On The Avenue

A Private Benefit for the Public Art Fund

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Zach Hilty/BFA.com
Friday, April 13, 2018
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Last night, the art world gathered at Metropolitan West in Hell’s Kitchen for the Public Art Fund‘s Spring Benefit. The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour filled with art-themed fun and games. At one station, a Marcel Duchamp impersonator invited guests to spin a Dadaist wheel of prizes (I won a fake mustache, a reference to Duchamp’s famous L.H.O.O.Q.). Was “Duchamp impersonator”—surely one of the least requested celebrity look-alikes—really this man’s full-time job? I never found out. Never make a Surrealist tribute artist break kayfabe, as the saying goes.


Although more than one guest lamented privately that Americans do not have the same appreciation for public art as Europeans—and perhaps never will—the Public Art Fund is helping to change that. As the audience was reminded, one in four New Yorkers will have a Public Art Fund project in their neighborhood this year. Some of the Fund’s recent installations have included a whirlpool by Anish Kapoor in Brooklyn Bridge Park, an opulent ballroom cast in concrete by Liz Glynn in Central Park, and a miniature forest by Spencer Finch at Metrotech Commons. And more ambitious projects are scheduled for this year, including a giant open book by Anselm Kiefer at Rockefeller Center. “Get ready to hit the streets this spring and summer!” said chairman Jill Kraus.


The night was also a celebration of Ai Weiwei, whose Public Art Fund-supported project “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” was on view around the city this past winter. I asked Ai what makes the PAF such an important organization. “It’s so public, of course,” he said, somewhat gnomically. “I think it’s very important for the city.”


Other guests included Cynthia RowleyMo RoccaEmma BloombergAbby BangserSara FriedlanderNoah Horowitz,​ Gianni Jetzer, Kristen Joy WattsMary BooneJane CohanPaula CooperJeffrey DeitchPaul KasminHarold Ancart, Doug Aitken, Tauba Auerbach, David Horvitz, Alfredo Jaar, Wyatt Kahn, Sam Moyer, Tony Oursler, Ugo Rondinone, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis ThomasB. Wurtz. and Avenue‘s own Anthony Haden-Guest.


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