Friday, May 19, 2017

Jill Krementz covers American Academy of Arts and Letters

The entrance to the South Gallery at 633 West 155th Street where members, inductees and prize winners are invited for cocktails at noon followed by a luncheon on the Terrace. You can see the Hudson River in the background.
American Academy of Arts and Letters
Cocktails, Luncheon & Ceremonial
633 West 155th Street
May 17, 2017

Joyce Carol Oates was selected for the honor of delivering the 2017 Blashfield Address.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is an honor society of the country's 250 leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Each year it elects new members as vacancies occur, administers over 70 awards and prizes, exhibits art and manuscripts, funds performances of new works of musical theater, and purchases artwork for donation to museums across the United States.  This year the Academy bestowed nearly $1.1 million in  awards and grants to 69 recipients.

In addition to monetary awards given to artists, architects, writers and composers who have been selected by the committees composed of Academy members, the entire membership voted this year to give the Gold Metal for Belles Lettres and Criticism (awarded every six years) to Janet Malcolm, and the Gold Metal for painting (awarded every six years) to Wayne Theibaud.  The annual  Blashfield Address was given by Joyce Carol Oates.

Among those in attendance were Yehudi Wyner, the President of the Academy, Calvin Trillin, John Guare, Ayad Akhtar, Chuck Close, Judy Blume, Alison Lurie, Colum McCann, Ann Patchett, Kay Ryan, Edward Hirsch, Martin Puryear and Mary Heilmann.
Newly inducted member, poet Henri Cole, checks out the glass case which contains copies of his books and manuscripts.
Henri Cole and composer David Rakowski.
Writer Russell Banks. That's Bud Trillin over Mr. Banks' shoulder.
Joy Williams is considered to be one of America's greatest fiction writers. Her most recent collection of short stories, "Ninety-Nine Stories of God," was published by Knopf.
Amy Hempel, Gary Fisketjon, and Lee Clay Johnson. An editor, Mr. Fisketjon publishes the two writers at Knopf.

Mr. Johnson, author of Nito Mountain, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.
Artist Cornelia Foss, an award winner, in front of her painting Sagaponack Pond.
Artist Chuck Close. We talked about "Robert Rauschenberg — "Among Friends" at MoMA and Chuck said it was one of the best museum shows he had ever seen. I agree.
Writer Jonathan Dee with his girlfriend Dana Spiotta, who was awarded the John Updike Prize. Jon and Dana live and teach in Syracuse.
Vitrine containing Dana Spiotta's books, a photo of Dana, and a manuscript page.
Writers Alison Lurie and Judy Blume, longtime neighbors in Key West. Alison was presenting Judy with the E.B. White award.
Joy Williams with Josh Zajdman, the Press and Editorial Manager of the Park Avenue Armory. Louis Begley and his wife Anka Muhlstein.
Poet Sharon Olds. I own every one of her published books.
Sculptor Richard Hunt, who works mostly in welded metal. Lorrie Moore is the author of the story collections "Like Life," "Self-Help," and "Birds of America" as well as the novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
Henri Cole, Lorrie Moore, and Alison Lurie.
Kenneth Frampton, architect and historian.
Paul Goldberger and Kenneth Frampton.

Prize-winner Goldberger, the doyen of American Architectural critics, writes about architecture in such a way as to make the topic readily accessible to society at large. His broad influence stems from his capacity to engage the reader in a mutual appreciation of architecture through a sequence of Socratic sentences in which he proceeds to set forth the pros and cons of any particular work, touching not only on its aesthetic qualities but also how it relates to its context and fulfills or fails to fulfill its basic requirements.
Poet Edward Hirsch, a new inductee.

His book Gabriel, a book-length elegy about the suicide of his 21-year-old adopted son, is an unsurpassed masterpiece about grief.

In 2003 Mr. Hirsch became the fourth President of the Guggenheim Foundation.
Ed Hirsch with his girlfriend Laurie Watel.
Barbara Bonande and her partner, poet Kay Ryan. Ms. Ryan was a proud inductee.
Amy Hempel and Joel Conaroe congratulating Kay Ryan.

Joyce Carol Oates has published over 100 books—Novels, plays, novellas, snd many volumes of short stories, poetry and nonfiction.
Calvin Trillin (known as Bud), Joyce Carol Oates and Charlie Gross. Mr. Gross is a neuroscientist and a photographer who is married to Ms. Oates.

Janet Malcolm was this year's recipient of The Gold Metal for Belles Lettres and Criticism.

Ms. Malcolm has been writing for The New Yorker since 1963, when the magazine published her poem "Thoughts on Living in a Shaker House."
Janet Malcolm and Louis Begley. It was Mr. Begley who would later present the Gold Medal to his friend and New Yorker colleague, Ms. Malcolm.

I was especially thrilled to meet Wayne Thiebaud, one of my favorite artists who received the Gold Metal for painting.

Mr. Thiebaud is an American painter widely known for his colorful works depicting commonplace objects—pies, lipsticks, paint cans, ice cream cones, pastries, and hot dogs—as well as for his landscapes and figure paintings.
Wayne Thiebaud, 96, still plays tennis all the time. He lives in Sacramento, California. (JK covers Wayne Thiebaud: A Retrospective)
Artists Wayne Thiebaud and Chuck Close.

Colum McCann is an Irish writer of literary fiction. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and now lives in New York.

Mr. McCann was among the eight inductees into the Academy's Department of Literature.
Display case with samples of Colum McCann.
Mr. McCann also provided some whimsy, a notebook, a fan letter, and a manuscript page.
I love the displays.
Playwrights Ayad Akhtar and John Guare.

Mr Akhtar's thrilling plays ask what it means to be a Muslim today — and an American. From his Pulitzer prize-winning Disgraced, which meets at the nexus of Islam, finance, and life in New York, to his new play Junk, which examines the junk-bond fiascoes of the '80s, his eloquence is the voice we need to hear.

Mr. Guare presented the award to Mr. Akhtar.
Architect Robert A.M. Stern, Suzanne Stephens (Architectural journalist), and Adele Chatfield-Taylor, (former President of the American Academy in Rome). Mr. Stern is working on two new residential colleges at Yale — among other things.
In the foreground: a table filled with mostly artists and their friends. Look carefully and you can see Cornelia Foss and Martin Puryear.
Ken Wolfe (President of Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs) has been catering the lunches for the American Academy of Arts and Letters for several decades. Ken also does the horse show in Bridgehampton. We are good friends.
The first course of lunch was so beautiful that we were all afraid to dig in.
Joan Acocella was among those at my table.

Joan is an American journalist who is the dance and book critic for The New Yorker. She has written several books on dance, literature, and psychology and was on hand to pick up still another award — this one in Literature.
Jennifer Haigh, Dana Spiotta, and Sharon Olds. Jennifer and Sharon were at my table. Dana, at the table next to us, came over to say hello. Jennifer and Dana were getting literature awards. Sharon is a member of the Academy.
Poet Rob Arnold sat on my left. He and his girlfriend, award winner Jennifer Haigh, live in Boston.

Sitting across from me, Henry Finder of The New Yorker.
Paul Slovak (Viking) with his author Robert Macfarlane, winner of the E.M. Forster Award in Literature, which came with 20 thousand dollars. The author of The Old Ways, Mr. Macfarlane is from England.
Joyce Carol Oates, who would soon be delivering the Blashfield Address: "A Wounded Deer — Leaps Highest." Playwright Lynn Nottage, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for her play Sweat. I have followed her career forever and love her work. That is John Guare beside her whose Six Degrees of Separation is being revived on Broadway.
Composer David Del Tredici. Jonathan Galassi is the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Poet Louise Glück is published by Mr. Galassi.
Poets Louise Glück and Sharon Olds.
Jane Beirn from Harper Collins. Writer Ann Patchett was inducted into the Academy. In addition to being the author of The Patron Saint of Liars, Ms. Patchett is the patron saint of individual bookstores. Ann is the owner of Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore located in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ms. Patchett is a long time author at Harper Collins where Jane Beirn has been the Director of Publicity forever.
Ann Patchett's memorabilia.

Sculptor Martin Puryear. I covered his opening in Madison Square Park (Martin Puryear's "Big Bling")

The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in architecture was awarded to Diébédo Francis Kéré.

Diébédo Francis Kéré "is an alchemist," said his presenter, Billie Tsien, "working with local materials and technology — mud and hand labor — he has designed buildings of meaning and beauty." In projects across the world, local environmental and economic context informs his work in scale, material, and construction, developing what Tsien calls "an elegant and resourceful language of building."
The Members of the Academy, the new inductees, and the recipients of various awards are seated on the stage; Guests along the roughly 20 artists whose works have recently been purchased by the Academy, are seated in the auditorium.
Among those in the front row on the stage: Chuck Close, Wayne Thiebaud, Adam D. Weinberg (Director of the Whitney receiving an award for service to the arts), Dorothea Rockburne, and Lois Dodd.
More front rowers: Philip Pearlstein, Bud Trillin, Judy Blume, Alison Lurie, and Zhang Jie.
Lisa Rosen and her husband artist Walter Robinson. Mr. Robinson was among the 20 artists whose works were purchased in 2017 by the Academy to be donated to museums in the United States. Walter, known as a "neo-Pop" painter as well as a member of the 1980s "Picture Generation," has a piece currently on view at the Whitney Museum.

The artists were seated in the audience and the asked to stand when their names were announced by Martin Puryear.
In the audience: André Bernard, Vice President of The Guggenheim Foundation, with his 20-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Andre, who with Ed Hirsch, runs the Guggenheim Foundation told me: "I have gone just about every year since 1985, but yesterday was very special because of Eddie's induction."
The Ceremony begins with opening remarks by the President, Yehudi Wyner.

Artist Mary Heilman is inducted into the Academy by Bud Trillin.
Writer Don DeLillo presented the John Updike Award in Literature to Dana Spiotta.
In 1923, the Academy moved to its current location on Audubon Terrace in Washington Heights. Its beaux-arts administration building was designed by Academy member William Mitchell Kendall, from the architecture firm McKim, Mead, & White, and houses the library, archives, members' meeting room, exhibition galleries, and staff offices. A second, adjoining building (above) designed by Academy member Cass Gilbert, was completed in 1930, and includes a 730-seat auditorium and sky-lit exhibition gallery.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.