Typically, at art galas and parties, small talk tends to focus on gallerists, artists, and curators—who’s showing where and what’s worthing seeing. But, at a gala for the Aperture Foundation hosted at Union West in New York on Monday night, attendees couldn’t stop chatting about an unexpected item: the free makeovers provided by Fluide, a company that produces makeup designed for all skin tones and gender expressions.
“I’ve got to get some of that glitter,” gallerist Yancey Richardson remarked as she reached for a glass of champagne. Richardson represents the photography of Mickalene Thomas, who was being honored that evening alongside Racquel Chevremont, her partner, collaborator, and muse, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
At the gala, Richardson said of Thomas, “Mickalene is an extraordinary artist, and photography is central to her practice. It makes sense that she should be honored in this arena.” Richardson added that Thomas “is a tremendous champion of other, less visible artists of color. She actively supports and encourages and mentors younger artists.”
Thomas herself looked sleek in a Dior suit, and could be spotted mingling with a crowd that included dealers Barbara Gladstone and Mariane Ibrahim, artist Nina Chanel Abney, critic Antwaun Sargent, collector Joseph Cohen, and Jeff Rosenheim, a photography curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.
Amid the evening’s starry proceedings came some news: Aperture’s executive director, Chris Boot, said the foundation would leave its current home in Chelsea. “Our lease in Chelsea is coming to an end, and we’ve been working for a while on bold plans to buy a new home,” he said. The goal will be “to create a distinct hub for photography in the city from which we can better crusade for the art, story, and community of photography, here in New York and around the world.” (Details of when and where Aperture will move have not yet been announced.)
The theme of the event was “Muse,” and fittingly, the subject of Thomas and Chevremont’s photographs for the current issue of Aperture magazine, performance artist Zachary Tye Richardson, was making the rounds as well. Tall and elegant, he was clad in a dramatic black tulle gown, mirroring his outfits from the new issue, which is themed around Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando, and was guest curated by the star of the book’s 1992 film adaptation, Tilda Swinton. For these photos, Tye Richardson was styled by Chevremont in bedazzled wigs and bright makeup, and placed against the lush and detailed backdrops we’ve come to expect from Thomas’s photography.
“It all feels very unreal, like it’s not actually happening,” Tye Richardson told ARTnews. “[Thomas and Chevremont] first came to one of my performances in Harlem at the Long Gallery, and from there, they’ve been following me and we’ve been collaborating. It’s so beautiful, and very organic.”
“I’m so proud to have now an association with Aperture beyond mere fandom,” Swinton told the gala’s attendees as they ate dinner. “Mickalene, you are a complete star, and you and Racquel have graced work for so long, and now you grace the ‘Orlando’ issue. I’m so proud to call you collaborators. I also want to congratulate the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, for everything that you do. We are so grateful to you for all the work that you do recycling all the great energy of Robert’s work into the future of our culture.”
The evening also included live auction in which pieces by Thomas, Mapplethorpe, Thierry Cohen, Ellsworth Kelly, and Seydou Keïta, were sold.
Boot said that the news of Aperture’s move—and the gathering of so many talented artists and individuals at the evening’s gala—would help the foundation stay relevant in the future. Speaking of the foundation’s founders, he said, “It is our duty to them, and to the visionary artists who keep our medium dynamic, to build a durable Aperture for the next generation of photography.”