Window Seat

Rhonda Lieberman on MoMA's Party in the Garden

New York

Left: On right, Helen and Brice Marden. Right: Sarah Jessica Parker. (Photos: Kathe Burkhart)

MoMA’s Party in the Garden evokes one of my favorite retro fantasy scenes as depicted in Woody Allen’s Manhattan: A sophisticated New York evening where Diane Keaton discusses orgasms and Nazis with her fellow intelligentsia, surrounded by blue-chip sculpture. Bella Abzug is honored for being Bella Abzug. And there’s an open bar. Not a little smugly, I anticipated a classy evening on all fronts: The echt-New York, adult moment imprinted on my brain since I was a wee, suburban Woody Allen fan.

I brought my veteran artist pal to compare notes. As we approached MoMA, a tootsed-up lady was having a smoke near the door, showing a lot of leg. She was a harbinger. Inside, more tootsed-up, half-draped people milled about the museum lobby. The “black tie” dress code, this evening, seemed to have been interpreted as “hooker bar mitzvah.”

“I’ve never seen so much skin in a museum,” marveled moi in my push-up bra, slit skirt and Miu Miu platforms, “and not too toned either . . . ” as I admired the healthy body images of the affluent-looking crowd. “They don’t have to look good,” said my fellow downtowner.

Left: MoMA president Marie-Josée Kravis with husband Henry Kravis. Right: Architect Richard Meier. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

The garden was never more alluring. I took in the glam white tents, carpeted poufs to cushion dressed-up derrieres, a dance floor where the art patrons boogied near modern icons by Matisse, Maillol, and Henry Moore, and wondered if there ever had been a bar mitzvah at MoMA? A Modern bar mitzvah with Frank Stella centerpieces, music by Philip Glass, Barbara Kruger invites, a Koons in chopped liver, the whole simcha documented by, say, Tina Barney. Fabulous. If done tastefully, of course.

With “Grammy-winning R & B musician John Legend” performing after-dinner, according to the press release, tonight’s benefit for MoMA raised $25,000 per Patron table of ten. Outside in the garden, we “After-Dinner Dance” people were on the B-list. Rather than the highbrow witfest in Manhattan, “It’s a meat market for the upwardly mobile,” observed my friend. We literally had our noses pressed up against the glass, where we could see the fancy people and art-world players (Jeff Koons, the Mardens, Alanna Heiss) ingesting Glorious Food beneath a giant video screen from which Mayor Bloomberg addressed them, like Chairman Mao. “A writer is an eternal outsider,” wrote John Gregory Dunne, “his nose pressed against whatever window on the other side of which he sees his material.” How true. The gal from New York was supposed to get quotes so she was screwed, but your diarist was under no such obligation, and savored how, through the window, Rodin’s giant statue of Balzac, the connoisseur of upgrading, was the perfect repoussoir, surveying the scene like an undead hawk. Luckily honoree Sarah Jessica Parker arrived late and we snuck in behind her and did a little mingling with the “insiders.”

Left: Jeff Koons and Justine Koons. Right: Actress and MoMA trustee Anna Deavere Smith. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

Tonight’s honorees were Joan Tisch, patron of the arts, and Miss Parker, who was teensy with a long face and nice—just like on TV. An active supporter of “charitable and political causes,” Miss Parker admitted, however, she “can’t afford to collect art,” when queried by the gal from New York. We were quite surprised to learn this. She just buys a few things from someone’s artist mom in New Orleans.

We were given a list of big names who were eating, but alas, with no photos, I couldn’t tell a Gund or a Tisch from my tush. Jackson Pollock lookalike Ed Harris, who played the famous dripper in the biopic, was there. Kim Heirston demurred when we asked to take her picture: “Because I’m going to Europe tomorrow.” Huh? The Mardens were affable and photogenic as always. It was faaaabulous.

Left: Francesco Clemente and Alba Clemente. Right: MoMA trustee Michael Lynne with Ninah Lynne. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

Left: Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer. Right: Jerry Seinfeld and Jessica Seinfeld. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

Left: Diane Taylor with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Right: Musician John Legend. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)