Pool parties: the fine art of surfacing (Quintessentially)

There’s something magnetic about a swimming pool, something primal even. There’s that close to carnal urge to ‘get to the pool’ or ‘come on in’. It doesn’t matter how small or unassuming it is, a body of pure warm water occupying space that it really shouldn’t has a sensational aura about it.


Think of last year’s Armani Exchange ad campaign, Pool Party, with its boy and girl model getting wet and intense, From Here to Eternity style, – a pure sexual energy designed to bring out the voyeur in us all. Think of Tracey Emin swimming lengths, alone, on the roof of Shoreditch House during its opening weeks last year. Wearing webbed gloves and cutting right through the centre of the stainless steel pool, her blatantly self-conscious presence charged the space right up: You knew already from the buzz and the mere fact that there was nowhere like it in London that this was the place to be, but Emin, and her creative industry peers poolside, ordering margaritas in plastic martini glasses, turned it into something else – an A-list pool party. Being there, we’re all, quite literally, in it together, stripped down and vulnerable but in the comfort of the womb-like water… a provocative, lowest common denominator of social space.

There are few places in the world that embrace the pool party right now like the city of Miami – nightclub promoters like Ingrid Casares have made a career out of creating the biggest buzz around their poolside events. Each new hotel raises its game – the Ritz Carlton has had one of the buzziest pools for years with its all day disco soundtrack, hotpant wearing tanning butler equipped with sunblock in his holsters and its champagne trolley that does more circuits per hour than a dumpling trolley in a dim sum restaurant. The newest opening is an outpost of New York’s Gansevoort, Gansevoort South, with a 55,000 square foot rooftop pool deck that promises to be this year’s biggest story on SoBe. Nightlife in Miami, or wherever for that matter, is all very well and good, but there’s nothing to compare to the feeling of being amongst a crowd of friends, three cocktails in, when the sun’s shining. That’s an unbeatable, sexy, feel good buzz.

The recently published book documenting the most glam elements in the history of pool party culture, Poolside with Slim Aarons, is a collection of images of the rich and fabulous of yesteryear, swarming around the decks of pools in a variety of global hotspots: mid century modern shapes and colour palates at the Canellopoulos penthouse pool in Athens and C.Z Guest, Cheryl Tiegs and Peter Beard all living the high life. It’s an homage to the long-standing romance of the pool party, from Esther Williams and floral swim caps to the debauchery of the Tina-enriched muscle boys splashing out at the annual Gay Days at Disney World. It just looks like so much fun and so good in photographs, whether it’s a Hugh Hefner soiree at the Playboy Mansion, the Friday night DJ sets in the garden of Home Hotel in Buenos Aires or last year’s party for Rankin, with Heidi Klum and Dita von Teese, around the pool at the reborn Hollywood Roosevelt, with its iconic L.A sky blue David Hockney fleck-wave painted bottom.

Evening pool parties, like those so frequently held at the Roosevelt, or the YSL party at the Beverly Hills Hotel last summer, are dressy affairs where the pool generates even more of an aura than usual. It’s raison d’etre has been removed because it becomes purely ornamental, and yet it’s thrilling because it’s alluring, teasing and dangerous – alluring and teasing because it’s still inviting but you aren’t allowed to get in and dangerous because there’s that subtle, exciting, peril; as Minnie Driver said at the YSL party ‘My biggest fear is that I’ll fall in the water’. Which is what everyone is secretly hoping for: There’s always a cheer when anyone ends up ‘accidentally’ dunked at Shoreditch House or Soho House New York, or when the first person takes the plunge of an evening in the tiny lobby pool of Andre Balazs’ QT hotel in Times Square, and that cheer has a tinge of admiration and jealousy, because rather like envying the best dancer at a disco who’s getting all the attention, secretly we all want to jump in.


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