All roads led to the American Academy in Rome annual gala with guests entering the Altman Building through a series of “gates” with banners depicting locations in the city’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Over 300 artists, writers, scholars, supporters assembled to honor awardees Agnes Gund, Sir Isaac Julian, and Mark Robbins. An original performance by groundbreaking artist Laurie Anderson preceded an after-dinner dessert buffet and dancing at the event which raised over a million dollars.
Waiters offered beverages, featuring Italian Negroni cocktails, as attendees mingled upstairs and downstairs, sampling artfully crafted chanterelles crustada, golden beet brulee and other nibbles created by caterer Bite.
Proceeding to the banquet room, guests were seated at long tables already plated for the first course forest mushroom polenta, wild porcini risotto, and autumn orecchiette which launched the all vegetarian menu, in keeping with the Academy’s commitment to local and sustainably sourced food, as embodied by their Rome Sustainable Food Project, founded by Alice Waters. Guests dined on a six-item main course that included braised white beans, crispy garnet yams, roasted Romanesco.
Organized in 1894, and America’s oldest overseas center for advanced scholarship and independent study, the Academy awards the prestigious Rome Prize and invites Prize winners and other fellows, residents, and visiting scholars to live and interact on the Janiculum Hill campus while pursuing projects and research in the arts and humanities. Distinguished past residents include 72 Pulitzer Prize winners and five Nobel Laureates; dozens of illustrious AAR alumni were present at the gala.
Three Honorees were saluted for advancing the arts and humanities and exemplifying outstanding commitment to scholarship and creativity. Harvard professor Sarah Lewis introduced filmmaker and installation artist Sir Isaac Julien whose multidisciplinary work creates powerful barrier-breaking narratives. MoMA President Emerita and Trustee Emerita of the AAR Agnes Gund was presented by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker as “the most important patron of the arts living today.” Mark Robbins, President and CEO of the AAR for the past nine years, received his medal from artist Ann Hamilton, a 2017 Resident of the Academy.
Closing the program multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson, a 2006 Academy Resident, presented a multimedia performance created especially for the occasion. It concluded with the audience waving their hands to participate in “cloud wands” and “hands strum the lute.”
Patrons will assemble next spring for the overseas gala held in Rome among the inspiring architectural and sculptural monuments of the Eternal City. Molto bene.