Art and activism power a starry Hammer Museum gala

Behind the glow of Saturday’s Hammer’s Gala in the garden, a dedication to activism reminded guests of what keeps the museum’s pulse racing.

Three new exhibitions celebrated the first Hammer Gala since 2019: “Picasso Cut Papers”, “Joan Didion: What She Means” and “Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine”. The latter two particularly emphasized what Hammer director Ann Philbin called core values: “Embedded in Hammer’s DNA are the twin engines of art and activism,” she said.

The night was marked by unlikely connections between artists of different media – Will Ferrell hugged Mark Bradford in the middle of the Thompson exhibition, and Hilton Als and Steven Spielberg walked side-by-side down the steps into the Hammer’s courtyard for dinner later that evening meal.

Lisa Gem at the Hammer Museum Gala in Los Angeles.

Lisa Gem at the gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A woman in a light blue ruffled top and thick black glasses smiles for a photo at the Hammer Museum Gala.

Erica Wall smiles for the camera.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A woman dressed all in red clutches a wine glass at the gala.

Alexandra Grant

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A transparent pocket on display.

A gala visitor opts for full transparency.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

The gala, which raised $2.2 million, honored Charles Gaines, the renowned artist and CalArts teacher, and Chase Strangio, a transgender rights litigator and associate director of transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project .

Also on the guest list: Laverne Cox, Colman Domingo, Andrea Bowers and Annabeth Gish. The climax of the evening was music humming over the chatter of artists and art lovers outside. In the Thompson exhibition, curated by Erin Christovale with Vanessa Arizmendi, the music highlighted the already vibrant colors of the work.

Thompson, who died at the age of 29, had a short, prolific career exploring issues of justice and witnessing. “I like to think of different ways we can disrupt the violent systems of power and connect with people who care about telling artistic and creative stories,” Strangio said during the cocktail party.

Photographer Catherine Opie speaks to Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin at Hammer.

Photographer Catherine Opie speaks to Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin at Hammer.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg at dinner at the Hammer Gala.

Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Diedrick Brackens, left, Honor Titus and Gia Coppola.

Diedrick Brackens, left, Honor Titus and Gia Coppola.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Laverne Cox peeks at the stage

Laverne Cox peeks at the stage.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Sarah Thornton's green shoes and nails with her rainbow handbag

Sarah Thornton’s green shoes and nails with her rainbow handbag.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

The museum director speaks from the stage in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum.

Ann Philbin addresses the Gala audience.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

In the Didion exhibition, curated by Als in collaboration with Connie Butler and Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, Domingo and his husband Raúl smiled over a passage from Didion’s “Goodbye to All That” on the wall.

“This one stopped me because it’s one of my favorite quotes,” Domingo said.

He recalled his own feelings as he transitioned from a “die-hard New Yorker” to a new Angeleno.

“I’m just saying that I was very young in New York and at some point the golden rhythm was broken and I’m not that young anymore,” he recited from the passage.

“And that’s why I left New York,” Domingo said. “I felt like it’s for people who are striving and younger, who are searching and searching. And I went there to do all of that. It was time for me to live a different life.”

Jennifer Walske ponders a bit

Jennifer Walske reflects on a piece in the Hammer Museum during the gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Martin Creed wears face paint and a large hat.

Martin Creed wears face paint and a large hat.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Artists Maria Larsson and Fred Eversley.

Artists Maria Larsson and Fred Eversley.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Martin Creed arrived in a suit made by “customizing clothes”. Portions of the jacket protruded over a typical frame with stitched peaks of cloth on his shoulders and the ends of darts protruding from the lapels.

“If you feel like a fool, you should dress like a fool,” he said.

To complete the look, he wore a white box-frame hat with puckered lips. Creed has his own solo show at Hauser & Wirth entitled “HATS!”. opening this month.

After guests headed to their tables for dinner, Philbin opened with a personal note that foreshadowed the evening’s honorees: While she attended the University of New Hampshire in the early 1970s, Philbin said, the state government wanted her and her peers were expelled for starting a gay student organization on campus. They won assembly and organizing rights in the New Hampshire Supreme Court, but Philbin noted that just last week another university tried to ban LGBTQ groups on campus.

“The fight is far from over,” she said. “But we’re lucky to have warriors like Chase [Strangio] and the ACLU on the front lines.”

Chara Schreyer

Chara Schreyer

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Caught in a conversation.

Caught in a conversation.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

People chat over dinner at the Hammer Museum Gala

More conversations at dinner.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Cox took the stage to introduce Strangio as the night’s first prize winner, praising his “unconditional love for trans and queer people.”

“This has been an unprecedented year for any transgender legislation at the state level,” said Cox. “Over 250 anti-trans laws have been passed this year alone, and far too many bills have been signed, and Chase, the ACLU and others are challenging our very conservative court.”

Strangio quoted his favorite poets as he spoke on stage and laughed at how his love of poetry conflicts with his career as a trial attorney. He concluded with a poem by WH Auden dated September 1, 1939: “There is no such thing as the state / And no one exists alone; / Hunger leaves no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love each other or die.”

“We must love one another if we ask for better things for ourselves or for our communities and for our world,” Strangio said.

Will Ferrell in the middle of a conversation.

Will Ferrell in the middle of a conversation.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

gala talks.

gala talks.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Andrea Bower

Andrea Bower

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Bradford took the stage to share his time as one of Gaines’ students. “He appointed me, but he never told me,” he said. “He instructed me, but he never said you had to walk down this street.”

Bradford joked that Gaines always carried a bag, whether it was his briefcase, holdall or tennis bag. Tonight was no exception.

While Gaines spent a lot of time in the classroom elevating diverse voices in art, he said he sees teaching as part of his studio. “For me, the classroom and the studio were interdependent as they were involved in the same endeavor to push the boundaries of thought and feeling, and this was also important in making art that can be responsive to culture and its evolution” , Gaines said.

The band Gabriels ended the evening with a ravishing performance that got people going. Lead singer Jacob Lusk, in a colorful robe and holding a gold microphone, grooved and hopped to the rhythm.

Past a rolled cigarette.

Past a rolled cigarette.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Max Hooper Schneider shares something on his phone.

Max Hooper Schneider shares something on his phone.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Marla Michaels

Marla Michaels

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Cynthia Wornham, Esthella Provas, a guest and Ann Philbin

Cynthia Wornham, Esthella Provas, a guest and Ann Philbin.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Tina Knowles goes to the art viewing.

Tina Knowles goes to the art viewing.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

At the end of the night, Roxanne Gaines shuffled back to the table to pick up her husband’s bag, this time a black shoulder bag. She was in awe as she recalled how she used to sit further back at the gala and was now seated at the executive table, directly across from Spielberg.

“Nobody deserves it more than Charles [Gaines] and he’s gone unrecognized for so long,” Bowers said. “He was in his early 50s before he made a career and he educated and changed lives for so many of us. So when I see him honored, I think the world will be right.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-10-09/hammer-museum-gala-2022 Art and activism power a starry Hammer Museum gala

Sarah Ridley

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