Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Richard Serra at MoMA

Sunlight pours down to the 96th Street ( Broadway) subway station. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
It was a beautiful night last night in New York, and over at MoMA, in the Garden for cocktails and later in the entrance gallery for dinner, they celebrated the opening of Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years, the most monumental exhibition of sculpture ever presented by the museum. The exhibition entails 27 works of the American sculptor (born 1939), installed in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden and on the second and sixth floors of the museum. The exhibition will open to the public on Sunday June 3rd, and run through September 10th. The exhibition was organized by Kynaston McShine, Chief Curator at Large of the Museum and Lynne Cooke, Curator of the Dia Art Foundation.

More than 500 attended, including major artists, architects, curators, art historians, art dealers, museum benefactors and members of society. The enormous Serra sculptures presided over the Garden although oddly seemed as much a part of the environment as the trees and plantings. How they got them into the garden (the total weight of the exhibition’s sculpture is something like 1 million pounds) could only be explained by an army of engineers and helpers as well as some very large cranes.

People started arriving about 7:15, as the sun was setting although it was still very light out. There were waiters distributing hors d’oeuvres (from Glorious Food, like the evening’s menu) and bars serving champagne, wines and liquors. Receptions at MoMA are their own brand of flavor – the fashion image of the artist as well as the businessman (and woman), the collectors who come in all ages and interests, and the many fans. Last night’s do also brought out a lot of photographers to capture the wide array of artistic talent present.

Richard Serra last night at MoMA
About 8:30 they organized the crowd to move everyone inside to take their places at more than 20 long tables. It takes a while to corral hundreds of people who are very excited to be at such an opening. Once everyone was seated, Robert Menschel, the new Chairmen Emeritus of the Board of Trustees, introduced the Museum’s President Marie-Josee Kravis. Mrs. Kravis wasted no time in applauding the genius of Mr. Serra whose life work she compared to Picasso and Giacometti as well as praising the steadfast assistance of the sculptor’s wife, Clara Serra.

Mrs. Kravis spoke eloquently and with brevity (a special talent in itself at these affairs). She was followed by Glenn Lowry, the Director of MoMA who thanked the many many people who worked on putting this exhibition in place, especially  lauding Jennifer Russell, MoMA’s director of collections. I am unfamiliar with the workings of museum staffs but anyone last night could tell that Ms. Russell is one of those amazing people who keeps every detail in place and moving in the right direction at all times. No-nonsense, I concluded, is the word for her. I was curious to see just what this woman looked like, and so after dinner I found her and got her picture. She was laughing as she asked me: “who are you?” as if to say “why are you taking my picture?”

Mr. Lowry was followed by Kynaston McShine, a long time member of the museum’s curatorial staff, one of its great figures and a key player in the exhibition, as well as Lynne Cook of Dia which evidently was originally scheduled to do the Serra exhibition. And then came Richard Serra.

You don’t expect to see a sculptor of metalworks of the magnitude of Serra’s to be turned out in a spiffy blue serge (with a big of some dusting on one arm as if he’d just brushed up against one of his works) and white shirt and tie. He has a pugilist’s bearing and a head that could have been molded by Rodin. He’s plain speaking in language but with an artist’s temperament (passion) in tone. He recalled Kirk Varnadoe, MoMA’s late Director who had always wanted this exhibition. He revealed how when Varnadoe died, he thought the chance of pulling it off went with him, and he was deeply disappointed. But of course, his army of devoted supporters, like all of the aforementioned, prevailed. And then he especially thanked, of all, his wife Clara, who clearly has a powerful influence and effect on her husband and his work. I later looked for Mrs. Serra to get a photo of this great woman. As you can see, she has has a kind face, modest, warm and gracious.
Guests moving into the main gallery from the Sculpture Garden at last night's tribute to Richard Serra
So last night was a tribute to achievement, accomplishment, motivation and steadfastness. Not to mention genius and all that naturally surrounds it.

The Glorious Foods menu started with a Smoked Salmon Trout Mousse  (with a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006), followed by Roasted Poussin with Orange Glaze, Sugar Snap Peas, Cherry Tomatoes, Pommes Dauphine (with a Cheval Des Andes 2002 and Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2004), followed by a dessert of Frozen Strawberry Souffle, strawberry compote (with a Veuve Cliquot Rose). As well as coffee with Hennessy X.O on the rocks.

Richard Serra with Marie-Jose Kravis
In the crowd, big crowd of happy followers: Carl Andre, Gilles Bensimon, Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour, Henry Kravis, Hugh Bush and Doug Cramer, Jo Carole Lauder, Elizabeth Murray and Bob Holman, Richard Meier, Princess Firyal of Jordon, Catie and Donald Marron, Chuck and Leslie Close, Mary Ellen Mark, Delphine Arnault, Glenda Bailey, Veronica Hearst and her daughter Fabiola Beracasa, Lisa de Kooning, Lewis and Dorothy Cullman, Larry Gagosian, Arne and Mildred Glimcher, Thelma Golden, Michael Govan and Katherine Ross, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Julian Lethrige and Anne Bass, Marlene Hess, Lee and Jamie Niven, Kathleen and Richard Fuld, Carol LeWitt,  Thomas and Marean Pompidou, Richard Saloman, David Eteiger, Yvonne Force and Leo Villareal, Jerry Speyer and Katherine Farley, Emily Pulitzer, David Rockfeller Sr. and David Rockefeller Jr., Amanda Burden with Charlie Rose, Klaus Biesenbach, Jacob Bernstein, Sandy Brant and Ingrid Sischy, Paula Crown, Torie Crown, Sophie and Francois Delattre, John Elderfield, Charles Cowles, Patty Cisneros, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Heyman, David Frankel, Pamela Fiori, Barbara Jakobson, Donna Karan, Brian Lindquist, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Susan Lowry, Candy Pratts Price, Jim Reginato, Kimberly DuRoss, Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn, Mrs. Edmond Safra, Neil and Angelica Rudenstine, Hal Rubenstein, David Ross, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Segerstrom, Leonard and Louise Riggio, Anna Deveare Smith, Gordon Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Rafael Vinoly, Jane and Peter Marino, Frank and Harriet Stella, Peter Wolf, Bing Wright, Brice Marden, Diana Picasso, Lisa Phillips, and, believe it or not, that’s not the half of it. A joyous tribute to a great artist.
Kimberly DuRoss and James Reginato
Chuck and Leslie Close
Klaus Biesenbach and Marlene Hess
Katherine Ross, Brice Marden, and Jake Bernstein
Marean and Thomas Pompidou
Charlotte Sarkozy and friend
The table pre-dinner; Guests finding their seats; Michael Govan, Donna Estes Antibi, and Charlie Cowles.
Yvonne Force Villareal
Hugh Bush, Jo Carole Lauder, and Doug Cramer
Joanna Migdal and Peter Wolff
Gilles Bensimon with Peter and Jane Marino
Charlie Rose and Amanda Burden
Lisa Phillips and friend
Princess Firyal of Jordan and Catie Marron
Anne Bass
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Segerstrom
Emily Spiegel and Gordon Davis
David Rockefeller, Sharon Rockefeller, and Kynaston McShine
Jennifer Russell
Agnes Gund
Lynne Cook and friend
Clara Serra and Kynaston McShine

Photographs by DPC/

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