Corbat, Perelman Arts Center Take Spotlight at 9/11 Benefit

Updated on
  • Corbat moved Citigroup headquarters within mile of Ground Zero
  • Perelman culture hub to rise next to 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Twisted steel beams, a pair of high-heeled shoes, a voice mail saying goodbye: The artifacts at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum draw visitors viscerally into that day in 2001 when the U.S. was attacked on its own soil.

The fundraising dinner Wednesday night for the memorial & museum was another matter. The centerpieces at Cipriani Wall Street were pieces of boxwood, the emcee was Comedy Central’s Samantha Bee in a maroon dress and Jon Bon Jovi was the final act at an event that raised $3 million. The 900 guests brought strong convictions about the urgency of supporting the institution.

Terrorist attacks around the world have made national security -- and the role of the U.S. in world security -- a central issue of the presidential election. Meanwhile, in Lower Manhattan, the opening of a transportation hub, office buildings and malls underscored the need for a space at the World Trade Center site in which visitors can gather to remember, reflect and learn.

Mike Corbat, right, and company at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum benefit dinner in New York on Sept. 7.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Inspirational Place

“Because of the very frightening world we live in, people do appropriately see the events that occur today through the lens of 9/11,” said Joe Daniels, chief executive officer of the memorial & museum. “It’s the people going about their daily lives that should have been able to come home that morning or that night in Nice or Paris. There’s a deep connection between all these events. Showing what the city and country did after such an atrocity, making such an inspirational place, is instructive for healing in other communities.”

Mike Corbat, CEO of Citigroup Inc., was honored with the Distinction in Corporate Service award. He said that, on Sept. 11, he saw the first plane fly by the bank’s offices on Greenwich Street, about a mile from the World Trade Center site. Those offices are now the firm’s headquarters after 60 years in Midtown. Citigroup was the lead underwriter on $2.6 billion of Port Authority bonds for construction at One World Trade Center, also known as Freedom Tower, which Corbat said he can see from his desk.

“9/11 is one of those things we won’t ever forget,” Corbat said in the video played at the event. “We lost six Citi family members.”

Arts Center

Ron Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes, was recognized with a Visionary Distinction award. Perelman recently announced a $75 million donation toward building a performing arts center at the World Trade Center to be named after him and set to open in 2020 at a total cost of $243 million. Its design by Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal of REX, features a thin marble skin that will be illuminated gold at night.

"At night the light comes out like a beacon, and during the day the light comes in like a beacon," Perelman said Thursday morning at an unveiling of the design.

Inside, theater, dance, music, film, opera and, according to Maggie Boepple, the arts center’s president, yoga classes will take place in flexible spaces accommodating audiences of 8 to 1,200. Perelman said the programming will honor those lost in Sept. 11 and offer "an alternative to hate and destruction and terrorism, which is the opening of our hearts and minds."

Ron Perelman

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Cultural Response

“We have a memorial response and an educational response, and Ron is making possible a genuine cultural response,” Daniels said.

The memorial & museum was built with input from families of victims. A gallery in the museum, in the footprint of the South Tower, features photographs and audio testimonies about the victims.

On Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks, a ceremony for families is scheduled to honor the 2,983 people killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard Flight 93, as well as those who died in the 1993 WTC bombing. The event will be broadcast live on the website.

One of the most powerful visuals in the museum is Spencer Finch’s “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” a wall of paper swatches painted various shades of blue. “Rendering the Unthinkable,” an exhibition opening Monday, features 13 contemporary artists processing the attacks, with many of the works using materials salvaged from the destruction.

Loss, Hope

Emily Rafferty and Bill Rudin.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ejay Weiss mixes ash from the WTC site with acrylic in his “9/11 Elegies,” textured, abstract paintings of lines and grids evoking loss and hope. In a video, Blue Man Group recites contents of the papers that blew into their rehearsal space, and Doug and Mike Starn layer autumn leaves on scorched papers they found near their Brooklyn studio. The ripples of gray and black in Michael Mulhern’s “Ash Road” paintings conjure the air filled with smoke and dust.

“The memorial & museum is a key component of the whole rebirth of downtown,” real estate magnate Bill Rudin said at Wednesday’s event. “Fifteen years later, we look back with sadness, and great pride that we were able to pick ourselves up and re-imagine downtown.”

The memorial & museum’s chairman is Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.