Dispatch From Art Frontiers

Thursday, May 5, 2016

On the evening of May 1st, Pioneer Works hosted its third annual star-studded Village Fête, raising over one million for Pioneer Works’ exhibition, residency, music, science and education programs. Host committee member Swizz Beatz made the highest auction bid of the evening, purchasing an artwork by Pioneer Works’ Founder Dustin Yellin for $60,000.

Pioneer Works Village Fête is a benefit to celebrate the organization’s successes, enhance awareness about its progressive programs, and raise funds to help fortify its future. This year’s benefit emphasized innovation, supported by a burgeoning partnership with Google, who created site-specific virtual reality stations where guests could paint, sketch, and sculpt in 3D.

Some of the star-studded event guests included: Derrick Adams, Michael Avedon, Paola Antonelli, Alexis Bittar, Carole Bove, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, Stacey Bendet, Cornelia Brandolini D’Adda, Ben Bronfman, Pauline Brown, David Byrne, Alex Chantecaille, Maureen Chiquet, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, Jonah Freeman, Casey Fremont Crowe, Gina Gershon, Wes Gordon, Lazaro Hernandez, Sophia Hesketh, Bill T. Jones, Charlotte Kidd, Jemima Kirke, Nicole Miller, Mia Moretti, Lauren and Andres Santo Domingo, Liv Tyler, Susan Rockefeller, Stella Schnabel, and many more.

The fête started with oysters and champagne by Ruinart, signature Tiki cocktails by Bombay Sapphire Gin on a rooftop bar. The rain that started shortly after did not dampen the mood as guests moved inside, flocking to one of the first floor gallery spaces where Google created an cinematic virtual reality experience: black walls, smoke, and three Tilt Brush stations, where guests could paint, sketch, and sculpt in 3D. Guests were also invited to roam Pioneer Works’ three floors, which included open artist-in-residence studios on the second floor, a photo lab where artist Rowan Hasty was making tin-type portraits of guests, and the top floor Stella Rooftop Bar. During the cocktail hour, guests also participated in the silent auction, which included donated art by Marina AbramovicCarol Bove, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, Freeman, Rashid Johnson, Anish Kapoor, Shirin Neshat, Cindy Sherman, and Mickalene Thomas.

Guests were then invited to sit for dinner prepared by Silkstone, the catering arm of the acclaimed New York Restaurant Fat Radish. Long tables lined with light floral arrangements by Saipua lined the main exhibition space on the first floor, with artist Molly Lowe’s Redwood installation suspended from the ceiling. Tables also lined the second floor, where artist studios were transformed into intimate dining nooks. After a quick welcome by the evening’s emcee Alexander Gilkes of Paddle8, First Lady of New York Chirlane McCray gave brief remarks to celebrate Pioneer Works’ development into a hub of innovation and creativity, and announced a partnership between the organization and Google’s Made With Code program for young female technologists. The young woman creating, guests learned, was Jade Lo, a Made With Code student. The program, which pairs young women with career technologists, will take place at Pioneer Works in July, using new virtual reality equipment that was given to Pioneer Works by Google.

As guests were served entrees (lamb over couscous, roasted bass, fregola sarda, and zucchini in a dandelion pesto with red quinoa, all served family style), musician Esperanza Spalding gave an impromptu performance. Gilkes then introduced artist Derrick Adams, who has a forthcoming exhibition opening at Pioneer Works on June 10. Adams shared with guests the importance of Pioneer Works for emerging artists – a rare space where artists can experiment, co-create alongside musicians and scientists, and are encouraged to take risks. Dustin Yellin then joined Adams and Gilkes on stage, and made the evening’s emotional appeal, thanking hosts, sponsors, and each of his staff members’ by name, with a special thanks to the organization’s director, Gabriel Florenz.

Gilkes then led the live auction, which included only two items: a psychogeography work by Dustin Yellin and a 5-day trip to Cuba, organized by Cuban art and culture specialist Rachel Weingeist. Host committee member Swizz Beatz made the highest bid of the evening, acquiring Dustin Yellin’s work for $80,000.

For the Village Fete After Party, downtown New York musician’s Cibo Matto, joined by guitarist Nels Cline, started the evening off on the first floor stage. Brooklyn-based performers Chances with Wolves and Javelin followed. Guests also crowded into the second floor Tiki Bar, where bartender St. John Frizzel partnered with Bombay Sapphire Gin to create a suite of specialty Tiki-inspired drinks. The party continued until past midnight, and as the rain cleared, the evening ended with guests intimately gathered by a fire in the Pioneer Works’ lush back garden.

To learn more and help support Pioneer Works, visit

Photos by Sam Deitch/


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