WHAT HAPPENED AT THE WHITNEY ART PARTYMay 26, 2011
As is typically the case with this annual benefit, guests at the Whitney Art Party, held at the Highline Stages on the eve of the museum’s groundbreaking for its new downtown location, belonged as much to the fashion world as they did the art world. That’s not surprising, since the hosts of the fundraiser this year were jewelry designer Eddie Borgo, former fashion editor Shala Monroque and. . . New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire. Wait, what was he doing there?
Well, the shiny-suited six-foot-ten athlete explained -- from his perch inside the roped-off corner of the party -- “I love art,” so long as it’s the kind he can hang up in his home. Fair enough, although he added that he couldn’t remember the names of any of the artists he’s collected. “I need to get better at that. That would be the nice thing to do.”
Socialite Lauren Remington Platt offered a good justification for getting the fashion scene in on the art party: “That’s why it sold out.”
The crowd included plenty of designers, including Jason Wu, Erin Fetherston, Prabal Gurung, Rebecca Minkoff, Adam Lippes and Yigal Azrouël. Then there were the social types: Claiborne Swanson Frank, Kristian Laliberte, Devon Radziwill and Emma Snowdon-Jones. Plus, maybe everyone from Vogue: Meredith Melling Burke, Sarah Brown, Valerie Boster, Stephanie LaCava and Lauren Santo Domingo.
Guests, sporting “downtown dressed-up” attire, gathered two or three deep to shop the 88 artist-donated works crowded onto one wall. One woman standing in front of a red and black Josh Smith painting urged the man she was with to “buy it now. You might not have another chance.” It may have already been too late -- Smith’s was one of the first to go, for $4,000, along with Hunt Slonem’s oil-on-wood Double Bunny for $8,000, Margaret Evangeline’s red aluminum gunshot for $5,000 and a pastel-toned Tauba Auerbach painting that sold well before the night of the party for $8,000.
About midway through the evening, artist Dominic Nurre checked in on the status of his contribution, a neon abstract photograph called Backwoods Activities I. It hadn’t sold yet, but he wasn’t worried. “Most of the works go at the end of the night anyway because people just want to give their money to the Whitney,” he said. “They don’t care so much which piece they get.”
It turned out to be true. In the end, 84 pieces sold (including Nurre’s), raising $400,000. There’s been a whirlwind of activity surrounding the Whitney’s groundbreaking of its new Renzo Piano-designed building, renderings of which were previewed at the party via a giant video projection running on loop in the front room. Now that the Art Party’s over -- considered the last social function of the season in some circles -- everyone can relax and go to the beach.