Life Imitates Art

Above Sixth Avenue. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.

Tuesday night in New York. Old Man Winter returned. Brr. Over at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic and Casa Verdi, Milan honored the late legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini and the 50th Anniversary of his death.

There are now two generations of Americans who generally are unaware of Maestro Toscanini who was in the 1930s, 40s and 50s a household name in America, as famous as a movie star, for his conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra every week on the NBC radio network.

Toscanini first became known to Americans when he conducted at the Met between 1908 and 1915 although his popular star status began 25 years later on the radio. Who listened? The nation, that’s who.

Last night they celebrated with a joint concert and gala by the Philharmonic and Symphonica Toscanini, followed by a black tie dinner.

Honorary Chairmen included Walfredo Toscanini and Emanuela di Castelbarco — the grandchildren of Arturo Toscanini; Beverly Sills; and Consul General of Italy Antonio Bandini. Gala Chairmen were Alberto Cribiore, Chairman of Casa Verdi Antonio Magnocavallo and UniCredit Group Chairman Dieter Rampl.

At Joanne de Guardiola's for cocktials for the Summer Fair Olympia

Meanwhile across the Park on Fifth Avenue  Joanne and Roberto de Guardiola were hosting a cocktail reception with Mario Buatta, Brian McCarthy and Rose Tarlow as co-chairs of the American Friends of the Summer Fair Olympia. The Olympia is one of the most important art and antiques show on the London calendar. About 300 distinguished UK and international dealers showcase some of the world’s finest works of art. It attracts more than 30,000 private buyers and this year wil run from June 7 to 17 in London.

James Fairchild and Jamee Gregory

Nina Griscom and Leonel Piraino

Whitney Fairchild, Juan Montoya, and Joanne de Guardiola

Geoffrey Bradfield, Roy Kean, and Heather Cohane

Janna Bullock and R. Couri Hay

Urban Karlsson and Paulette Pascarella

Jason Jacques, Stephanie Stokes, and Joanne de Palma

Mario Buatta, Susan Zises Green, and Bruce Bierman

Philip Gorrivan and Audrey Gruss

Roberto de Guardiola and friend

Dennis and Gail Karr with Deborah Buck

And down at MoMA there were big doin’s, as they debuted the installation of artist Doug Aitken’s public art project “sleepwalkers” which is projected on the exteriors of the Museum at night.  The installation comprises eight large-scale moving images. The narratives “follow five characters through a night in New York as they move from the solitude of their personal and professional lives into the City.”  The projection runs every night through February 12.

The project is the result of a partnership between Creative Time and MoMA, and is a kind of milestone for both museum and organization. Creative Time is a non-profit which is in the business of presenting the most innovative art in the public realm. The Doug Aitken installation is outside the museum, literally on its outside walls. That is the signature of Creative Time’s presentation of public art.  The installation is supported by Jerry Speyer and Katherine Farley, Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis and David Tieger, all of whom were present last night.

There was a cocktail reception starting at 7 in the lobby of the new Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building of the museum, followed by dinner for more than 100 of the museum’s trustees, major donors as well as luminaries from across the New York art world.

Museum events such as this (celebrating a major installation for example) bring out the heavy hitters – the major collectors, the dealers, the artists, their factotums, their patrons and a smattering of society. It’s a very special kind of club, exclusive, yet democratic, drawing in a wide variety of personalities and personal as well as political interests.

As innovative as MoMA was at its founding about a century ago, it is now one of the sleekest of the establishment institutions in the City; a cultural megalith, highly polished with a vibrant and fertile endowment.  It is big big business and the reach of its influence is global. Important, you could say. So when there are these celebrations, those attending are amidst an energy that has its own kind of exhilaration.  A kind of haute giddiness if you’ll pardon my French-ifying.  Mr. Aitken’s work evoked that last night at the dinner at MoMA. There was a solemn excitement in the room.

a photographic pointillist scene at MoMa

The menu was excellent and compatible with  the vibe: Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese, Micro Green, Sherry Vinaigrette (with Fattoria Di Felsina Chianti Classico 2002); followed by Roasted Organic Chicken, Speck Tart-, Swiss Chard Porcini Mushroom Sauce (Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Valley 2005) with a dessert of Chcolate Terrine, Pistachio Anglaise and Blood Orange-Tarragon Salad (and Veuve Cliquot Brut). 

The culinary trend these days in rarified circles is to dress up the description and dress down the dish, simply put as delicious and delicate from beginning to end. The light from the votives against the crystal, the bright orange flowers gave off a complimentary glow and enhanced an intimacy at what was basically a large banquet.

There were brief speeches from Mrs. Kravis, the museum’s president, Glenn Lowry, the Director, Ann Pasternak of Creative Time, as well as Doug Aitken, the artist who seems devoid of the self-importance that can creep into a creative persona at these moments  of fete  -- a very nice man who thanked his parents who were present for his moment of glory.

After dinner there was a much bigger reception in the lobby of the museum from which you could see some of the Aitken installation projected on exterior walls.  Public Art. Hundreds and hundreds of visitors, supporters and friends came to celebrate. A wide array of personal interests and vast public support.

People love MoMA: they’ve had five million visitors since they reopened their renovated and expanded galleries. You could see it last night at the dinner and the after party.

Dolly Lenz, Amanda Weil, Joanne Cassullo, and Anne Pasternack

Doug Aitken

Lisa Anastos and Patrick Quinn

Dr. Stephen Bosniak, Beth DeWoody, Mera Rubell, and David Wasserman

Amanda Burden and Bob Tierney

Marlene Hess

Phil Ahrens, Cindy Adams, and Robert Zimmerman

Barbara Jakobson, Jim Zirin, and Mrs. Jamie Niven

Charlie Scheips and friend

Matthew Barney and Marie Josee Kravis

Agnes Gund talking to Alanna Heiss

Thelma Golden and Anne Pasternack

Alanna Heiss, Dr. Stephen Bosniak, and Mike Margatich

Glenn Lowry, Mera Rubell, and David Tieger

Joanne Cassullo looking left

Looking right

The dinner scene (above) and Moving Images from Doug Aitken's Public Art Project, "sleepwalkers," projected on the outside walls of MoMa. The line waiting to get into the MoMA after party last night (below).


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January 17, 2007, Volume VII, Number 10


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/