By JOHN ORTVED
Ariel Foxman in the living room of his Gramercy Park home, where he has on display two Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, “Mike Spencer,” left, and “Flower.” Credit Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times
On a recent afternoon Ariel Foxman was having a one-way conversation with his son, Cielo, as he lifted up the newborn “Lion King”-style and then brought him in for a kiss. The baby, just 7 weeks old, was soon asleep on his shoulder.
It’s been a big year for Mr. Foxman, professionally as well as personally. In August, he was announced the chief brand officer for Olivela, an online fashion site that uses part of its proceeds to support children’s health and education. Previously, from 2008 to 2016, Mr. Foxman was editor in chief of InStyle magazine and then editorial director of InStyle and StyleWatch. (For his 2014 wedding, he and his husband, Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, a public school principal, sought advice from the Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana for their formal wear.)
The couple’s apartment, a corner unit in a large, modern building in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, provides a sightly path through his past and present lives. In the living room, the eye travels from a small Tom Wesselmann nude hanging overhead to a photo book about Tupac Shakur and finally to two Robert Mapplethorpe photographs hovering over the couch.
There’s a visual line that traces maturity as well: A skateboard deck by Ryan McGinness in the master bedroom is dwarfed by a 4-foot-by-3-foot painting by Mr. McGinness in the hallway (“The Incredible Dust Collecting Machine”), purchased in the early 2000s, when Mr. Foxman was editor in chief of the short-lived Cargo magazine. Make a left and you’re in the baby’s room, faced with a drawing by Agnes Martin.
In the living room, pictures of Mr. Foxman with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michelle Obama sit on a mantel next to family photos and a silver menorah. Above them hangs a felt cafe board on which the artist Maynard Monrow wrote with plastic letters, “For your information we the people are all immigrants.”
“We just love the message of the piece,” Mr. Foxman said. “I’m the child of immigrants. My father was a Holocaust survivor. My husband’s father was born in Cuba and came here to this country. We are all immigrants in this country. No one really has ownership to say they’re an American and you’re not.” (The following conversation has been edited for space and clarity.)
Chris Levine’s photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, “Lightness of Being,” also hangs in the Manhattan apartment of Ariel Foxman and Brandon Cardet-Hernandez. Credit Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times
Do you and your husband ever switch the letters around on that Monrow to make messages like “Do the dishes”?
Now that you’ve suggested it, it might be fun. I just love it having it central in our house, committed to this idea of social justice. The work that my husband does as a principal in the South Bronx and the work that I’m doing with Olivela is all in that vein.
Was it hard to leave journalism?
I feel I’ll always be a journalist. Olivela has an audience. It has content. It has storytelling. It has all the hallmarks of media. At the end of the day it allows women to buy what they love and also improve the lives of children.
At InStyle, and even before, you were involved in social causes.
Philanthropy has always been a piece of what I do — my father [Abraham Foxman] was director of the Anti-Defamation League for nearly 30 years — but it’s never really been the thrust of my day-to-day like it is now at Olivela. My husband and five other educators started a project to work with the school in Haiti in Port-au-Prince called Project Nathanael. I worked with that. I’m on the board of Glaad. I’ve been on the board of Acria for many years.
Is that what brought you to Mapplethorpe?
These are recent acquisitions. The one on the left is Mike Spencer, who Mapplethorpe shot a lot. That’s a 1982 photograph. And then these flowers from 1987. We saw the HBO documentary about him and his work. I remember as a child there was all the controversy and the taboo around him and around sexuality and the graphic nature of the art. That conversation around what’s art and what’s not, what’s pornography and what’s not, it had a huge impact on me.
It’s work that really hits all the marks: aesthetics, politics, identity.
To then have seen that documentary and to get a real sense of what was happening in his life personally — and then the fight to further spread his art and his message — he was so incredibly brave, and there was all these brave people around him working to keep his legacy intact.
And they sit directly across the room from the message about immigration; it’s like a conversation.
The art is a reflection of everything that we’ve collected and bought along the way. And then of course there’s the Jonathan Adler tummy-time gym that sits on the floor below it. Because we have a newborn.