On The Avenue

A Royally Good Time

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Angela Pham and Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The British are coming, the British are coming! And they’re bringing…art?

Yes, last night, dear old Blighty’s poshest nobs jumped across the pond for Royal Academy America’s annual gala, a jolly art world knees-up so swinging it belonged in Borstal.

Held at the IAC Building in Chelsea, the evening honored Aryeh B. BourkoffThomas Heatherwick and Marina Abramovic—and slagged off the colonies on more than one occasion. Academy President Christopher Le Brun, wearing a gold medal given to the one-time Royal Academy president Thomas Lawrence by gout-ridden tyrant King George IV, led a toast to honor, joy and the Queen.

Emcee Stephen Fry continued the royalist tone, reminding the crowd that “The Star Spangled Banner” took its tune from an 18th-century drinking song, and had originally ended with the lines, “and, besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine, the myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.”

But there was at least one acknowledgement of the United States’ greatness. Heatherwick, whose large-scale sculpture “Vessel” is under construction just a few blocks away from the IAC Building, praised New York for its risk-taking spirit. “Anything that happens here, that has a soul and a passion in its creation, I support,” he said.

Throughout the evening, guests also had the chance to enjoy interactive installations by both Heatherwick and Abramovic—for Heatherwick, the whirligig-like “Magis Spun Chair,” which delighted the children in attendance, for Abramovic, “Rising,” a scarily lifelike climate change-themed VR video game.

All in all, not a bad night—they may not know how to win a war, but the Brits sure know how to party. 

Guests included Zoe Buckman, Chuck Close, Leo and Yvonne Force Villareal, Casey Fremont, Sean Kelly, Laine Siklos and Anna, Ilaria, Natalia and Veronica Bulgari.


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by Ben DiamondPhotographed by Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool