On Tuesday night, UNITAS, an NGO working to eradicate human trafficking, threw their second annual fundraising gala at Capitale on Bowery. Helmed by Mo Stojnovic, who once bought a Jeff Koons sculpture called Gazing Ball (Charity) for 4 million dollars at a Project Perpetual event, UNITAS scheduled this party smack dab in the middle of fashion week with the hope that a beautiful crowd will attract the deep-pocketed.
This strategy seemed to work: glamorous attendees last night included the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (who eschewed photographers), fashion week ubiquitor Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton and Andreja Pejic, who looked otherworldly in a slippery silver dress. Inside, things got into full swing with practiced ease. After a few preliminary speeches and two rounds of appetizers which nobody touched, the auction began. In quick succession, a portrait of David Bowie was sold for $40,000, a pair of Victoria's Secret angels garnered $50,000 for a "private fashion show" ("C'mon now, it's beautiful girls in lingerie!"), and Lee Jaffe's extensive collection of Basquiat paintings and prints went for a cool $75,000.
After a brief intermission, the grand finale commenced: Ai Weiwei's 2015 piece Handcuffs, which is 3.5 x 11.5 inches long and made out of jade, was placed gingerly on the auction block. After a fierce bidding war punctuated by aging white men in expensive suits trash-talking each other genially across the echoing ballroom, the elegant pair of cuffs changed hands for $150,000.
With the main event over, many attendees seemed restless and the opulent room began to empty. (At the press table, twelve empty seats had been vacant for the entire evening - dutifully smiling waiters placed slabs of filet mignon at every place setting anyway.) As 11 o'clock came and went, Captain America: The Winter Soldier actor Sebastian Stan grew increasingly absorbed in the conversation he was having with his equally handsome neighbor. Onstage, the neo-soul musician Maxwell was jamming enthusiastically, interspersing each song with a little monologue meant to bring the guests' attention back to the reason why the gala was being held in the first place. "There's always a stigma, always a shame," he crooned, referring to the exploitation of trafficking victims. "A part of them that's never gonna be the same."