“Everyone dances fearlessly and without judgment,” promised the invitation. And it was right.
Welcome back to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual gala, held Saturday night for the first time since 2019 after a three-year pandemic break.
Artists and celebrities, museum directors and other figures in the art world – including Eva Longoria, Christina Hendricks, Gia Coppola, Keanu Reeves and Artists Karon Davis, Lauren Halsey, Mary Weatherford, Alexandra Grant, Henry Taylor, Mark Grotjahn and Doug Aitken – mingled at a pre-dinner cocktail party in the outdoor plaza of the museum’s Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo.
Noticeably missing? The standard tuxedo and black dress.
Instead, the evening that marked the conclusion of the museum’s vibrant, immersive multimedia exhibition, Pipilotti Rist: Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor, on June 6 was a kaleidoscopic flash of fashionable Technicolor. The cheery orange pantsuits (yes, there were more than one), pink frilly tuxedos (several, too), and flowing fuchsia capes (okay, one) — even the yellow and pink cocktails — seemed in conversation with the Swiss’s glowing light media artist installations and psychedelic video art. After all, the invitation had encouraged colorful clothing.
But the evening’s colorful palette had an added meaning. It ceremonially marked the arrival of MOCA’s new director, Johanna Burton, the museum’s first-ever female director. Not to mention a hopeful outlook for exhibitions and the general dynamic to come, Burton said at the cocktail party.
“We’re celebrating the end of Pipi’s show and the impact of that show,” said Burton, who wore a rainbow sequined Gucci dress. “But I’m also looking forward to the fall shows, which are all LA artists. This is a moment for us to reflect on the legacy of the institution and to reflect on its future.”
The sensual delights of the gala were also audible. During dinner, Rist wore what appeared to be loose-fitting floral pajamas, purple lipstick, and pink glasses – addressed the crowd and encouraged guests to join her in a round of buzzing together. The exercise was part of a new interactive “happening” (as opposed to a performance) called “Summing Neighbors” – neighbors is the key word.
“We’re family tonight,” Rist told the crowd, “and this is our dining room together.”
Throughout the room, attendees were bathed in the glow of multicolored LED tube lights serving as centerpieces – bowed their heads or closed their eyes, and a meditative chorus of humming in different tones filled the room.
The MOCA Gala is the museum’s largest annual fundraiser, raising more than $2.9 million this year, according to the museum. Proceeds support exhibitions, educational initiatives and other programs.
After a post-dinner performance by musical guest Chance the Rapper, attendees flocked outside to the square to enjoy espresso martinis, a dessert menu and a Rist-designed dance party for which members of the public had purchased tickets.
Rist downplayed her involvement in planning the dance party. She only had one caveat, she told us after dinner: “No hard rock. I said electronica and funk and soul to the DJ.”
She surveyed the room through dark purple sunglasses.
“It’s such a great audience,” she said. “In the wildest city in the world. Everyone supports the art. It can’t get any better.”
At this point, the crowd danced until midnight under a cluster of sparkling disco balls. Fearless, sure. Without judgement? Well, that’s the art world, after all.
However, one thing is certain: it was a party to remember, a colorful picture of a fully reawakened museum and arts community reconnecting.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-06-05/moca-gala-celebrates-swiss-artist-pipilotti-rist-photos Photos: Technicolor MOCA gala celebrates Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist