I'll start with where all things begin, my outfit. All white, as per the dress code for the evening, with an amazing pearl and gemstone necklace my mother inherited from an opera singer friend. I was attending White Night, LongHouse Reserve's annual benefit gala in East Hampton.
LongHouse Reserve is a not-for-profit museum and garden founded by legendary textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen. The sixteen acre site is stunning and filled with outdoor sculptures by the likes of Yoko Ono, Sol LeWitt, Willem de Kooning and Jack Youngerman.
I arrived around 6 p.m. for cocktails in the garden. The first sculpture I was greeted by was the new 70 foot long, Alice Aycock work, Maelstrom, the installation of which was facilitated by James Salomon of Salomon Contemporary, and which will find a home on Park Avenue next year. Salomon, who was an honorary chair of LongHouse for the evening, is "thrilled to be working with Alice and Thomas [Shulte] on the Park Avenue sculpture project, and to show part of the work here at Longhouse is perfectly fitting...It's a great community-minded arts organization on the East End that throws one of my favorite summer parties."
Situated just behind Maelstrom is Buckminster Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome (which, let me tell you, is both terrifying and cool to walk around in at night, something I ventured to do later in the evening). I followed the crowd toward the bar on the veranda where saxophonist, Dickie Landry, was serenading the tony crowd from the balcony while they checked out the works on display for the silent auction.
Wishing to scope out the grounds, I moved on to the gardens and was greeted by Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold beautifully installed around the reflecting pool. Weiwei was one of this year's honorees but, of course, could not attend as his passport has not been returned to him in Beijing.
Milling about while trying not to get any hors d'oeuvres on my white outfit, I began to notice that some of the other outfits around were on the eccentric side, LongHouse having challenged people to "make your white architectural or Wei-Wei out." This, combined with the idyllic environment, couldn't help but make me think of those Star Trek episodes where they land on an Eden-like planet where everyone is happy, dressed in space age togas and making love under the trees.
Finally it was time to wander into the big tent for dinner, entertainment and the awarding of honors. First up was the extraordinary Iranian composer, vocalist and performance artist, Sussan Deyhim. Most recently, you heard her on the Argo soundtrack. Lisa de Kooning was honored as a friend, and lifelong supporter, of LongHouse. Her daughter, Isabel de Kooning Villeneuve accepted the honor with much emotion.
My favorite part of the evening was probably Frank Stella introducing the honor for his friend, architect Richard Meier. It was touching to see the obvious friendship and high regard these two legends hold for each other. I confess, earlier in the evening, I couldn't help myself and approached Stella babbling something about just wanting to meet him. Oh, and I also did that to Edward Albee. I don't regret it.
Guggenheim curator, Alexandra Munroe introduced the work of Ai Weiwei by way of a clip from the acclaimed documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. At each guest's table setting was a small black book Weiwei-isms edited by Larry Warsh, whom I had the pleasure of sitting next to. The book contains hundreds of quotes from the artist on topics ranging from freedom of expression to the digital world. Here is just one, "Expressing oneself is like a drug. I'm so addicted to it. " Amen.
Lending the evening a disjointed mood swing, this was followed by a live auction conducted by Phillips auctioneer, CK Swett. I don't know what to say here. Watching, or rather, being subjected to CK Swett was like seeing a 1980's sitcom character come to life. Decked out in bright, striped knee socks, electric blue, Bermuda shorts, a white tux jacket with zany bow tie and bright blue eye glasses, CK Swett, leapt to the stage and began his very loud comedy routine/auctioneering. I make fun, but he did help to raise $425,000, roughly one-third of the yearly budget for LongHouse Reserve, so the man must be doing something right.
The evening ended at the dessert bar with chocolate and coffee, shoring up guests for the drive home in the wonderfully pitch black and twisting east end roads. And I only spilled a little Diet Coke on my white outfit all night. Success.
Liz Markus is an artist and writer living and working in Brooklyn.
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