“Is it prom or something?” one straphanger wondered aloud as a rush hour two train roared deeper into Brooklyn with three women in full-length gowns along for the ride.
The great Eastward migration was to the Brooklyn Museum for its annual Brooklyn Artists Ball, honoring the fifth anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, as well as artists Martha Rosler, Amy Sillman, and Mickalene Thomas. And while the Keith Haring retrospective was the big man on campus, it was the womens’ work that ruled the evening.
“Well, the state of female artists is very good,” said Gloria Steinem in reference to a statistic that less than three percent of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum are women. “But the very definition of art has been biased in that “art” was what men did in a European tradition and “crafts” were what women and natives did. But it’s actually all the same.”
Guests proceeded to the third floor Beaux-Arts Court to claim their places at one of 16 40-foot tables—each decorated by a female Brooklyn artist. There were horns of mead at one, two undulating dancers dressed as rainbow-colored birds at another, and Janaina Tschape’s table with what looked to be a tentacled cancerous growth surrounded by water balloons. Not the most appetizing centerpiece, but definitely a conversation starter.
“They’re condoms. Magnums. Lubricated. So don’t poke them because they can break. As some people know. As some people find out the hard way,” joked Nicole Cohen, whose interactive video installation was prominently displayed in the lobby. Even Bill Cunningham, who made his rounds late into the night, couldn’t resist prodding the rubbery mass.
As the dinner party died down, the crowd headed to the after party where DJ Mia Moretti’s tunes echoed through the lobby punctuated only by the occasional shattered glass from the 1000 guests enjoying the open bars.
Honorary Chair and Brooklynite (she even sported a “Brooklyn” necklace) Marisa Tomei also burned the midnight oil, taking in the Haring exhibit after dinner. Her medium of choice if she were a visual artist? “Oh, I can’t do these kinds of questions,” she laughed and then paused. “Well, let me just say flesh. How about flesh, human flesh.” Though, thankfully, she’s not making the transition from the screen any time soon. “No. Right now I am working on rejuvenation. Regeneration. Or re-visioning,” she says. “Sleeping. Basically sleeping a lot. All fancy words for sleeping.”
At that hour, more than a few partygoers were probably looking forward to re-visioning, too.
Photos: Installation: Patrick McMullan; all others: Billy Farrell Agency