Folk rock is happening at this year’s MOCA gala, with Beck, Veloso, Banhart


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At its 2009 annual benefit gala, dubbed “MOCA New,” L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art and celebrity-obsessed artist and event creator Francesco Vezzoli went for the hottest new thing they could find for the evening’s musical element –- and came up with Lady Gaga in headwear by Frank Gehry and a mask by Vezzoli, debuting her ballad “Speechless” while playing a pink piano that Damien Hirst had festooned with butterflies.

For its successor, on Nov. 13, the talent pulled in by this year’s gala creator, L.A.-based artist Doug Aitken, is a bit more time-tested. MOCA announced Tuesday that Aitken has enlisted chameleonic rocker Beck (pictured), a leader of the L.A. scene since 1993, when “Loser” became a folk-rap hit; Brazilian singer-songwriter-political activist Caetano Veloso, who helped launch Brazil’s hybrid Tropicalismo musical movement in the late 1960s; and Venezuelan-American performer Devendra Banhart, a sometime collaborator of Beck’s whom The Times has described as “among a recent wave of cosmic young folk players…stretching the definition of folk rock for a new century.”


Aitken and his musical allies will generate a work called “WE,” whose aim is a “cultural ambush” (Aitken’s term) of music and choreography “that will attempt to break the barriers of the stage and empower the evening through the arts.” There’s no word on whether Beck, Veloso and Banhart will play artist-decorated guitars that can be auctioned to benefit MOCA, as Lady Gaga’s Hirstified piano was last year, fetching $450,000.

The 2010 gala is titled “The Artist’s Museum Happening,” in keeping with “The Artist’s Museum,” a large survey of L.A.-generated art since 1980 that opens at MOCA on Halloween. Beck literally has happenings in his blood: his grandfather, Al Hansen, who died in 1995, was a player on the New York art scene in the late 1950s and 1960s; he was an early creator and chronicler of the unpredicatable art events called “happenings” that led to today’s genre of performance art. Getting in on what’s happening at the gala will cost you $5,000 or $10,000 per person, or $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 for a table for 10.

-- Mike Boehm

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