The sleek logo for LACMA’s “art+film” gala does a beautiful job of balancing “art” and “film,” giving each word equal space around the plus sign. The museum gala that took place Saturday night under that rubric was another story: The entertainment world easily outshone the art world, and the evening designed to celebrate artist Ed Ruscha alongside filmmaker Stanley Kubrick became mainly a Kubrick odyssey, to borrow the title of the screening series that accompanies LACMA's new Kubrick exhibition.
Walking the red carpet within a few steps of one another were Evan Rachel Wood, Robert Pattinson, Salma Hayek and Jane Fonda. Heading into the $5,000 to $10,000 a seat dinner from a cocktail hour, with Will Ferrell and Amy Adams nearby, you could hear Jennifer Aniston telling fiancé Justin Theroux, “I’m walking in, not to rush you," then announcing loudly 30 seconds later: “I’ve lost Justin.”
Maybe a dozen artists at most turned out for the event, including Ruscha, Catherine Opie, Barbara Kruger, Diana Thater, Doug Aitken and Retna.
“This is how New York imagines that L.A. art world operates,” said one art dealer. “And it does — but only for one night.”
The event raised $3.5 million (netting $1.85 million) for the museum, up from just under $3 million in 2011. The formal program over a Patina dinner, with beef Wellington as the hearty main course, brought a few speakers onto the small stage of a pop-up building, erected near Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass" for the occasion.
Terry Semel, co-chair of LACMA’s board of trustees and one of the driving forces behind its building entertainment industry inroads, gave the welcome speech, calling on various Kubrick actor-collaborators (Jack Nicholson, Ryan O'Neal) for quick tributes.
LACMA director Michael Govan paid homage to Ruscha, comparing his word paintings to film titles and describing his "linguistic kleptomania."
Steven Spielberg remembered his professional crush on Kubrick — "For me, Kubrick was the Beatles; Kubrick was all four of the Beatles" — and their early collaboration on the movie "A.I.," eventually completed in 2001 after Kubrick's death. Govan, among others, touted LACMA’s role as the future home of the Academy of Motion Pictures museum, a partnership that promises to bring art and film together in more ways.
But there were also some unannounced speakers. Drew Barrymore introduced Florence and the Machine, who performed a few songs. Tom Hanks introduced Spielberg, or in his words: "I'm going to talk about a guy who has made simply some of the greatest motion pictures of all time, and he's going to talk about a guy who has made simply some of the greatest motion pictures of all time."
And one of the most surprising guest turns came from neither art nor film: Vogue's Anna Wintour, who is a trustee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art but new to the L.A. art scene, walked LACMA's red carpet and posed for the paparazzi in front of Chris Burden's "Urban Light" — for the first time. She was with her daughter Bee Shaffer, a recent L.A. transplant.
Some credited the sponsor Gucci with bringing out some fashion types. Wintour credited Govan with bringing the museum to life. “He’s done amazing things,” she said.
Right after that passing encounter, this reporter bumped into LACMA's modern art curator, Stephanie Barron, who has survived some bleak periods in the museum's history over the last three decades.
“Can you believe how much the museum has changed since you started here?” I asked.
“It’s hard to imagine it even has the same address,” she said.
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