Brooklyn Artists Ball brings out Chuck Close, Padma Lakshmi, the Walentas family and a cool cast of characters
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ars longa, vita brevis. Let's party!
There was high-brow fun to be had at the Brooklyn Artists Ball Wednesday night. Celebs, Wall Streeters, real estate moguls, artsy folk and others convened at the Brooklyn Museum's fundraising gala.
“Now we're getting somewhere!” crowed actor Dean Winters as he wrapped a paper ruff around his neck, then posed for photos with “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, who shared his dinner table.
Winters, as any human being who watches TV knows, played one of Liz Lemon's boyfriends on “30 Rock” – and those who pay attention to the commercials also know him as the guy who plays Mayhem in Allstate's ads.
The two were at a dinner table in the museum's spectacular Beaux-Arts Court, playing dress-up with paper cutouts, plastic bags, pot scrubbers and other bits and pieces assembled into goodie bags.
These weren't just any old goodie bags. Artist Nina Katchadourian put them together as a beguiling art installation for this particular table.
Each bag had a photo attached to it of a portrait painting hanging in the museum and instructions on how to dress up to look like that portrait with the bits and pieces inside the bag.
“Oh, my God – it's hilarious,” the artist said to the Brooklyn Eagle. “They're really getting into it. I didn't think they would eat in character.”
Katchadourian herself has done art of this sort, dressing up to look like 15th Century Flemish portrait-painting subjects with stuff she picked up on airplanes and locking herself in the plane bathrooms to shoot selfies.
She was one of 17 Brooklyn artists who created extraordinary art installations for the tables.
Polish-born artist Olek put a crocheted skeleton at one end of her table and dressed it in a crocheted matador's jacket. (It looked much cooler than that description sounds.) At the other end, a live woman wearing a long-beaked Venetian carnival mask sat silently, dealing cards.
The tablecloth was crocheted, and centerpieces from wine bottle covers to Day of the Dead-style skulls were made of brightly-hued crochet.
“I worked since October on the tablecloth,” the artist told the Eagle before the dinner began. She wore a crocheted dress that echoed the look of her art installation.
She is on the hunt for a new studio in Gowanus.
“I want the perfect space I can make big art in,” she said.
Guests at the Round + Round table (its name was in lights) that artist Oliver Clegg designed periodically switched conversation partners during dinner without moving a muscle. Every now and then, the outer section of the circular table revolved and took the seated guests with it while the inside section of the table stayed static.
There was no machinery to move the table. Three young people dressed in dark-blue mechanics' jumpsuits dragged the table on its appointed rounds.
Another table was decorated by Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was, a collaborating duo who make art under the name Ghost of a Dream. They stacked booth signs from art fairs to look like giant houses of cards.
“The room looks spectacular,” Jane Walentas told the Eagle as she and husband David toured the art installations/dining tables before the event began. “They're really fantastic,” she said.
She and her real estate developer husband were among the gala's honorees. Their son Jed – who's busy these days with the Domino Sugar Refinery development in Williamsburg – and Jed's wife, Kate Engelbrecht, joined in the evening's festivities.
The gala's other honorees were artists: Famed Chinese human-rights champion Ai Weiwei, New Yorker Jenny Holzer, who makes text-based art such as silk-screened paintings of declassified government memos and Williamsburg painter Kehinde Wiley, who lives part-time in Beijing.
By the way, a roomful of Wiley's portrait paintings – which are done in the style of the Old Masters but whose subjects are young black men in modern clothes – can be found on the floor above the Beaux-Arts Court where dinner took place.
High-profile Brooklynites seen at the sold-out gala included Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Brooklyn Brewery beer meister Steve Hindy and museum board of trustees chairman John Tamagni – who delivered the Eagle when he was a boy.
Real estate mega-broker Elizabeth Stribling was on hand.
“I'm happy to be supporting the Brooklyn Museum tonight,” she told the Eagle – and added that she's a huge fan of Theatre for a New Audience, the Shakespeare-centric playhouse that opened to great acclaim in November in the BAM Cultural District.
We saw board member Nikola Duravcevic – who fled Yugoslavia in 1991 to avoid being drafted by the Serbs and is today a portfolio manager at Seneca Capital – and St. Ann's Warehouse president and artistic director Susan Feldman.
And Millie Brown – who kicked up controversy when she vomited green paint on Lady Gaga during a South by Southwest performance in March – was there. Brown creates art by vomiting colored milk onto canvases.
The eclectic guest list made people-watching lots of fun. When's the last time you saw renowned artist Chuck Close and a Marc Jacobs model, Jimmy Knehans, in the same room?
After dinner, there was dancing, of course, to increase the fun quotient. It was a ball, after all.
And for those who enjoy buying art to support a good cause, there was an auction during the cocktail hour. The honoree artists donated works for the auction, and so did the artists who designed the dinner-table art installations.
One auction offering that drew rueful laughs from bidders was a crocheted skull made by Olek. The title of the piece is what made it funny: “Ex-Boyfriend #3.”