Sunday’s Hammer Museum Gala in the Garden didn’t just sell out. It also drew attendees from far and wide. More than a few guests traveled to Los Angeles for the occasion: actor Joel McHale flew in from Boston; artist Judy Chicago came from New Mexico; and director John Waters left New York to attend.
“This is my favorite event of the year,” McHale said. “I could be on the East Coast right now doing stand-up [and] making money, but I really do like this event. My wife is very involved with the Hammer, and whenever one spouse drags the other to something, you say, ‘I’ll do this because I love my wife’ or ‘I love my husband.’ But I genuinely look forward to this event.”
Armie Hammer echoed the sentiment. “I say every year that this is my favorite event, but it really, truly is, and it’s especially good to be here on a year like this with everything that’s going on in this political climate and in the social sphere.”
The Westwood museum’s gala, presented in partnership with South Coast Plaza, honored Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and conceptual artist Glenn Ligon, whose work explores race, language and cultural identity.
Raising a record-breaking $2.6 million, the 16th annual affair culminated in a soulful four-song set by Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Leon Bridges, who sang “Lisa Sawyer,” “Bad Bad News,” “Beyond” and “River.”
Guests gathered for cocktails on the museum’s upper balconies and ventured inside to see the museum’s newest exhibitions, “Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965-2016” and “Stones to Stains: The Drawings of Victor Hugo.” They next adjourned to the courtyard for a dinner of grilled Jidori chicken, prepared by Lucques chef Suzanne Goin.
Event co-chairs Elizabeth Segerstrom, co-managing partner of South Coast Plaza, and “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star joined artists Lari Pittman, Barbara Kruger, Charles Gaines, Catherine Opie, Thomas Houseago and Muna El Fituri; fashion designer and director Tom Ford; photographer David LaChapelle; TV producer Marcy Carsey; philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick; McHale and Sarah Williams; Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers; Viveca Paulin Ferrell and Will Ferrell; Zoe Saldana and artist Marco Perego, among others.
Following museum Director Ann Philbin’s welcome, social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson introduced Ligon, calling him one of his heroes. Ligon then ascended the stage to speak about issues of justice and the importance of truth.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon next spoke of Atwood, saying he hoped that someday people might be “having a good laugh” when her grim predictions don’t come true.
Atwood described today’s perilous times at length, but then said, “That’s enough ominous preaching from me.” She closed on a hopeful note. “We are not living in a totalitarian dictatorship now — or yet, and my guess is that this country will not easily roll over for a while. The programs of a museum, such as this one, are a reminder that we need not go down a divisive path of suspicion and hatred. We can instead identify as fellow human beings and try to understand and face our common human problems together.”