When it comes to fundraising evenings, “gala” is a much-abused label, but the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 35th anniversary event Saturday was a gala in every sense of the word -- a transporting celebration of art, new beginnings, philanthropy and the beauty of exquisite design.
On a purely material level, the evening not only celebrated the Los Angeles museum’s successful replenishment of its endowment with $100 million in new funds, but also added $2.4 million to the total -- $1.2 million in contributions and a $1.2 million match from the event’s co-chair, Guess Inc. mogul and art collector Maurice Marciano. The event--which was presented by Louis Vuitton--was timed to celebrate, as well, the appointment of the museum’s new director, Philippe Vergne, and the opening a comprehensive retrospective of work by the late L.A. artist Mike Kelley.
Marciano -- whose Maurice and Paul Marciano Foundation recently paid $8 million for the old Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard to create a private exhibition space for their own contemporary art collection -- announced his MOCA gift while inviting Vergne to the stage. "A few weeks ago, we discussed about MOCA being the artists' museum,” he recalled. “I said, 'You know we don't have a program at MOCA to recognize and reward young artists.' So tonight, in your honor, I would like to make a pledge to start this program. I will match the amount we have raised -- $1.2 million -- for you to start this program."
Vergne replied, "Wow! Maurice, I have to say I could spend the rest of my life looking for you. So glad we found each other. ... Maurice, see what you've done. Look at this room. That is what I call the art world. That is what I call the art community. This is amazing."
In fact, many of the guests were Marciano friends, including Haim and Cheryl Saban. “Maurice Marciano is so passionate about this place,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “So passionate about protecting art and promoting it that we are standing beside him.”
Other gala co-chairs included Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and MOCA founding chairman and life trustee Eli Broad, MOCA board chair emeritus Maria Arena Bell, MOCA trustee Peter Brant, Louis Vuitton Americas president and CEO Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet, mega art dealer Larry Gagosian and MOCA Board vice-chair Eugenio Lopez.
The guest list included Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Dianna Agron, Owen Wilson, Ellen Pompeo, Ryan Seacrest, Rachel Zoe, Chloë Sevigny, Ted Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant, Tim Allen, Fred Armisen, Haley Bennett, China Chow, Gia Coppola, Lisa Edelstein and Robert Russell, Jane Fonda, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jacqui Getty, Liz Goldwyn, Lena and Werner Herzog, Riley Keough, Isabel Lucas, Rose McGowan, Moby, Cameron Silver, Dita Von Teese, Moon Zappa, Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich, photographer Tomasz Rossa, as well as artists Doug Aitken, Lita Albuquerque, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins, Urs Fischer, Samara Golden, Kim Gordon, Elliott Hundley, Alex Israel, Barbara Kruger, Elad Lassry, William Leavitt and Janet Jenkins, Paul McCarthy, Cathy Opie, Anthony Pearson, RETNA, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Analia Saban, Francesco Vezzoli, James Welling andJane Weinstock.
Staged in a white party tent alongside MOCA’s Frank Gehry-designed Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, the setting -- designed by event planner J. Ben Bougeois -- was easily the most beautiful of the fundraising season. Sponsor Louis Vuitton provided its trademark flower design, which Bougeois reproduced in various guises to form the evening’s visual leitmotif.
Nearly 900 guests paid from $2,500 to $100,000 for cocktails followed by dinner at rectangular tables, with backlit glass top, decorated with terrarium-like floral arrangements by Jay Calhoun.Wolfgang Puck reminded everyone of why he’s long been Los Angeles’ uber chef with a menu that included spring vegetables, butter lettuce and a vinaigrette made from Marciano's special olive oil, sweet corn agnolotti with shaved black truffles, loup de mer with tomato, basil and fennel vinaigrette and a marjolaine with coffee gelato. For the evening's entertainment, Motown superstar Diana Rossperformed a medley of her hits.
Actress Patricia Arquette, who was among the stars attending, observed that “Los Angeles was pretty underserved as far as museums went. It's exciting to have this really vital museum and this group of people celebrating all these great cutting edge artists. It's great for the city.”
“This is a real city jewel," Garcetti said of MOCA. “Los Angeles is the contemporary art capital of the world at the moment. We at City Hall sometimes forget to tell that story. We assume everybody knows how creative L.A. is. It's not just Hollywood, it's not just fashion it's also contemporary art. MOCA has the best collection in the world and is a re-energized museum."
On the red carpet, pop star Perry drew special attention with her glow-in-the-dark lucite handbag by Edie Parker. Inside was a Cleu de Peau powder puff, packets of vitamins and an assortment of cosmetics. Williams turned up wearing his trademark Vivienne Westwood mountain hat. But unlike other events, the singer wasn't the only one donning the eye-catching chapéu. Israeli billionaire ViviNevo also wore the Westwood hat, and from behind, gala guests were continually mistaken him for Williams.
Perry attended the party with Beverly Hills gallery owner Marc Selwyn, who, she said, “has been educating me on art. Today we did an art crawl. We went to see some private collations and went to galleries, Perry added. “I got to meet with a whole punch of contemporary artists. I have a list."
Selwyn called the MOCA gala “the best way to top the day off.”
- This article originally appeared in THR.com.