A Pastoral Picnic Celebrates a Landmark

by Michael Gross Photographed by Kelly Taub/
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Architect Philip Johnson built the Glass House between 1949 and 1995, and the 49-acre site in New Canaan, Connecticut (which holds fourteen structures), became a National Trust Historic Site after his death in 2005. On Saturday’s perfect summer afternoon, several hundred guests celebrated its 10th Anniversary at a summer party and and fundraising picnic, complete with static and performance art pieces–a site-specific dance installation by avant-garde choreographer Jonah Bokaer, new paintings by Julian Schnabel and sculpture by Robert Indiana–music, lawn games, and tours of the property and its treasures.

The event attracted Charles Alonzo, Miya Ando, Barry Bergdoll + William Ryall, Carlos Betancourt, Alex von Bidder, Christine Mortimer Biddle, Greg Bogin, Ellen Carey, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, Lisa and Jimmy Cohen, Lynn Davis, Lucy and Nat Day, Frank de Biasi, Nina del Rio, Eric Doeringer, Michele Oka Doner, Susan Magrino and James Dunning, Peter Eisenman and Cynthia Davidson, Michael Fedele and Douglas Wurth, Joanne Freeman, Heather Gaudio Gallery, Ray Geary, Jeffrey Gibson, Alexander Gorlin, Agnes Gund, Omar Hernandez, Allyn Magrino Holmberg, Cody Hoyt, Tracey Hummer, Joshua Katcher, Paul Kasmin, Reed + Delphine Krakoff, David Leventi, Tony Maddalena, Amanda Martocchio, Christopher Mason, Murray Moss, James and Elizabeth Nares, Jonathan Nesci, Enrique Norten, Janice Parker, Jeffrey and Valerie Peltier, Enoc Perez, Gary Petersen, Matthew Placek, Alexandra Polier, Sharon Prince, Abigail Pucker, Rachel Rose, Margaret Russell, Katia Santibanez, Shelter Serra, James Siena, Laurie Simmons, Michelle Slater, Kate Kelly Smith, William Sofield, Anne Spalter, Mimi R. Sternlicht, Martha Stewart, Sabina and Harlan Stone, James Welling, Rob Wynne, and Dustin Yellin.

Guests could enter almost every building on the site (Johnson’s Brick House guest house, closed since a devastating flood, could nonetheless be visited via Virtual Reality headsets), including the just-restored sculpture gallery and the painting gallery where more of Jonah Bokaer’s world premiere performance of “The Metamorphoses” was performed. Appropriately, hen the Glass House first opened as a museum in 2007, Bokaer performed there with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; ten years later, he was back with his own dance company, which will shortly travel around the world, perfomring the same piece.

Taking nothing away from the art, many guests were most surprised by the sprawling property itself. Chief curator Hilary Lewis explained that when potential clients asked Johnson for a Glass House of their own, he often answered, “But do you have land?” Johnson likened visiting the Glass House “to a camping trip where you don’t get wet,” educator Peggy Dannemann said as she showed Johnson’s one-room residence, with its furniture designed by Le Courbusier and a single door in each wall (which provided the only air-conditioning), to visitors. Gesturing at the sweeping, seemingly-natural natural vistas outside the summer home’s walls, she added, “It’s all incredibly intentional.” That very much included what Lewis called “his very expensive wallpaper,” the trees and pond he saw from within. Johnson would “micro-manage the pruners,” Dannemann explained.

It’s no wonder, then, that among the passed hors d’oeuvres were highly cultivated (though perhaps a little too perfect s’mores). There were also Glass House cocktails of vodka, lemonade and watermelon juice, Taittinger Champagne, and individual picnic baskets from South End containing brined fried chicken, kale and tomato salads, juicy white peaches and dangerously dense brownies.

A silent auction by Paddle 8 included pieces by Jeff Koons, Hunt Slonem, Herb Ritts, Laurie Simmons, Maira Kalman, Micehele Oka Doner, Richard Meuier and Zoe Buckman. Guests were chauffeured from the parking area at a nearby school in brand new posh rides loaned Rolls Royce Motor Cars of Greenwich, including one white Roller with a Greenwich-prom ready starlit interior roof.

The four-hour event raised a record $550,000.


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