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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s second biannual “Modern Ball,” after reopening in 2016, was a hugely successful bash.


The biannual Modern Ball at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)—always high on my must-attend list—was once again a spectacular event, this year raising $4 million for education and exhibition programs, including free admission for all visitors under age 18.

The new SFMOMA Snøhetta-designed building (2016) is visible behind the original red-brick Mario Botta-designed structure (1995).

Some 2,000 reveler-supporters came to have a ball at the ball—a fabulous, international, festively attired mix of all ages and types: VIPs, museum dignitaries, directors, and curators; artists, designers, and gallerists; collectors and art lovers; techies; and the old guard and the new.


Founded in 1935, SFMOMA is credited as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. Two years ago, the museum completed a $305 million addition designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta that substantially enlarged its space. (You may recall my coverage of the reopening celebration.

Snøhetta’s 10-story design comprised seven floors of galleries that added more than 235,000 square feet, doubling the museum’s previous size and tripling its exhibition space.
This May, SFMOMA celebrated the second anniversary of its reopening after the expansion project was completed.
Richard Serra’s massive 14-ton Sequence (2006) had to be put in place before the walls and ceiling were built around it.


The Fisher family has been involved with the museum for years. The museum expansion was prompted when Gap founders Doris Fisher and her husband, the late Donald Fisher, agreed to a l00-year loan of their 1,100-work collection, creating a need for more space.

Honorary Committee member Randi Fisher and SFMOMA Board President Bob Fisher, son of Doris and Don Fisher.


Major museum supporters were invited to a formally served meal, The Gala Dinner, followed by a live auction and entertainment.

The younger set were welcomed at The Supper Club, where they enjoyed a buffet, live music, and an open bar in a stylish lounge atmosphere with reserved tables.

The company of an even larger segment of young San Franciscans was solicited to attend
The Post-Modern Party and enjoy gourmet nibbles and drinks, dancing, and live performances.

With close to 1,000 expected for dinner, the cocktail reception was standing room only.


A pre-dinner cocktail reception was held in the five-story Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium.

Before heading to the dinners that took place on two separate levels, reception guests enjoyed drinks and nibbles.
McCall’s Catering once again provided a deliciously creative, locally-sourced menu.
A Flyaway Productions aerialist hung from the atrium’s oculus skylight and twirled overhead during the cocktail hour.
Guests received either pink or green bracelets, then followed matching glowing orbs to find the dining venue to which they were assigned.


John Berggruen—who after 45 years has moved his gallery from Grant Street to Hawthorne, around the corner from SFMOMA—with SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra.
Sandy Weill, former Chairman of Citigroup, with Oscar Munoz, CEO of “Presenting Sponsor” United Airlines.
L to R.: AT&T California President Ken McNeely and Inder Dhillon.; Hadi Tabatabai and Rosana Castrillo Diaz.
Denise Bradley Tyson and Robert Bradley.
L to R.: Dennis and Leah Hearst.; Columnist Jeanne Lawrence and the former SF mayor, Texas native Willie Brown. It takes a fashion icon to pull off hot pink shoes!
Gaurav Garg, Jane Mudge, Komal Shah, Carolyn Chang, and event stylist Riccardo Benavides.


At this so-called ball, there were no ball gowns in sight. Instead, many heeded the request to follow the theme of the evening—“Make a Statement”—and came in very creative get-ups, adding to the fun of the evening.

The ladies showed up in everything from shorts to backless frocks, many in floral prints because it’s spring and the hippie look is back (again). In a town where untucked tee shirts and hoodies prevail, I was pleasantly surprised to see most men wearing jackets.

L to R.: Supper Club Co-Chair Sonya Yu.; Harrison Watkins and Cory Danielson.
L to R.: Supper Club Co-Chair Jane Gruber, Joe Bou-Saba,; and Tina Bou-Saba. Maria Manetti Shrem, wearing a Chanel top of fringed iridescent polyester film, Janet Barnes, and Event Committee member Dolly Chammas.
John Fisher, Raphaela Lipinsky, Emma Fisher, friend, Mark George, Lexie Fisher George, and Sam Fisher.
Paris-based fashion designer Andrew Gn, with Allison Speer, wearing Christopher Kane, Carolyn Chang, and Jeanne Lawrence.
L to R.: Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Nicole Shanahan.; British Vogue Contributing Editor Calgary Avansino and handbag designer Sobia Shaikh, wearing Marc Jacobs.
L to R.: Emily Wheeler and Chrisa Pappas, wearing Valentino.; Event Committee member Becca Prowda and Elizabeth Dye.
Event Planner Riccardo Benavides; designer Andrew Gn, who flew in from Paris; and Jeanne Lawrence. They’ll regroup in Paris for the fantasy Bal du Versailles in June.
Michael Morrison, Kathy Lowe, and Michelle.
L to R.: James Fleming and Genevieve Brisebois.; Helen Christakos and Costa Sapuntzakis.
L to R.: Janet Morton, Shelley Gordon, Event Committee member Courtney Dallaire, and Simi Sahota.; Society photographers Ando Caulfield and Devlin Shand, getting into the party mood.
L to R.: Gaurav Garg, Komal Shah, wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress embroidered in patterns from a painting by artist Pat Steir, and Carolyn Chang, in Givenchy.; Shirley and David Parks.
L to R.: Katie and Todd Traina, whose brother Trevor Traina is the newly appointed Ambassador to Austria.; Golden State Warriors team owner and CEO Joe Lacob, with Nicole Curran.
L to R.: OJ Shansby, in Chanel, and gallerist John Berggruen, who headed to NYC a few days later to exhibit at the prestigious TEFAF art fair.; Hazel Tran.
L to R.: James Rogers and Ismael Acosta.; Vanessa Jean-Baptista and Lena Gikkas.
L to R.: James Rogers and Ismael Acosta.; This unique jacket certainly caught the eye of many.


The 2018 gala also honored Charles Schwab, founder of the brokerage and banking company, for his service as chairman of the museum board for a decade.

Honoree Chuck Schwab with wife Helen Schwab and their daughters and sons-in-law: Katie Schwab Paige, Matt Paige, Gary Pomerantz and Carrie Schwab Pomerantz.

The very civic-minded city of San Francisco, draws longtime SFMOMA supporters such as the Gala Chairs Nancy Hellman Bechtle and Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, as well as new ones such as Supper Club Co-Chair Sonya Yu and Supper Club Co-Chair Jane Gruber.

L to R.: Modern Ball Co-Chair Nancy Bechtle, Modern Ball Co-Chair Charlotte Shultz, Supper Club Co-Chair Sonya Yu, and Supper Club Co-Chair Jane Gruber.; Modern Ball Co-Chair Nancy Bechtle, honoree Chuck Schwab, and Modern Ball Co-Chair Charlotte Shultz.


For the gala dinner, party designer Stanlee Gatti covered the walls with bright pink and yellow floral fabric, inspired by Marimekko designer Maija Isola, to eye-popping effect.

L to R.: The formal gala dinner was held in the Natoma Porte Cochère in a tent, completely unrecognizable as the loading dock that it actually is.; The bright fabric covering everything in sight, together with brilliant yellow Gerbera daisies on the tables, made quite an impact.
L to R.: For a dramatic ending to the three-course meal, McCall’s Catering topped “strawberry elderflower martini” dessert with Marimekko-inspired edible flowers.; Sara Williams had fun with the edible floral dessert toppers.


I’ve endured many charity auctions that were a snooze, with a never-ending parade of items. But the folks who organized the SFMOMA auction did it right: They offered just two unique items, and in a jiffy raised nearly $3 million.

Jack Shear, director of the Ellsworth Kelly foundation and husband of the late Ellsworth Kelley, with Christie’s auctioneer Sara Friedlander.
The first live auction item, Ellsworth Kelly’s abstract painting Red-Orange Relief, sold for $2.5 million to an anonymous phone bidder.
For the second auction item, a 26-guest private dinner by Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn, the hammer came down at an impressive $200,000.
L to R.: Nicole Lou and chef Dominique Crenn, who generously donated a second private dinner, making her donation worth $400,000 in total.; Kelcey Morton and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.
L to R.: Google co-founder Sergey Brin and SFMOMA Trustee and industrial designer Yves Behar.; Anne-Sophie Deneve and philanthropist Vanessa Getty.
L to R.: Mark Krolick and United Airlines California President Janet Lamkin.; San Francisco Giants team CEO Larry Baer and Pam Baer.
Ball Co-Chair Charlotte Shultz, SF Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, former SF Mayor Willie Brown, former Secretary of State George Shultz, event planner Stanlee Gatti, and Honorary Committee member Mimi Haas.
Pioneered by NYC’s Jeff Selby, New Style Hustle is an update of the popular ’70s partner dance that incorporates freer footwork and rhythm changes.


To create an informal “supper club” lounge effect, everything was covered with a ’40s- and ’50s-inspired banana leaf print that reminded me of the décor at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “This is where everyone wants to be!” exclaimed one impressed visitor.

Guests dined family-style on a feast that included salmon, quinoa and black bean salad, steak, and creamy polenta, and they were entertained by rapper Le1f and DJ King Most.

The Helen and Charles Schwab Hall, where the Supper Club and after-party took place, features Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing 895 Loopy Doopy (white and blue) (1999).
L to R.: The leafy pattern covered every inch of the “club”: the floor, banquettes, cushions, and tabletops.; Who could resist taking a selfie against the striking backdrop?
L to R.: Mary Beth Shimmon, Sobia Shaikh, and Erin Carlson.; Alton Irby and Daru Kawalkowski.
Art collectors and patrons Pam and Dick Kramlich with friends.


For the Post-Modern Party, another 1,000 revelers arrived at 9 p.m. to enjoy a bounty of drinks and snacks, to dance, and to be entertained by DJ sets, a photo booth, and live performances until the wee hours.

How clever to provide a way for younger fans to come to the party, introduce them to the museum, and perhaps inspire them to become members.

Guests enjoyed sets by rapper Le1f in the “Mood Room.”
Though many bars were set up (and McCalls Catering provided decadent late-night bites to accompany the drinks), there was ample room for mingling.
The rainbow PixCBooth photo ops wall was a huge hit, with stylish party-goers lining up to get the perfect Instagram shot.
L to R.: Maryam Muduroglu, Sheila Nahi, and Maria Tanaglia.; Gallerist Jessica Silverman and Sarah Thornton.
Peter, Amy, James Thomas, Anna Thomas, Chloe Sugarman, and Mark Sugarman.
L to R.: Post-Modern Ball Co-Chair Patrick Chammas, George Chammas, Dolly Chammas, and Ronnie Chammas.; Diane Adams and Claudia Ross.
Loren, Danielle Maybach, Post-Modern Ball Co-Chair Anderson Pugash, Simone Lennon, and Alisa Yee.
Emily Holt, Mariana Wall, Darby Gaynor, and Sydney Blumenkranz.
San Francisco-based DJ Luiza Sá, a native of Brazil, is also an accomplished art photographer.
DJ Luiza Sá kept patrons dancing in the colorful Mood Room.
DJ Umami serves as a rotating DJ for the Golden State Warriors, Q102.1fm (Bay Area), and female group Peaches Crew.
The Swedish electronic group Little Dragon was the musical highlight of the evening.
Little Dragon drew the entire Modern Ball crowd to the main stage for the finale performance.

I loved that such a diverse crowd mixed so comfortably and companionably—and the socializing I saw certainly disproved the notion that everyone today is so fixated on their screens that they can’t hang out and converse with one another.

Hats off to SFMOMA for creating a wonderful event that not only benefitted the museum but also offered such a happy experience to its supporters.

The largest party of the year was a giant-sized success, with guests leaving only reluctantly when it shut down at 1 a.m.

Photography by Drew Altizer, SFMOMA, and Jeanne Lawrence.

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