On The Avenue

The American Federation of Arts Writes a Hai-Koons

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Sylvain Gaboury/PMC
Friday, May 19, 2017
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It was all about the art of the meal at The American Federation of Arts’ annual spring luncheon, as some 240 guests assembled at the JW Marriott Essex House for wine, chicken and a scintillating conversation between Whitney chief curator Scott Rothkopf and artist Jeff Koons. While the speakers may have been men, it was hard not to notice that there were more shifts than blazers in the crowd. “It’s a girl’s party,” said honorary chairman emeritus Gilbert H. Kinney. “I’m on the board, and the few men that are here are also mostly on the board.”

As Koons and Rothkopf walked out in the wrong direction, away from the chairs that had been set up for them, it was hard to believe that the pair has a long shared history—Rothkopf curated Koons’ landmark 2014 retrospective, and they’ve spent time on the lecture circuit together.  “It’s been a while since we were on stage together, so our act is a little rusty,” Rothkopf explained.

Koons, riding high on the success of his new Seated Ballerina sculpture in Rockefeller Center, gave a powerful speech about the importance of accessible, easily enjoyed art. Recalling an art school trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art, he said, “I learned I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know Braque, I didn’t know Cezanne. And I survived that moment. A lot of people don’t survive that moment.”

Since 1909, the American Federation of Arts has been dedicated to helping people survive “that moment” by fostering greater arts awareness and appreciation. Through its touring exhibitions, the Federation ensures that people around the country can have access to incredible art.



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