For the average man to be obsessed, at age 50, with gorgeous young women and fast cars sounds suspiciously like the very definition of a mid-life crisis. But Richard Phillips, of course, is no average man—gorgeous young women are the painter's stock in trade, and fast cars are a kind of longtime personal escape valve that's now starting to factor in his work as well. At a dinner last night at the New Museum co-hosted by Joe Mimran and The Aesthete, the New York culture magazine screened a two-minute film it commissioned from Baldomero Fernandez called "Constants and Variables" that's meant to capture Phillips' hidden but increasingly relevant pastime; it depicts him flying around an empty racetrack upstate in his beloved white Porsche Turbo, taking the straightaways at 140 m.p.h. while musing on how the experience can feel similar to wielding a brush. And yet, he told Interview during the party's cocktail hour—as guests like Ann Dexter Jones, Annabel Tollman, Kyle de Woody, and Johan Lindeberg were beginning to arrive—"I'm really just a student driver. When you see the professionals driving, like I just did in Daytona, at the absolute limits of what these cars are designed to do, you understand that any claim you can make in comparing it to art... What they do actually is the art of it, because it's literally to that level."
Cynthia Rowley, however, had no problem comparing her close friend's work to his passion for performance cars, which has infected both her and her husband Bill Powers as of late (she even held her company holiday party at a boxcar racing facility in New Jersey, where Phillips swooped in and took first place). "When I look at a giant Richard Phillips painting, it has that glamour and speed and polish that you think of with a really fast, beautiful car," she said. "To me, they really go together." That's increasingly the case in content as well as spirit: In 2011, Phillips made his own short film featuring Sasha Grey driving a Lotus Evora, and last year he dragged his Porsche into a shoot for Elle magazine. "I'm currently working on building a special Porsche with Deman Motorsport up in Blauvelt, New York—a racing Cayman that will be a subject in an upcoming work. It's part sculpture, part race car in a sense," he revealed to us at the party. Rowley made it plain: "Right now, Richard is really obsessed. Next time you see me I may be driving a Porsche, merely because I'm hypnotized by his love for them." One wonders how Lindsay Lohan will be able to compete.—Monica Khemsurov