliff rocks. At his urging, she pried it loose, to find a crudely fashioned little box made out of orange-and-white street barricade — one of Mr. Sachs’s favorite sculptural mediums.

“I opened it, and there is this 18th-century ring in the shape of a skull with diamonds for eyes,” Ms. Hoover said. “And I turn around, and there’s Tom, down on one knee, and he asked me if I would join him in conquering the world.”

It seemed natural that she would want to be married in Indianapolis, where food and family meld so effortlessly.

They were married Oct. 20 at the century-old Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens, an enormous chateau-esque house on a lavish 26-acre estate, which is also home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Every detail was thought out as intricately as one of Mr. Sachs’s own creations. But this time it was in Ms. Hoover’s hands along with her mother and sister, Rachael Hoover, who had just graduated from an Italian culinary school. It is safe to say they put a lot more work into the menu than the wedding dress. (For the record, the bride wore a white lace Carolina Herrera dress with a four-foot train and a veil of gold lace from Solstice in Paris, the groom wore a custom-made Prada tuxedo, and the ring bearer, their French bulldog, Napoleon, wore a white leather bow tie and a custom-made ring carrier.)

Among the approximately 170 in attendance were the fashion designer Cynthia Rowley; the art dealer Bill Powers; the hockey player Sean Avery; the Visionaire magazine editor Cecilia Dean; the writer Glenn O’Brien, and the art collectors and supporters Philip E. Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons.

They watched as the bride’s father, John Hoover, a lawyer in Indianapolis who was appointed judge pro tempore by the Marion Superior Court for the day, officiated. Rabbi Dennis Sasso assisted in the ceremony, which included a simple white huppah made from one of the groom’s favorite materials: scavenged pieces of Con Ed barricades.

And since surfing could not be part of a wedding in Indiana, the celebration began and ended with food. Hors d’oeuvres on the terrace behind the Oldfields mansion started the feast. After the ceremony, the guests walked through the mansion to various tables of appetizers: Petrossian caviar and vodka shots, a full raw bar, the New York restaurateur Daniel Boulud’s Champagne mojitos, and local heirloom vegetables and dips by Hoaglin Catering, a hometown favorite.

From there, it was on to dinner in a large tent, hung with an enormous chandelier. Butternut squash soup, in the spirit of the autumnal season, was served in tiny white pumpkins, followed by local lettuce salad and coq au vin and whipped potatoes, courtesy of the mother of the bride. The bride’s sister selected the artisanal cheeses for the next course, followed by the cake, which had been brought from New York by its maker, Gail Watson, who had festooned it with marzipan pomegranates and flowers that echoed the table settings.

Once the bride, in a bit of performance art, had smashed the inaugural piece of cake into her husband’s mouth (to great applause), the party continued with dancing and a midnight show of fireworks, followed by yet another smorgasbord of treats including a three-tiered bacon bar, laden with three kinds of bacon, a bacon maple cake, cigars and bourbon. Then, at 2 a.m., the last revelers were treated to a delivery of cheeseburgers and milkshakes from Steak ’N Shake, a Midwestern fast-food favorite.

It was an unforgettable feast for family and friends, planned by a bride who made sure no one left hungry.

“They are both wickedly smart and extremely funny with a shared love of art, food, travel and family,” Martha Hoover said after the wedding. “Probably in that order. They both have an eye for details that most people never notice and respect for the profane and the profound.”

Mr. Sachs said his wedding day “was a celebration of the generally joyful way we want to live our entire lives.”

A description that was right in line with Ms. Hoover’s own take on their connection from Day 1 on the phone in the gallery: “My job is helping make artists’ dreams come true, and his job is showing people how to see the world.”

Or, one might say, she makes the food, and he makes the packaging.


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