Lady Gaga arrived at the Watermill Center benefit Saturday night toward the end of the cocktail hour, which meant that whatever she saw of the performance art in the woods around the property, investment bankers and hedge fund managers had seen it before her.
Robert Jain, head of Credit Suisse alternative investments, had observed a naked woman lying in a coffin covered in syrup. Lady Gaga tasted the syrup from a spoon.
The founder of the Perry Partners hedge fund, Richard Perry, toured a miniature house filled with paintings by Clementine Hunter.
“Richard, let me take you to heaven,” Watermill’s founder, Robert Wilson, had said, in part an allusion to the evening’s theme, “Devil’s Heaven.”
When Wilson showed the room to Lady Gaga and performance artist Marina Abramovic, the three of them rolled around a bit on the hay-covered floor.
Glenn Fuhrman of MSD Capital LP and Jay Sugarman of iStar Financial Inc. had tried out “Stargazer Beds,” offering guests the chance to lean back on a platform and be tilted toward the sky, with a volunteer pulling the rope.
Once Lady Gaga was present, the entire party seemed to tilt toward her.
Next to Abramovic, the pop star who is set to release a new single in August -- the first from an album called “ArtPop,” fittingly enough -- looked slight. She wore a nose ring and minimal makeup. Her hair was long and dark, and not particularly styled. She wore a black lace bra, exposed under a black leather flap of a top, paired with a long, straight black skirt with a leather panel.
When the cameras first assembled around them, Lady Gaga and Abramovic kissed. As the event progressed, they did just as every other guest: eating dinner, laughing.
When Lady Gaga spoke during the auction, with Simon de Pury at her side to goose up bids, she sounded self-deprecating, sweet.
“I worked since I was very young to hope that everyone here tonight would want to have dinner with me,” she said.
In the end, the event, in its 20th year, wasn’t much different from in past years, even with Lady Gaga. This one raised $1.85 million and drew other boldfaces including graduate student Alexander Soros, son of George Soros, actors Winona Ryder and Alan Cumming and fashion consultant Fern Mallis.
“It’s the one event that’s truly focused on the contemporary art scene and how it translates to other mediums,” art dealer Eric Firestone said before the party had even started, waiting on a line that had formed to get in, along the road outside the compound.
“It takes you out of the world, which is nice,” said Teresa Hurcik, a Switzerland-based life coach, wearing a Burberry dress with bamboo trim on the sleeves. Her favorite installation: “The Asian guys over there with the bubbles -- I don’t know how else to describe it.”
“The Hamptons is pretty linear. This road is winding,” said Jain, standing in the woods near a woman covered in gray body paint, leaning against a tree.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night, Elin McCoy on wine, James Clash on adventure and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.