The Parrish Museum in Water Mill, NY held its midsummer party on Saturday July 15, 2017 with cocktails beginning at 7 pm. This is one of the premier art events of the year with superstars Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and Clifford Ross being just a few of the luminaries in the sold-out record breaking crowd. Honorary co-chairs Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder and Dorothy Lichtenstein joined more than 14 co-chairs including Emily Mortimer, Fred Seegal, Joey Wolffer and Debbie Bancroft to pay homage to this incredible museum which has been in existence for a mere 5 years. During that short period, more than 300,000 people have visited and more than $5 million has been spent on enhancing art education. The Parrish has become the leading cultural institution in the South Fork.
With over 570 people gathered at the Museum this evening, the cocktail hour was almost unmanageable with the Hampton’s elite gathering to pay homage to honorees Clifford Ross and Agnes Gund. Clifford Ross’s “Digital Waves” adorned the walls of the museum and guests were marveling at the awesomeness of his creation. Ross began his career as a sculptor and painter after graduating from Yale in 1974. In 1994, after years of painting and sculpting he became interested in photography and in 1996 he produced his well-known “Hurricane Wave” series where he entered the surf in extreme weather, often up to his neck, and took photographs. His technique began to expand and he started using digital methods, inkjet printing and developed a unique method of printing on wood. His work has been featured at the MOMA, the Philadelphia Museum of Arts and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
His good friend and co-honoree was Agnes Gund, who is a philanthropist, art patron and collector and advocate for arts education. She recently achieved fame and accolades for selling her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein painting entitled the “Masterpiece” for $165 million to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen and donating $100 million to the “Art for Justice Fund”. This charity will make grants to organizations and leaders to safely reduce jail and prison populations and strengthen education and employment opportunities for former inmates. Gund said this was “one thing she could do before she died” which had me wondering if she was sick as she is only 78 years old.
“Aggie”, as her friends call her, was the talk of the evening and Jeff Koons told me he drove from his farm in Pennsylvania to pay tribute to the amazingly generous Gund who he admires for her support of humanistic causes. Koons also said one of his artistic inspirations was the 16th Century Italian painter Titian. Aside from Koons most of the cocktail crowd was unfamiliar; however, I did recognize model Karolina Kurkova who looked fashionably chic in a Veronica Beard skirt and straw hat. She revealed that she often gets dressed in under 15 minutes preferring to be a supermom as opposed to a supermodel. She also enjoys working out and eating a healthy well balanced diet.
At 8PM it was time to enjoy one of those meals as the dinner commenced in the main room, which is outdoors, allowing the light breeze and beautifully lit sky to fill the room with a magic that was indescribable. The ocean-themed event had many of the guests wearing blue attire while blue streamers and lighting hung from the ceiling. As I walked to the restroom, I heard the staff rehearsing how to place the food on the table in perfect synchronization. The more than 40 servers executed this task masterfully as we received our burrata and pesto first course and branzino and tomato entree simultaneously. As the program began, we were treated to a speech by three-time Tony winner James Lapine, for Best Book of a Musical for “Into The Woods”, “Falsettos” and “Passion”. Lapine flew in from Martha’s Vineyard to pay homage to his close friend Clifford Ross. Lapine, who is a theatre director, joked that he wanted to change the lighting of the darkened room and then went on to praise Clifford’s imagination “despite the fact that he doesn’t drink or do drugs.”
Lapine said that unlike Clifford who was a “social animal” Lapine’s idea of a good time does not include putting on a suit in front of distinguished guests. Lapine who arrived on a 30-minute chopper ride from Martha’s Vineyard was praised by Ross who was in shock that his friend spent a summer night in the Hampton’s to honor him. Ross also thanked the crowd for allowing him “to bring big nature across to this room on Route 27.”
Another erudite speaker was Dorothy Lichtenstein, wife of famed Jewish painter Roy Lichtenstein, who spoke of her lengthy friendship with Gund and donated $100,000 to a program connecting artists with the broader community. Moreover, Gund announced she was donating $500,000 in honor of Dorothy Lichtenstein and thanked Dorothy for being so supportive when she decided to sell her Roy Lichtenstein painting. Gund recounted how difficult it was for her to sell “The Masterpiece” as she frequently becomes friends with her paintings and cares about them weirdly.
In order to raise more money for the Museum, a live auction was held where an 8-person dinner on a Thursday night at Rao’s was auctioned for $8,000 as well as a ten-person dinner at the Wolffer Estate. After all the excitement had concluded, guests headed to an adjoining room for dancing and dessert. If this extravagant evening was a harbinger of the upcoming Hampton’s summer season then it is safe to say we are in for a spectacular two months.
By: Lieba Nesis