Star Turn

Los Angeles
11.20.09

Left: Outside the MoCA gala. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)


MOVIE STARS MAY GET DAYS OFF, but artists are always on the job. Meanwhile, the MoCA museum board worked overtime producing its thirtieth-anniversary gala, which made everyone present forget that one out of ten people in this country are currently unemployed. Entry into the huge tent on Grand Avenue, closed to traffic for the occasion, was under a massive movie marquee emblazoned with the title of Francesco Vezzoli’s performance topped by big red letters spelling out MOCA. “It’s just like a theater!” exclaimed a pleased Edythe Broad to her husband. “That’s what it’s all about,” replied Eli. He wasn’t kidding.

Inside, the walls were draped in red velvet, the ceiling festooned with movie-prop chandeliers. Larry Gagosian headed up one table, Dasha Zhukova another. I was seated with a particularly eclectic art-Hollywood-fashion bunch bookended by earthy Angela Missoni and Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, son of French Vogue editor Carine Roitfield and a curator, or “art tailor,” of recent vintage. Places between were taken up by the likes of Christina Ricci, writer Bruce Hainley, Pin-Up editor Felix Burrichter, CCA Wattis director Jens Hoffmann, actress Kate Bosworth, and a platinum-haired Brigitte Nielsen look-alike named Laurie who must have been arm candy for someone, but no one seemed to know whom.

Left: Actress Kate Bosworth with CCA Wattis director Jens Hoffmann. Right: Actress Christina Ricci.


Miuccia Prada, who designed the costumes for the show (available through November 30 in an online auction to benefit the museum), seated Gore Vidal to her right, Frank Gehry to her left, and John Baldessari and Germano Celant opposite. Around the room I spotted movie and music personalities (Brian Grazer, Eva Mendes, Jessica Alba, Gwen Stefani, Chloë Sevigny, John Legend, Pharrell Williams) who rarely if ever make gallery rounds but may have helped draw momentary attention to the museum. (I did not see most of them inside it.) Artists significant to the collection (Paul McCarthy, David Hockney, Doug Aitken, Chris Burden, Ed Moses, Sterling Ruby, Baldessari, Murakami, Kruger, Pittman, Ruscha) were rendered nearly invisible by this crowd, though they smiled valiantly along with the Hammer’s Anne Philbin, the Whitney’s Adam Weinberg, LACMA’s Michael Govan, and curators Donna De Salvo, Klaus Biesenbach, and Bennett Simpson.

Enough name-dropping. (OK: Brad and Angelina arrived before anyone else and were treated to a private photo-op with Schimmel before disappearing into the night.) The point of the evening wasn’t art, anyway. It was patronage, something that Hollywood historically has given short shrift. Eli Broad, whose money saved the museum from going under, was determined to inspire some form of art philanthropy in opening remarks that gave Count Panza a nod and himself a pat on the back.

Left: Writer Gore Vidal. Right: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with MoCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. (Photo: WireImage)


A few minutes later, the white-haired Michael York hit the long catwalk stage at the center of the tent, his shoulders draped in a heavy overcoat, his hands holding a sheaf of papers from which he read a text extolling impresario Serge Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes so badly it was embarrassing. On his exit, the dancers stepped onstage to perform part of Le Bal, conceived by George Balanchine and retouched for the evening by designer and onetime William Forsythe dancer Stephen Galloway.

Enter the formally dressed Lady Gaga and Vezzoli in carnival masks contributed by Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin. Seating herself at the keyboard of a pink Steinway adorned with blue butterflies by Damien Hirst, Gaga accompanied herself for a new ballad, “Speechless,” while Vezzoli pantomimed the sewing of Gaga’s face on an embroidery disc. They should always be so understated. In fact, the whole performance, which ran all of eight minutes, had an elegance that belied the baroque surreality of the night. Star fucking is really not Vezzoli’s strong suit. It’s irony, something the Hollywood bunch, which watched in respectful silence, seemed to miss.

Most noticeable was Gaga’s squashed tower of a top hat, designed by Gehry, fabricated by Prada in leather and silk and strongly resembling nearby Disney Music Hall—with a difference. “She changed it!” the architect exclaimed afterward, explaining that it was supposed to be taller but that Gaga had adjusted it to suit herself. Since when had he turned to millinery? “I stepped through the looking glass twenty years ago,” Gehry said. “And I’ve been a mad hatter ever since.”

Left: Musician Pharrell Williams with dealer Larry Gagosian. Right: Architect Frank Gehry.


Suddenly four skimpily clad women appeared onstage with Sotheby’s Jamie Niven, who auctioned off the piano to Gagosian for $450,000 (Gehry was an underbidder) in a trashy spectacle worthy of The Price Is Right.

Meanwhile, Vezzoli was hiding backstage, perhaps in fear of the sort of backlash that followed the debacle of his celebrity-infested performance at the Guggenheim two years ago, though the response this time was more admiring. “I think he redeemed himself tonight,” said Jeffrey Deitch, who has produced his share of extravaganzas. “And this is an artist who was in serious need of redemption.”

“This project was made for Los Angeles,” Vezzoli said. Certainly it would not have happened anywhere else. “It’s Hollywood,” Maria Bell reminded me. “We can make anything out of nothing.”

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Lady Gaga. (Photo: WireImage) Right: Miuccia Prada.


Left: Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin and Cynthia Wornham. Right: Musicians Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani. (Photo: WireImage)


Left: Artist John Baldessari. Right: Collectors Sydney Picasso and Billie Milan Weisman.


Left: Collector Dean Valentine, artist Kaari Upson, and Hammer Museum curator Ali Subotnick. Right: LACMA director Michael Govan.


Left: Filmmaker Nick Jarecki, producer Laura Bickford, and writer Brett Easton Ellis. Right: Actress Eva Mendes. (Photo: WireImage)


Left: David Burtka with actor Neil Patrick Harris. (Photo: WireImage) Right: Artist Doug Aitken.


Left: Dealer Tom Solomon and Collector/Philanthropist Eileen Norton. Right: LA MoCA deputy director Ari Wiseman.


Left: Christie's Amy Cappellazzo with Art Basel codirector Marc Spiegler. (Photo: WireImage) Right: Designer Angela Missoni.


Left: Designer Jeremy Scott. Right: Members of the Bolshoi. (Photo: WireImage)


Left: Film producer Brian Grazer. Right: Collectors Douglas Cramer and Hugh Bush.


Left: Hotelier Andre Balasz. Right: Photographer Todd Eberle with Gagosian's Dean Anes.


Left: Pucci designer Peter Dundas with fashion stylist Klara Otto. Right: Collectors Mera and Don Rubell.


Left: Collector Maja Hoffmann. Right: Collector Pauline Karpidas with Gagosian London director Robin Vousden.


Left: Collector Alan Hergott. Right: Dealer Shaun Caley Regen with collector Steve Roth and Isabelle Roth.