Singer Rufus Wainwright and arts patron Lisa Anastos stood on the side of the road.
Nobody was allowed to enter the annual benefit for the Watermill Center, Robert Wilson’s East End retreat for artists in Water Mill, New York, until Wilson gave his okay.
The delay was brief.
Once admitted, guests made their way up a path leading to a building filled with women wearing Charlie Le Mindu wigs.
On the other side was a steamroller flattening sand, around a group of dancers coated in silver.
“It’s Berlin lite,” Wainwright said, emerging out of a glass box filled with tubes of light and fog. The artwork, “Nothing to See Here,” by Santiago Taccetti, was one of 25 created for the event.
Later, while guests dined on lamb and black bass, Wainwright sang a song in honor of Wilson’s 70th birthday.
Wilson, in a black T-shirt and khakis, ignored his party’s “fearless” dress code. The director and playwright was in the courtyard to greet guests such as Lucy de Kooning (Willem de Kooning’s granddaughter), designer Lisa Perry and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Curator of Asian Art, Alexandra Munroe. Artists present included E.V. Day, Richard Phillips and Josephine Meckseper.
Wilson helped shape the event’s performances in meetings with the artists in residence and at two dress rehearsals.
“He has a vision, he likes things in a certain way,” Andressa Furletti, a Brazilian actress, said.
Heads in Wood
The work that stopped many people in their tracks involved two men’s heads popping out of wood chips on the ground. The men, Ryan McNamara and Sam Roeck, sang “Islands in the Stream,” the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. Some guests, preoccupied with their cameras and cell phones, stepped on them.
“Would you like a spritz?” asked Gina Sarra, a retired teacher, before dousing McNamara. Roeck asked another spectator to scratch his nose.
More than 1,000 guests attended the July 30 event, which raised $1.5 million. Many of the performances will be repeated on Aug. 14 when Watermill Center opens to the public from 3 to 6 p.m. (Admission will be free.)
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)