As Trump's Next 100 Days Roll On, New York Gala Season Revs Upby
Recapping a dozen events since Trump’s 101st day in office
Seen: Ray McGuire, Paulson, Novogratz, Langone, Tim Ingrassia
Maybe it’s no coincidence that just as U.S. President Donald Trump’s first 100 days ended, New York’s gala season went into overdrive, shaking wallets of patrons while offering them a sense of empowerment and so many diversions (to name a few: balloons, peonies and rococo wigs on the waiters). Also, comfort food.
John Paulson, Bennett Goodman, Dan Och and honoree David Koch supped on barbecue, fried chicken and ice cream sundaes at a Lincoln Center benefit on May 2 so committed to feeling down-home that squeeze bottles of barbecue sauce and upscale Wet-Naps dotted the gingham-covered tables.
At Studio in a School’s benefit, funding artists to teach in public schools, dinner for John Studzinski, Aby Rosen and the organization’s founder, Agnes Gund, was a (dream quality) school lunch: grilled cheese and tomato soup to start, fried chicken with heart-shaped waffles and an ice cream sundae.
What guests talked about was less comforting, as surveyed at about a dozen galas in the past two weeks.
Citigroup’s Ray McGuire told of recent instances he’d been treated differently because he is black: mistaken for a sales clerk at a men’s clothing store, skipped over in line for a salad. Then he read a long passage from William Faulkner to a tent full of guests assembled on the Seagram Building’s plaza for the Studio in a School benefit, where he was honored.
At the Village Fete for Pioneer Works on April 30, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino pleaded for federal funding for science in front of guests including Mike Novogratz (fresh from attending the TED2017 conference with Pioneer Works founder and artist Dustin Yellin), Edgar Bronfman Jr., Fab 5 Freddy and Tim Ingrassia.
In the Tech Lab, Bethany Tabor and David Sheinkopf previewed “Hope Floats,” a robot housed on a raft that will call elected representatives with messages people can record on their computer or a Pioneer Works phone booth.
“We wanted to to show that technology can be used as a weapon of resistance,” Tabor said. “Hope Floats” will be launched in the New York Harbor on Sept. 30, the same day as the Pioneer Works Red Hook Regatta, a race for 3D-printed and remote-controlled boats.
At Creative Time’s gala, the salt-crusted fish was served under artist’s flags waving political and social critiques. Marilyn Minter’s flag said, “Resist.” Trevor Paglen’s showed an angel covering her eyes surrounded by encrypted code, a nod to surveillance of intelligence agencies. Guests included Ilana Glazer of “Broad City,” who one day later participated in a protest outside the Intrepid when Trump made his first visit to New York since taking office.
Then there were those reporting from the trenches where they’re hammering away at the country’s ills. Christine Quinn, chief executive of shelter operator Win, called on guests including Bank of America’s Lisa Clyde and Maurice Coleman, J. Jill CEO Paula Bennett, and Robert Pruzan of Centerview Partners to accept the new face of homelessness in New York City, mostly families and children, some of whom mingled around bright orange balloons at the May 9 Way to Win Dinner. Carmen Farina, at Studio in a School’s benefit, noted that schools are a safe haven for those kids as the art-making becomes an outlet for them to explore the trauma of their circumstances.
The morning after Studio in a School’s benefit, the tent with its Bougainvillea and student art decorations became the setting for busloads of kids to visit, closely observe and make art. Some were recently arrived refugees. The gala, held every five years, had raised $2.5 million to support programming for more than 100,000 young people through 2021.
At the Caron Treatment Centers gala, Celine Kaplan told of losing her son at the age of 17 to an opioid addiction. Because Caron had provided the best rehabilitation services for him, the publicist decided to support the May 10 gala by scoring some of the chicest items in the silent auction, including a bundle of Eres swimwear Kelly Bensimon had her eye on. With Ken and Elaine Langone honored and Clive Davis in attendance, the event raised $1.5 million for addiction-treatment scholarships. Last year Caron gave out $10 million in such assistance. A month at the facility is about $35,000, said its CEO, Doug Tieman.
At the Central Park Conservancy’s Women’s Committee luncheon, attendees take utter delight in dressing up in fancy hats and checking each other out. Artist Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn gave hers a birds-and-bees theme, with a gold knit beehive and a Planned Parenthood pin (the night before she’d joined Hillary Clinton and Shonda Rhimes at Planned Parenthood’s centennial benefit). Allison Mignone had the milliner Suzanne make hers to match a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet. The May 3 pageant raised $4.5 million to maintain Central Park.
As for those rococo wigs and peonies, they were found at Morgan Library & Museum’s Spring Luncheon and were inspired by paintings from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden on view through Sunday. The waiters wore the wigs to serve flutes of Kir and lunch in the light-filled Renzo Piano-designed atrium, where the peonies were like Dutch still lifes come to life. Director Colin Bailey read an Emily Dickinson poem. Curators described their upcoming shows -- on novelist Henry James and his painter friends, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Suffice it to say the mood on May 1 was serene, a point summed up nicely by the museum’s chairman, Lawrence Ricciardi, a retired IBM executive.
In times of “economic uncertainty, political struggle and strife, many of us fall back on the institutions that really nurture us -- a place like the Morgan,” Ricciardi said before inviting guests to visit the galleries after lunch. “Those are no-politics zones.”