Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Downtown New York

Washing down the streets. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Last night in New York. The Aperture Foundation held its 2007 Benefit and Auction at Skylight Studios on Hudson Street near the corner of Spring. They honored Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, Sally Mann, Gillian Laub, Laurence Miller. I was there because Ms. Cassullo is a friend.

Downtown/art events always draw a different breed of cat from most all of the uptown events we cover. Sometimes you can tell from the way they’re dressed. Kinda downtown scramble or downtown chic. Sometimes you can tell by the mix: artists and bankers’ wives, tycoons and downtown artists wives. It’s just different.

Joanne Cassullo accepting her award with presenter Todd Oldham in the background.
Whereas the uptown charity benefit can bring in a lot of people who are attending out of obligation to a friend (who might be a co-chair or committee member), downtown benefits are part of the statement of its denizens: we are of the art world.

That is not to say you don’t see the same people at both uptown and downtown many times. It merely means the ones you also see downtown also are somehow, most likely, a little bit hipper. And serious. Art serious. At least they are inclined to think so (and take their interest very seriously).

The Skylight Studios where it was held is an event venue in a large old building on Hudson Street. What it was before, I am not sure but it was definitely a business building.  They needed it last night. There must have been four or five hundred people present.

The party was called for 6:30. I arrived about 8:30 (dinner was supposed to be seated at 8:45, yeah sure). The Studios are sprawling and last night they were filled with a lot of those New Yorkers who are active in the art world as either collectors or dealers or artists. It’s a nice atmosphere to enter as a stranger because even if you end up not talking to anyone, many people look  friendly. That’s reassuring. They were sipping wine and booze, and the drink of the evening was vodka mixed with cider and a splash of soda water, served in tall glass with ice. It lasted right through till dinner, and was quite good.

The main room for the dining and awards ceremony, like the rest of the place had all white walls. Last night they were covered with rotating projections of photographs. “Photography,” someone said, “is now officially an Art.”
A photo projection in the dining room of the Aperture benefit at Skylight Studios.
Aperture, the organization, just so you know, is a premier not-for-profit arts institution dedicated to advancing fine photography. It was founded in 1952 by six individuals with lofty ideals and high ambition. They were: photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Barbara Morgan, and Minor White; historian Beaumont Newhall; and writer/curator Nancy Newhall. They also created a new periodical, Aperture magazine, to serve the medium, and photography users and fine art lovers worldwide. F

For more than fifty years, Aperture magazine has been unrivalled in its excellence and critical acclaim. During that time, photography and the medium grew,  and so did the Aperture Foundation. They expanded to include the subsequent publication of books, limited edition prints and portfolios, traveling exhibitions, and an educational program that includes lectures and panel discussions with artists, curators, and other key players in the field of photography.

They are supported by the community I’ve just been describing. Aficionados, collectors, artists, business people looking to contribute to culture. Because of that Aperture is a very prestigious organization in the Art World.  My friend Joanne Cassullo is one of those New Yorkers who is very very involved with the Whitney and other organizations which support the arts.
Michele Oka Doner and Fred Doner with Tulla Booth
Jay Johnson and Tom Cashin
She was one of five presented with Awards. Celso Gonzalez-Falla, Chairman of the Aperture Foundation gave the opening remarks. Honorees were Sally Mann, an artist; Gillian Laub, also an artist; gallery owner Laurence Miller and our friend Joanne.

Joanne’s on the Board of the Whitney, and as a philanthropist has funded a number of programs of the Whitney as well as other organizations. She got involved when she got out of college and it’s turned out to be an important part of her life, requiring almost daily attention. Several years ago, she gave a substantial sum of more than $1 million to the Whitney for its teaching programs. She is also the youngest person to join the museum’s board.

Aside from her commitment to the arts, and aside from her obvious beauty, what is important about Joanne Cassullo is her capacity for friendship and her loyalty to her friends. The inner beauty more than matches the outer. Her acceptance speech last night was characteristic. It was short, mentioning several who are important in her work and her life; and full of gratitude.

This sounds like someone idealized. Perhaps, although I’ve known her for a number of years. We met through our mutual friend Beth DeWoody. Relationships around Mrs. DeWoody often have family-like ties. Extended familiy. In all those years, up close and from afar, she’s the same lovely lady, making a contribution to our community and setting a good example.
Joanne with a couple of good friends from Texas
Martha Kramer and Neal Fox
Clockwise from top left: Guy Robinson and Elizabeth Stribling with Cece and Lee Black; Robert Stilin, Paul Beirne, and Wendy Goldberg; Kyle DeWoody and Robert Stilin.
Vito Acconci, Maria Mirabell, Abel Ferarra (director), David Wasserman (producer), Jen Gatien, Ina Wasserman, and Shannon Leigh -- from the yet to be released film "Chelsea Hotel"
Sandy Hill (with husband Tom Ditmer behind)
Beth DeWoody
Anne Keating and Lisa Schultz
Keith Scott and Keith Estabrook
Celso Gonzalez-Falla (center) and Carole Guest
Jay Johnson, Joanne Cassullo, and Hunt Slonem
Kim Dryer and Lisa Bytner
Kyle DeWoody
Fred Hochberg (Lillian Vernon's son)
Hunt Slonem and Lisa Anastos
Director Abel Ferarra, Ina Wasserman, and Shannon Leigh

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