Alejandro Iñarritu accepts LACMA honors, adds politics to pomp of gala
Following a gracious introduction by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mexican film director Alejandro G. Iñarritu said Saturday night he was accepting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s annual Art + Film gala honors on behalf of all Mexicans.
“Cinema is a bridge between the others and us,” Inarritu said. “Unfortunately, there are currently people proposing we build walls instead of bridges.”
Inarritu said he contemplated whether to bring up contentious politics at this celebratory occasion, but he decided it was imperative -- perhaps because on the same night, presidential contender and would-be border-wall builder Donald Trump was hosting “Saturday Night Live” in New York.
Inarritu’s comments, which included the suggestion that immigrants be called “undocumented dreamers” instead of “undocumented workers,” met with a standing ovation.
Hollywood, which is alternately cheered and jeered for its liberal leanings, was soundly represented at the gala, which also honored celebrated light and space artist James Turrell. DiCaprio and Eva Chow were co-chairs of the event, and Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jared Leto, Joshua Jackson and Salma Hayek mingled with luminaries from the L.A. art world, including John Baldessari, Catherine Opie, Barbara Kruger, Doug Aitken and Broad museum director Joanne Heyler.
The annual fundraising gala, now in its fifth year, aims to remind two spheres of cultural influence in Los Angeles how much they have in common.
“Film is art,” said LACMA’s director of major gifts, Alison Edelstein, over a Patina-catered dinner of foraged mushroom empanadas, “forbidden” black rice and mezcal-marinated hangar steak. Even the tequila on each table had a Hollywood pedigree: It was sponsored by George Clooney and Randy Gerber’s brand, Casamigos.
Mexican film director and LACMA honoree Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his wife, Maria Eladia Hagerman, arrive for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Art+Film Gala in Los Angeles.(Eugene Garcia / EPA)
Reese Witherspoon attends.(Jordan Strauss / Invision/AP)
Actress Ali Larter, actor Jared Leto, actress Saoirse Ronan(Left - Jason Merritt/Getty Images for LACMA; center and right - Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Joshua Jackson, left, Diane Kruger and Jared Leto(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)
LACMA trustee Eva Chow, left, restauranter Michael Chow and musician Asia Chow(Charley Gallay / Getty Images for LACMA)
Salma Hayek and Francois-Henri Pinault(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)
Singer Usher, left, greets fellow recording artist RETNA.(Eugene Garcia / EPA)
Chloe Sevigny, left, Dakota Johnson, Gwyneth Paltrow(Left - Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images; center and right - Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)
Musician Psy(Mike Windle / Getty Images for LACMA)
Kim Kardashian(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)
Model Amber Valetta(Mike Windle / Getty Images for LACMA)
Model Naomi Campbell, left, and Italian designer Riccardo Tish, LACMA trustee Carole Bayer Sager, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and actor Jason Statham(Left - Eugene Garcia / EPA; center - Jason Merritt/Getty Images for LACMA; right - Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LACMA Art+Film Gala Co-Chair Leonardo DiCaprio speaks onstage.(Mike Windle / Getty Images for LACMA)
Honoree James Turrell speaks onstage.(Jason Merritt / Getty Images for LACMA)
Musician Joe Walsh performs.(Jason Merritt / Getty Images for LACMA)
Musician Joe Walsh(Jason Merritt / Getty Images for LACMA)
Actor Jared Leto(Mike Windle / Getty Images for LACMA)
Edelstein said that the gala, which had tickets starting at $5,000, had raised more than $4 million for the museum.
More important than the money, Turrell said, was the idea that L.A. is being taken seriously in the art world.
“I’m not LACMA-intolerant anymore,” the 72-year-old artist joked before dinner while severs circulated with trays of pink Champagne and canapes.
“Its relationships with artists from the ‘60s to now have completely changed,” Turrell said. “Its involvement is much greater.” He credited LACMA Chief Executive Michael Govan and his staff.
LACMA and L.A. are “exploding” in terms of influence, Turrell said, which dovetails with a civic desire to become more of a cultural center.
“I couldn’t wait, so 40 years ago in ’74, I left,” the artist said. “But, it’s become that without me being here, so there you are.”
“We’ve been trying to celebrate what’s here in L.A., so you only have to go five blocks to find your honoree, and that’s been a bit of the message,” Govan said before dinner.
One of the evening’s surprises came when it was revealed that the musical guest, Sam Smith, had canceled at the last minute because of sickness.
“The cool thing about L.A. is that you can make a call to a friend,” Govan announced. “So I called T. Bone Burnett.”
Burnett, it seemed, called Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh.
“Life’s been good to me so far,” Walsh sang as Edelstein said that Turrell’s favorite band is the Eagles.
Sometimes in life, as in art, things just work out.
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