Nothing stays the same. We know that. While lamenting lost connections to treasured past sensibilities, we forge ahead into new territory. Modernity is both exhilarating and frightening, even bewildering.
Still, we embrace the unknown. Some of us are far more courageous than most. In an esoteric sense our world of art is something of a barometer on that evolving modernity. Recently, the street artist Banksy, the one who works anonymously, rose to new heights of celebrity when his painting of a girl with a balloon sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s. When the gavel fell on the auction, the artist had rigged the gold rococo frame with a shredding device. The work was reduced to strips flowing out of the bottom of the frame. The art world gasped, the rest of the planet took notice, some shook their heads, others applauded.
It seems that great art of any age has always had that “edge” element. To be noticed, to stir the senses, it somehow must be mind-altering, often shocking. In the past century, the Impressionists created outrage, followed by the Modernists, the Cubists and so forth. Even the great masters of the Renaissance were revolutionary, painting with emotions never exhibited in paintings.
With all of the meandering philosophy in mind, we focus on art in our own O.C. backyard. The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is surely a cornerstone of art museum collections on the coast. It too has continuously evolved, ever seeking the “edge,” the new horizon in visual expression over some five decades. With its beginnings rooted in the exhibition of California Plein Air paintings, the museum has evolved dramatically into the progressive, forward-seeking exhibition of contemporary artistic achievement, focusing attention on living artists.
Over the past two decades, while headquartered on Newport Beach land donated by Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren, the museum had exhibited and honored world-renown artists, including Catherine Opie, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha and Charles Ray. Many of these artists have graced annual museum galas dedicated to their vision, meeting with local patrons.
In 2018, another major transition is in place to again transfer the museum into new territory. The former Newport Beach museum property has been sold and a new museum will rise on property that is part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.
OCMA trustees have selected noted international architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis to create a dazzling building of what might be called modernist construction art. The 25,000-square-foot exhibition space will be part of a 52,000-square-foot museum and an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting/conference space. It is due to be completed by 2021.
Presently, the museum, now in the capable creative hands of Museum Director and CEO Todd Smith, is housed in temporary space in South Coast Plaza Village in Santa Ana. Recently, Smith joined forces with the dynamic and enchanting Pame Schmider, chair of the Sept. 22 gala dinner and fundraiser held with truly creative style in the temporary museum.
All of the museum gala fundraisers, from the beginning, including the many seasons that “art of dining” was the social event par excellence, have been stellar. There is a We-Ho/So-Ho vibe that is frankly in-explainable for the O.C. The crowd is more chic; there is more energy, more laughter, more fun. Table talk tends to be more erudite, not snobbish or elitist, just smarter. And the party style is always out-of-the-box.
This year, the stark white painted T walls and cement floor of the temp museum was an ideal backdrop for the transition into new, glorious heights. There was no formal structure to the evening. No speaker, no fundraising, just dinner, conversation and dancing.
The food was by far among the best ever served in the O.C. at a major dinner event. Catered by star chef Barton G of Los Angeles and Miami — from canapes to dessert to the presentation — the quality of food was superior. As a hint of the creativity of Barton G, each dining table was centered with a glass-tiered art shelf that displayed a wonderful selection of doughnuts. Only they weren’t doughnuts; they were different breads made to look like sweets.
Table hopping was demanded protocol as VIP patrons, such as Marsha and Darrel Anderson, Marta and Raj Bhathal, Sally and Randy Crockett, Carmela and Ben Du, Kelly and David Emmes, Nadine and Bob Hall, Curt and Wendy Lyon, Lilly and Paul Merage, and Sandy and Daniel Pearlmutter, renewed dedication to the museum and its future.
Also supporting art in the O.C., and dancing to the sounds of DJ Daisy O’Dell, were Donna, Tracy and Ernie Schroeder, Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom, Pat and Charles Steinmann, Sue and Ralph Stern, Jill and Larry Tucker, Jennifer Van Bergh and Tom Box, Debra Gunn Downing, Eve Kornyei, Carol Primm, and the ever-smashing art patroness in a dazzling gown Elizabeth Segerstrom.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.