All in a (Mon)day’s work

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A delivery truck signed by the artist. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023. A very mild, sunny Autumn day, yesterday in New York with temps stretching up to the low 60s and cooling into the mid-50s by mid-evening.

Yesterday was devoted to my getting a new (cell) phone, assisted or rather strongly encouraged by JH who’d been suggesting the move for quite some time because … old phone is old and not always holding up. Cell phones hold no allure or mystery to me. I rarely use mine except to send last minute message and if that’s the only way to reach someone quickly/instantly. Otherwise, I rarely look at it or use.

But yesterday was the day when The Time Came. I tell you all this because I spent the better part of my busy day in the T-Mobile store purchasing an iPhone 15 Pro, assisted by an excellent teacher and director and mobile expert named Romar Byfield, with JH assisting knowing my phone usage and habits. The whole turnover from new to old, if you didn’t know — and you might know very well — is like going to have your head examined. You can hardly wait to get out of there and back to work. I was finally out of there at 4:30 just as the Sun was moving on.

This has already been a busy week. And for sports fans, too. Here’s the stunning Suzanne Johnson (wearing the Jets tee), who with her husband Woody owns the team, along with great pals and great all-around gals Somers Farkas and Grace Hightower De Niro at the Jets game this past Monday night. The Jets might have lost, but these friends always stick together as a team. J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!

Somers Farkas, Suzanne Johnson, and Grace Hightower De Niro at the Jets game on Monday night.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Monday night in New York, there was a lot for one night of major social/philanthropic activity, including the Library Lions to-do, their annual fund-raising black tie dinner at the Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Each year a group of the “Lions” are awarded with medals and recognition followed by a dinner. It’s the kind of social event that usually stands alone on the calendar and leaves you with a sense of the greatness of the city in which we live.

President of The New York Public Library Tony Marx with NYPL’s newest class of distinguished Lions — Khaled Hosseini, David Nasaw, Ina Garten, Bill T. Jones, and Steven Spielberg.

Monday night was also an annual dinner of the Lauder brothers, Leonard and Ronald, who founded the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation 25 years ago with the objective finding the cure for the disease. In that time they have raised more than $209 million for research. Up until then the Lauders underwrote all of the expenses of raising those funds so that they could be used solely for research. This year, however, is a special one: the Messrs. Lauder have announced that they will personally contribute $200 million now to continue their intense objective.

The Lauder family’s extraordinary gift comes at a critical time for the over six million Americans and their families currently living with Alzheimer’s as new breakthroughs emerge with the approval of several anti-amyloid therapies.

I’ve had the privilege of attending these annual dinners since the beginning 25  years ago, although I missed Monday night’s because over at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Students League was holding a fundraising dinner and honoring the famous American abstract artist Larry Poons along with Beth Rudin DeWoody, the prominent art collector.

And Mrs. DeWoody is an old friend of mine who has been enormously  supportive of this here writer. Although I’m about a dozen years her senior, we’ve been friends for almost a half century. I think she’d just graduated from college when we met and her interest in art came naturally. I have a watercolor of hers that she did when she was thirteen that was so good I would have imagined the artist went on to have a great career. Well, it turned out to be a “great career” but as a collector — which also means supporter of artists.

Honorees Larry Poons and Beth Rudin DeWoody who studied at the League in 1969 as a teenager and bought her first work from an instructor there!moma

She’d married an artist, Jim DeWoody back in the mid-’70s, and had two children — a son and a daughter — and moved to SoHo which back then was still a new “colony” of artists who were taking up residence in studios downtown that had once been factories of one kind or another.

Her natural interest kindled by her husband’s work took her out into that world of great interest. Beth has a substantial collection, much of which has been seen at different times in her “bunker” in West Palm Beach — if your next door neighbor housed an amazing collection of contemporary art, American and otherwise.

Beth with Gala Chairs Robin Lechter Frank and Dr. Ronald Frank.

As her collection grew, so did her participation in the art world, all over the world. She’s always got her eyes trained to find “the new,” and it’s obviously her natural artist’s sense of the present.

The other part of the story is that Mrs. DeWoody loves people and is a wonderful friend, and frequently assisting her artists developing their careers. It’s been fascinating for me to watch because it occurred so naturally that it’s what you might expect from her eye and mind.

There were several hundred attending. The dinner was held in the ground floor of the entrance gallery of the museum. Vast and easy on the eye, it was a fundraiser for the organization. Larry Poons now in his mid-80s and still working was present accepting his award. Like all of the events of the evening, well attended in strong numbers, the guests were glad to be there, to be part of it, to be in New York.

The packed house at the Museum of Modern Art for the Art Students League Gala 2023. The Art Students League’s annual gala raises funds to keep arts education within reach for all New Yorkers and provides hundreds of scholarships. Through their Seeds of the League community program, they reach 8,000 New York City school children each year in underserved areas across the city. Nearly 100% of Seeds students have gone on to college and to develop careers in the arts!

Artist Tanya Einford painting burlesque star TANSY live at the gala. Each year, the League invites a handful of League artists to paint, draw, and make art live at their annual Gala at the MoMA.

At dinner I was seated next to Beth’s niece Samantha Rudin and on my right a gentleman of my generation. And Vincent Fremont, a kid from California who came to New York out of natural curiosity and attraction and interested in the arts. Somewhere along the early days he met another artist named Andy Warhol who was starting a new art movement.  He and his wife Shelly worked closely with Warhol in filmmaking, right to the end of his life, and thereafter. He was telling me this when we were discussing “where we were from” and how we got to New York and made a life.

Just another Monday night in New York in early November with the holidays coming our way.

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