The diverse programming at Brooklyn’s Red Hook arts space Pioneer Works may be hard to get a handle on at a glance — it’s an exhibition of fine-art photography today, lecture on gravitational waves tomorrow, next week a DIY guitar-maintenance group — but when the time comes to support that programming, the stars come out.
For its annual Village Fete come-as-you-are gala, a group of celebrity hosts including Maggie Gyllenhaal & Peter Sarsgaard and Alicia Keys & Swizz Beatz welcomed an array of artists, patrons, scientists and regular (if colorfully dressed) art lovers, eventually raising over a million dollars to support artist-in-residency programs and the like on Sunday, May 1.
Milling about during cocktails, party-goers gravitated toward a darkened room of virtual reality gear showcasing Google’s new Tilt Brush image-creation system. Those who strapped in for demos oohed and ahhed at the ease of creating their own animated sculptures, while others (including an intrigued-looking David Byrne) observed their efforts on overhead screens. Artists including Anish Kapoor, Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramovic donated work for a silent auction; during a shorter live-auction component, Swizz Beatz dropped $60,000 on a piece by Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin.
While guests finished their dinners, Esperanza Spalding took the stage for a quick solo performance. And then came the afterparty, whose main attraction was Cibo Matto, the NYC darlings who reunited in 2011 after years apart. As they got started in the gallery’s front room with “Sugar Water,” younger fans flowed in to replace those guests who had spent $1,000 or more for dinner and didn’t stick around for the music.
The dreamy “la la la” chorus of what’s probably the group’s best known song held the attention of a very schmooze-minded crowd, feeding into a set that soon grew more boisterous. Fleshed out by a band including Wilco’s Nels Cline on guitar, the duo recalled the hipster-rap energy of their mid-90s heyday, and Spalding was one of the famous faces who got into the thick of the crowd. Working in a white TV news van parked beside the stage, the A/V artists known as E.S.P. TV provided a live video mix, projecting a backdrop of superimposed images behind the band.
An enthusiastic cover of Prince’s “Kiss” drew a strong reaction from this crowd, with singer Miho Hatori, hiding behind her baseball cap, promising “we can have a gooooot time.” After their one-song, pogo-eliciting encore, the band was replaced with two duos who had temporarily joined forces: DJs Chances with Wolves stood alongside the multi-instrumentalists of Javelin at one long table, creating a turntables-meet-percussion amalgam whose highlight was a twisted version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.”