Pandas! Hearts! Halibut! Gala Season Continues Apace in New York, With Fetes for RxArt and SculptureCenter

Jenna Lyons at the RxArt party. COURTESY RXART

Jenna Lyons at the RxArt party.


On an unseasonably warm Wednesday, before an eager crowd of immaculately dressed patrons, SculptureCenter’s chairman, Sascha Bauer, held court at the helm of the glittering Rainbow Room, 60 floors up in Rockefeller Center, for the Queens institution’s annual benefit gala, which this year was held in honor of the artist Isa Genzken.

Bauer, a collector who works in corporate real estate, last made headlines in 2014, when he purchased Larry Gagosian’s Upper East Side carriage house for $18 million.

“Everyone who knows me knows I manage my intense social anxiety with alcohol,” Bauer chuckled self-deprecatingly from behind the podium. It was unclear whether the latter had indeed managed the former: Later in the evening, he compared being friends with a great artist to being a member of ISIS entering heaven and encountering virgin women. The remark drew skeptical chuckles.

In addition to Bauer’s keynote address, Benjamin Buchloh had come down from the school he teaches at in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to deliver brief treatises on Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse (“Cold. French. Bourgeois.”). Which must be just like taking his “Berlin–Moscow, 1913–1933” course, on offer next spring. From the description: “Major topoi include the proliferation and intersection of various dadas, constructivisms, and realisms;” etc.

One person not in attendance: the honoree. At one point, Genzken was video conferenced in via iPhone. Perched regally on a squishy couch, she expressed her deep love for New York, despite not being able to fly in for the shindig. A round of tremendous applause! And then, halibut was served.

Meanwhile, across town, the RxArt Party—another annual benefit, this time for the nonprofit that helps put art in the hospital rooms of sick kids—was in full swing in the West Village. The organization’s guest of honor? Rob Pruitt, whose usual motifs of panda bears and hearts had been united to create a glittery centerpiece painting that was deeply admired by Michael Sobel, a collector in attendance.

“Usually the honoree is the one who puts the best piece out there,” said Sobel, referring to Pruitt. “I don’t know if he’s ever done pandas and hearts together before, but I know that he’s done hearts many a time.”

Particularly impressive was a color-blocked work by Lawrence Weiner, a cinematic photograph by Alex Prager which evoked the noir dreaminess of Gregory Crewdson, and Together Alone, a deeply affecting work by Julia Chiang which repeated those two words over and over in blue pen.

Over the heads of the distinctly downtown crowd, bear-shaped balloons were wafting in the fall breeze that was blowing in through the cavernous front door. Out of the darkness, artist Chloe Wise suddenly appeared.

“It was so hard to leave the apartment, because I’ve been painting for 13 straight hours,” she said. “But I was like, you know what? I deserve a night out.”

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