Scene Last Night: Ken Griffin, Sandy Weill, John McEnroe

Whitney Gala
Calvin Tomkins, a writer for The New Yorker, and the Whitney Gala's honoree, with his wife, Dodie Kazanjian. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

At the Whitney Museum of American Art’s fall gala last night, the honoree was not an artist, a financier or a celebrity. It was Calvin Tomkins, who has profiled 95 artists for the New Yorker magazine.

His gala speech was better than most.

“Artists are really more interesting than other people, including bankers,” Tomkins said, using the term broadly and, refreshingly for these times, not at all pejoratively. “They know more, they live better, they’re much better cooks -- and they understand real estate.”

Laughter ensued from the mix of artists and bankers.

The gala took place in a former bus depot along the Hudson River, next to a jogging path. Chicago hedge funders Ken Griffin and Anne Dias Griffin as well as artists John Currin and Rachel Feinstein arrived as aspiring athletes with terrycloth headbands and love handles shambled past.

KKR & Co.’s Alexander Navab and artist Chuck Close ate their dinner -- a frisee salad with mushrooms and pecorino, Alaskan cod with faro and black rice -- at mirror-topped tables decorated with freestanding bouquets of hydrangeas and cacti. (Later, they chewed their way through coin-sized pieces of black licorice served in candy dishes after dessert.)

Fitz & the Tantrums

Filmmaker Harvey Weinstein and his wife, Georgina Chapman, actress Michelle Monaghan and model Coco Rocha were among the 650 guests listening to Fitz & the Tantrums, the Los Angeles soul-pop band that released its first full-length album, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” last year. The band played a long set, including their hit “Don’t Gotta Work It Out.” In front of the stage, Patty Smyth sat on the lap of her husband, John McEnroe. (The band’s U.S. tour returns to New York on Nov. 10 for a show at Terminal 5.)

Artist Marilyn Minter created a video installation that played on giant screens throughout the dining area consisting of letters falling in slow motion into a pool of liquid.

“The letters spell out ‘Whitney,’” Minter said. “It’s the Whitney making a big splash.”

As honoree, Tomkins received a thick bound volume containing his New Yorker profiles along with responses from his subjects, such as Julie Mehretu, whose mural decorates the lobby of Goldman Sachs’s building in lower Manhattan.

The gala raised $3.2 million.

Carnegie Hall

The spotlight at Carnegie Hall’s opening night gala was on Valery Gergiev, who conducted the Mariinsky Orchestra in a muscular, bright performance that included an encore, the Polonaise from “Eugene Onegin.”

Caviar was on offer at the cocktail hour, and Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov were on the program. Perhaps the only thing not Russian on stage was the soloist, cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Sandy Weill said the evening was about Americans and Russians coming together. The guest list included David Gray, managing partner Russia of PricewaterhouseCoopers Russia B.V., as well as Ed Forst, co-head of investment management at Goldman Sachs Group & Co.

Weill said he has two tuxedos. “When I’m in New York, I wear them a lot,” he said.

The tuxes don’t go with him to his home in Sonoma, California.

“Sonoma is about clear air, good weather and great wines,” Weill said.

The gala raised almost $2.8 million.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

-- With assistance from Zinta Lundborg. Editors: Jeffrey Burke, Laurie Muchnick.

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