Boys from Brazil

Long Island

Left: The Watermill Center with artwork by PaulaGabriela and Os Gemeos. Right: Virginia Coleman and Robert Wilson with a table centerpiece by Susan Miller Smith.

You can expect to have a good time at a party where the cha-cha shoes are limited-edition Havaianas flip-flops by Vik Muniz, printed with his signature chocolate drizzle. At just $100 a pair, they were among the limited-edition goodies at Robert Wilson's twelfth Annual Watermill Summer Benefit last Saturday. The theme this year was “Brazil.” That meant there were tropical fruit/palm tree centerpieces by Susan Miller Smith on every dinner table, four Brazilian artists in residence, and a hundred pretty-young-thing interns from other parts of the globe—very promising as far as charm and energy go, if not pure theater.

Yet theater is clearly what the artists who contributed the event's monumental backdrops had in mind. The Brazilian collaborative team PaulaGabriela hung a huge, free-form assemblage of varicolored rubber and plastic tubing on one side of the main building’s façade, while the Sao Paulo graffiti twins, Os Gemeos, painted their cartoon characters on an adjacent wall the size of a drive-in movie screen. (The other on-site artists were Tatiana Grinberg and João Modé.) Speaking of movies, one guest was Wendy Keys, former director of the New York Film Festival. During a lull, she let on that George Clooney’s Edward R. Murrow biopic, Good Night, And, Good Luck—“Better than you’d think!”—will be this year's opening night feature, and Catherine Corman, documentarian daughter of horror-flick honcho Roger, enthused about her forthcoming book and film about Joseph Cornell.

But on this night, any of the 700 attending glitterati who do not, as a rule, enjoy watching auctioneers work were out of luck, as Simon de Pury was all the show they were going to get. With diners trapped at ten-, twenty-, or thirty-thousand-dollar tables awaiting the spicy risotto-and-beans main course, de Pury suddenly appeared at the center of a dance floor painted with a bright Assume Vivid Astro Focus-style swirl (also by PaulaGabriela) and began a live auction that would top off the evening's take at just over a million dollars. (The event was underwritten, as usual, by LVMH, but where oh where were the hedge-fund zillionaires?)

Wielding a microphone in one hand and a toy gavel in the other, the ebullient Phillips chief darted about the tented dining pavilion extracting involuntary bids from invited guests like yours truly, for whom he thoughtfully (and loudly) bid up the chance to have a LeLabo perfume named after me with $7,000 I didn't know I had, until (thank God) a genuine buyer—Whitney Contemporaries' Lisa Anastos—gave the final nod. More astonishing was the $110,000 that a woman no one seemed to know parlayed into a private commission for a “video portrait” by Bob Wilson himself. (At de Pury's request, Richard Perry, a benefit co-chair and the underbidder at $100,000, got one too.)

Left: Andrew Kreps and Simon de Pury testing Charles Kaisin's expandable plastic “K-Bench.” Right: Richard Meier and Louise MacBain (Photo: Patrick McMullan/PMc)

Wilson introduced these glacially paced videos last year, with Mikhail Baryshnikov dressed up as St. Sebastian. This year's example, on view in the silent auction tent (where unique chairs by Charles Kaisin or Fernando & Humberto Campana could be had for a song) was a video of Isabelle Huppert as the spitting image of Greta Garbo as photographed by Cecil Beaton. One can only imagine the potential makeup for Richard Perry. Perhaps if he poses with his wife, Lisa, they can be Avedon's Duke and Duchess of Windsor?

One table that de Pury did not stray anywhere near was that of his onetime gal pal, publishing magnate Louise MacBain, who seated former Sotheby's chair (and now ex-con) Alfred Taubman to her left and architect Richard Meier to her right, while David Salle and Ralph Gibson held down the far end. Oddly, there were several empty seats at Wilson's table, one of them vacated by Larry Gagosian, who left during cocktails. Still, with Annalise Soros, Calvin Klein, Veronica Hearst, Christophe de Menil, Bob Colacello, and Claudia Cohen there to keep Wilson company, no one really seemed to care.

Left: Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. Middle: Adam Lindemann and Amalia Dayan. Right: Robert Wilson, Allison Weiss, and Veronica Hearst. (Photos: Patrick McMullan/PMc)

Left: Ross Blecker and Kelly Bensimon. Middle: Kim Heirston Evans and Richard Evans. (Photos: Patrick McMullan/PMc) Right: Bob Colacello and Judy Taubman.