On The Avenue

Making Merry at the Park Avenue Armory

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Da Ping Luo and James Ewing
Thursday, October 19, 2017
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At the Park Avenue Armory last night, the Upper East Side showed that it’s still got some avant-garde spirit. For its tenth anniversary gala, the arts space harkened back to the great multidisciplinary art movements of the ‘60s with a series of happenings that mixed everything from avant-garde films by Robert Rauschenberg projected on the wall to dancers in hazmat suits. “We wanted to do a throwback to ’60s performances,” said Stefan Beckman, who designed the night’s set. “Instead of just having a cocktail party, then dinner, then the gala and a performance, we wanted to mix it up with something that people could just wander around.”

It all added up to a wonderfully spooky atmosphere, where lulls in conversation were punctuated by the tweets and buzzes of dissonant, atonal music, smoke machines at the edges of the room went off without warning and spotlights bathed guests’ faces in eerie light.

Walking around the space, it was hard to believe that the Armory had transformed into an arts space just ten years prior. “25 years ago I used to play tennis here, in this very room,” said the artist Tony Bechara. “This place was abandoned! And now, since Rebecca Robertson took it over, it has turned it into a major performing arts space.”

“It’s added a lot to New York,” said Agnes Gund. “It has great shows all the time, interesting shows with a lot of variety. They’ve turned formerly dank and uninteresting rooms into something beautiful.”

The evening raised more than $2.2 million for the Armory’s programming and arts education, and also featured speeches by Elihu Rose and Ann Hamilton, as well as a performance by the musician Kimbra.

Guests included Benigno Aguilar and Gerald Erickson, Pierre Audi, Emma Bloomberg, Martin and Sonja Brand, George and Alison Brokaw, Janna Bullock, Gine and James de Givenchy, Esther Fein and David Remnick, Alessandro and Fe Fendi, Adam Flatto, Alan and Christine Mack, Nicole Miller, Lynn Nottage, Taryn Simon and Michael and Joan Steinberg.


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