After attending Sean Parker’s party in Davos on Jan. 25, where the walls were decorated with laser-eyed taxidermy, hedge-fund manager Dan Loeb spent last night amid tens of millions of dollars of art.
The venue was Christie’s and the cause was yoga instruction in New York City schools through the nonprofit Bent on Learning.
The auction house offered its premises after Bent lost its original date and venue to superstorm Sandy. The new date coincided with previews of contemporary art being auctioned in New York and London next month.
Loeb, in a blue-and-white shirt and blue jacket, huddled with Eddie Stern, director of Ashtanga Yoga New York, near an Ed Ruscha painting, while his wife, Margaret Munzer Loeb, stood near a Basquiat.
As for yoga: “Nobody would like us if we didn’t do it,” said Munzer Loeb, in a black-leather cocktail dress and glittery choker.
Yoga instructor Jocelyn O’Shea, who is teaching at four schools this semester, said the students in Bent on Learning classes receive many benefits: more focus and attention in class, a way to cope with frustration and anxiety, and a physical outlet at a time when gym classes and recesses have been reduced.
The major difference between her adult classes and Bent classes: “The kids talk throughout the class,” O’Shea said, “but they’re really appreciative -- I think more so than adults.”
The Loebs have been supporters of Bent on Learning “since the beginning,” said Jennifer Ford, who co-founded the program 12 years ago.
Her husband, David H. Ford, a co-founder of the hedge-fund Latigo Partners LP, is chairman of the yoga program.
“As a fund manager, I’m looking for good ideas to invest in, and Bent on Learning is a good idea,” David Ford said. “Yoga and meditation have made a profound difference in my life, and it makes a huge difference in the lives of the children we serve.”
Bent on Learning has an annual budget of $500,000, which allows it to work with 3,500 students weekly from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. The organization pays its yoga instructors $50 for each 45-minute class, and provides mats in classrooms. The cost works out to $8 a class per student.
With more than 1 million students enrolled in New York City public schools, there is room to expand. It’s more a matter of funds than finding yoga teachers, said Jennifer Ford.
Before a dinner of cod and pie in a jar, served in the auction room at Christie’s, the co-creator of spa Exhale’s Core Fusion program, Fred DeVito, led everyone in a breathing exercise. Then Stern and the David Lynch Foundation were honored, with David Lynch appearing in one video, and Moby in another performing a song about Stern and their mutual baldness.
Donna Karan, a past honoree, made a case for more yoga just about everywhere.
“We live in a world of chaos and we need to find the calm,” the designer said.
Guests included Stacey Bendet Eisner, designer of Alice & Olivia, who has helped the organization raise several hundred thousand dollars; designer Bibhu Mohapatra, who said “amazing, eccentric women” have inspired the collection he’ll present at Fashion Week; and Julie Macklowe, chief executive officer and founder of Vbeaute, in uncharacteristically tame party attire of blue blazer over fitted red dress.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)