MOCA Gala 2011

The MOCA Gala 2011: Lab Coats, Revolving Heads and Live Nude Girls


Never mind that the invitation to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual fundraiser specified “Festive Attire.” Guests covered their gowns, suits and cocktail frocks in lab coats most of the night.

Before entering the tent beside the museum, Michele Hicks of “The Shield” said she looked forward to slipping a lab coat over her sparkly Mark Belford cocktail frock. “This will be fun,” she said.

The cover-ups, according to the evening’s mastermind, performance artist Marina Abramovic, were key to the Nov. 12 event’s “total transformation” at the heart of her performance piece. So were the 120 performers, who didn’t just serve figuratively as the event’s artistic centerpiece. They were literally centerpieces, placed at the tables, in lieu of the usual bouquet of flowers.

The long tables had heads poking through holes in the tabletops; the round tables featured nude women on platters topped by skeletons.  And as the live centerpieces stared into space, they slowly revolved.

“You’re here not anymore as a guest at another gala,” Abramovic said from the podium. “You’re here as experimenters in a strange lab.”

Maria Arena Bell and Eli Broad co-chaired the event, which attracted Governor Jerry Brown, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, community VIPs and a star-studed crowd of celebrities and artists. They included Gwen Stefani, Kirsten Dunst, Rose McGowan, Minnie Driver, Rosanna Arquette, Tilda Swinton, Kimberly and Albert Brooks, Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, Stine and Alex Van Halen, Dita Von Teese, Jonny Lee Miller, Lisa Edelstein, Stephen Nichols, Miranda July, Donovan Leitch, Abigail Spencer, Dakota Johnson, Michele Hicks, George Kotsiopoulos and Rachel Zoe.

Among artists present were Doug Aitken, Francesco Vezzoli, Shepard Fairey, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Ed Moses, Rosson Crow, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn, Piero Golia and Bruce Helander. Dasha Zhukova was honorary chair with dinner chairs Lilly Tartikoff Karatz, Lauren King, Nancy Marks, Carolyn Powers and Jamie Tisch.

In remarks, museum director Jeffrey Deitch called Abramovic “the most influential performance artist working today.” The internationally-acclaimed artist has been the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The MOCA performance piece, titled “An Artist’s Life Manifesto,” was her first in Los Angeles.

The event followed MOCA’s tradition of innovative artist-directed fundraisers. Francesco Vezzoli orchestrated the 2009 blowout, which featured Lady Gaga and Bolshoi ballet dancers. In producing his 2010 event, Doug Aitken said that he planned “to sabotage the tradition of a gala,” which he did with a speed-talking auctioneer, table-drummers and cowboy with a cattle whip, in addition to the musical talents of Devendra Banhart, Beck and Caetano Veloso.

By turning the night into her strange lab of performance art, Abramovic took the anti-gala concept a step further. And before the night ended, she read her artist’s manifesto, which was echoed by performers in lab coats. 

Recording icon Deborah Harry ended the affair. Lead singer of the legendary punk band Blondie, she arrived onstage like Cleopatra, hoisted shoulder-high on a divan carried by four men, naked from the waist up. In an eye-popping red dress, she stood in stark contrast to the room filled with white-coated guests, belting out rock numbers and helping Abramovic serve up dessert.    

After Marina Abramovic’s shindig, one wonders what new surprises MOCA’s 2012 gala may bring. Tickets sold from $2,500 and $10,000 per person, bringing an estimated $2.5 million to the museum.

Despite the lab coats, festive attire did not go unnoticed. There was plenty of time to glitter, as pre-dinner festivities included a 2-hour cocktail party and preview of the museum’s latest show, “Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles.” And indeed guests glittered. Given my schedule of social events, I can say with authority that the crowd at the MOCA gala 2011 could easily top any best-dressed list. Just take a look at the gallery below.

Photos from top: In lab coats, from left: Museum director Jeffrey Deitch, performance artist Marina Abramovic, director of the MOCA Gala 2011; actress Tilda Swinton and MOCA Gala 2011 co-chair Maria Arena Bell (photo: Stefanie Keenan/ Getty Images for MOCA); nude under a a skeleton, part of the art installation (photo: Frazer Harrison/ Getty Images for MOCA); Gwen Stefani, left, with honorary gala co-chair Dasha Zhukova (photo: Stefanie Keenan/ Getty Images for MOCA)



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Published November 14, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA