‘I Really Can’t Hear You’: MoMA Party In The Garden Not Exactly Ideal Setting For Lengthy Conversation

Robyn performing at MoMA’s 2016 Party in the Garden.© SCOTT RUDD

Robyn performing at MoMA’s 2016 Party in the Garden.


“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” Bill Cunningham said with a smile as he shuffled away from me during MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden last night, snapping photos at leisure. Held in the museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, the benefit honored Huma Bhabha, Mark Bradford, Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, Sally and Wynn Kramarsky, and Brice Marden. The night’s musical numbers were the main attraction, though: a performance by Swedish singer Robyn, followed by a DJ set from Matthew Dear. The event was indeed a loud one.

“I really can’t hear you,” MoMA director Glenn Lowry shouted to me, when I asked him how things had changed internally at the museum since the staff protests held outside last year’s Party in the Garden. He looked genuinely sorry. “You can email me if you have any questions,” he suggested, before turning to an acquaintance.

I had slightly better luck with Jeff Koons. “I can’t hear anything,” he said immediately, to which I replied with a question about his favorite emerging artists. He paused. “I like Jordan Wolfson,” he said, offering a goodbye wave.

“I like that artist, Wolfson,” W’s editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi told me when I posed the same question to him a few minutes later. “We did a story on him, and I was so intrigued by his work. Would you call him emerging? Not really. He’s emerged already, right? But he’s young, and poor.”

He continued, “But I have so many favorites from different generations. But I can tell you that the three artists that we honored tonight were quite fantastic. In particular, I really like Mark. I think Mark’s work is super, super interesting. He has a very interesting agenda, and he has a very wonderful political and social kind of involvement and I’m very, very proud that he will be representing the U.S. at the American Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.”

Around midnight, the crowd began to disperse. I asked Matthew Dear how he spent Memorial Day weekend. “I was just at Detroit’s big electronic music festival that they have every year. It’s awesome to see—there’s tons of new activity and energy. I used to live in Detroit 15 years ago, and I recently moved back to Ann Arbor. I love it. It’s great. Lots of buildings are being gutted and renovated. It seems like [the city’s] finally turning over.”

How does New York’s music scene compare to Detroit—or the contemporary art mecca, Berlin, for that matter?

“I mean, I have fun when I play here. Are there any exciting new bands coming out of New York? I don’t know,” he told me. “Berlin’s like a microcosm, I guess. It’s very special, what happens there. You need places like Berlin to inspire little parties in New York to do cool things. Those little pockets of intensity really resonate with the rest of the world.”

Standing nearby, Anibal Luque, a self-proclaimed “creative lawyer for creative people,” took a grimmer view: “Every generation has a city, and New York is just not it right now.”

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