Kravis, Chenault, McGuire Gather for Harlem's Star ArchitectBy
Studio Museum in Harlem honors David Adjaye, Simone Leigh
McGuire raises funds for Adjaye ‘masterpiece on 125th Street’
Ray McGuire, Citigroup’s head of corporate and investment banking, worked the room, greeting William Lewis of Lazard, KKR’s Henry Kravis and Joe Perella of Perella Weinberg Partners -- the godfather of his son Leo. There were also huddles with David Grain of Grain Management, Thomas H. Lee of Lee Equity Partners, Ken Chenault of American Express, Valentino Carlotti, who recently left Goldman Sachs for Sotheby’s, and John Hess of Hess Corp.
McGuire’s mission, at the Studio Museum in Harlem’s annual gala: to close a deal that’s a passion project -- the completion of a $175 million capital campaign to build a new Studio Museum, designed by architect David Adjaye in collaboration with Cooper Robertson.
"Seventy percent of the funds are raised," McGuire, the museum’s chairman, told Gerald Hassell of Bank of New York Mellon as waiters bearing bellinis whizzed by Monday evening at a Wall Street event space.
His pitch to lure the remaining sum of about $50 million? "But for the Studio Museum, most of what we know in the canon wouldn’t exist," McGuire said, citing black artists such as David Hammons and Mark Bradford who found a home at the museum before they earned broader recognition, thanks to curators like Thelma Golden, the museum’s director, and Naomi Beckwith, who worked there before moving to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
"It’s the place where black art history is made in the present tense," Beckwith said, standing next to artist Titus Kaphar.
Adjaye, the architect, counts himself in. Ten years ago, Studio Museum presented the first U.S. exhibition of his building designs for his London-based firm Adjaye Associates, including the Peace Center in Oslo and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. "I had a show at that museum when most people didn’t know what I did. I was new in the U.S.," Adjaye, 51, said.
Commissions for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and two branch libraries in Washington D.C. followed. His firm is also designing a Holocaust education center in London,. as well as Spyscape, a museum about espionage in New York.
But Harlem stole Adjaye’s heart. He moved there last year with his wife, whom he married in 2014. The artist Chris Ofili was his best man.
"We live in Harlem, we love Harlem," Adjaye said as he was honored, adding that his Studio Museum will introduce "entropy" to the "usual commercial development" of the thoroughfare on which it is located.
"It’s a masterpiece on 125th Street," said Carol Sutton Lewis, vice chair of the board and a gala chair along with Jacqueline Bradley, Kathryn Chenault and Amelia Ogunlesi.
"It’s well deserved for the caliber of work that will go into the museum," said Ann Tenenbaum, a trustee, wearing a dress by designer Duro Oluwu, Golden’s husband.
The new five-story design, which takes inspiration from Harlem’s stoops and churches, includes a roof terrace and niches on the facade to display sculpture. Indoor space for exhibitions, education and programming significantly expands. The building will replace the structure donated by the New York Bank for Savings and renovated by J. Max Bond. Construction is set to begin in 2018.
In preparation for its temporary closure, the museum has already started bringing art to other environs in Harlem. In Marcus Garvey Park, Simone Leigh placed three riffs on imba yokubikira, or kitchen houses, from rural areas of Zimbabwe. She received the Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, which comes with a $50,000 cash award.
"An artist, really in the end, just really wants to connect, and nothing makes me feel more connected than this award," Leigh said.
There were plenty of connections made at the gala, too, which raised more than $2.3 million.
"We celebrate being together. It’s as much a mosaic of this city as you get anywhere," McGuire said before heading to the dance floor.