Last year, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., announced that it would be holding its annual Fall gala in New York, which is a city about three hours away via the Acela. This outraged some Washingtonians, who can be a bit touchy when they feel their city has been snubbed.
But the benefit raised $1.5 million for the institution, so everyone calmed down a bit. When the announcement came this year that they would again hold a gala in New York, people pretty much accepted it.
And, once again, they raised over $1 million, Melissa Chiu, the museum’s director, said during a speech Thursday night, at a 63rd-floor event space at One World Trade Center. The event was ambitious, even during this blitz run of glammed-up galas, if not just for its power play location, but for its scope: the benefit was honoring not one, not two, but 40 young artists. Look at this list. Rashid Johnson! Avery Singer! Torey Thornton! Sam Falls! Harold Ancart! Basically every young artist. Or at least a lot of them.
“We’re here not to honor the Hirshhorn, but to honor the artists,” Chiu said in the speech.
She mentioned that the list of honorees was compiled by looking at who the institution was actively trying to collect.
“Our big focus is becoming a museum of the 21st century,” she said.
A big part of that is raking in cash, and the institution announced today that it has raised $7.1 million in 2016, which it says is the most it has ever accrued in a year. It also announced that four new members would join the board, and that it had recently acquired a number of new works, including pieces by Shirin Neshat, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Ed Atkins.
Great news! The gala was fun, too. During the cocktail hour, Ragnar Kjartansson—who has the current show up at the Hirshhorn—debuted a performance that involved rapping a fork on a wine glass, imploring guests to eat and drink to excess, before inviting out a mariachi band that serenaded those present. Alex Israel took selfies with Ai Weiwei, who was making the rounds the night before his big openings all over town.
And, at each table, there was a white platform, next to which were two brushes, and a pool of invisible ink. Thus, these 40 art market darlings could make drawings that would have ostensibly been worth money, only to see them disappear. Not the best strategy for building a collection, if the work keeps vanishing, but hey, a fun party trick. Jordan Wolfson was sitting next to me, and he was making some pretty lovely sketches that are now lost to the material world. I took a few pictures, to capture them for posterity before they disappeared.