On The Avenue

Waterkeeper Alliance Bids for Attention

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Samantha Nandez/BFA.com
Thursday, February 9, 2017
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Water and oil-based paints don’t usually mix well, but they did on February 9, when the Waterkeeper Alliance hosted its annual Art for Water benefit.

“We’re fighting for our lives and for our children’s lives,” Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told AVENUEon the importance of the organization. “We’re fighting fracking in 36 states. We’re fighting the hog industry and factory farming in 14 states and the western province in Canada. We’re in 36 countries, and we’re fighting these battles in every country.”

Passionate environmentalists came to Sotheby’s in full force that evening, raising nearly $700,000 to support Waterkeeper Alliance in the silent and live auctions. Waterkeeper works to defend people’s right to clean water access around the globe.

Among the guests was Nicole Miller, who designed the tie that Kennedy wore that night. “I’ve been friends with Bobby for years, and I made about five different ties for him,” said Miller. “He never wants his ties to be more than an inch and a half wide. It’s funny, because he didn’t like one of them as much, because the fish were too big and the heads got cut off. So now I [use] only small fish.”

Miller was planning on scoping out the auction, noting that she was still mad at herself for missing out on the Dustin Yellin last year. Yellin was back in the lineup this year, as well as Jeff Koons and Ed Ruscha, both of whom are co-chairs of the event, and Diane Arbus, Urs Fischer, Walton Ford, Mark Grotjahn and Jonas Wood.

For the live auction, Koons donated his Girl with Dolphin and Monkey, which featured Gretchen Mol as Aphrodite, riding on a dolphin and holding a monkey, who represents her son Eros. Koons donated the piece “because it relates to water. And Aphrodite, on the dolphin, would be impossible without clean water,” he told AVENUE. The piece represents, “the idea of the eternal, and the continuation of life energy. If we just let nature perform, if we don’t contaminate it, then it will remain our life force. We need clean water. It’s our connection to the eternal.”

Prior to the live auction, Kennedy emphasized that all of the artists were taking a loss in donating their pieces, citing a law passed after Watergate whereby people who create things artistically, with pen or brush and paper, can’t take a tax deduction. But he went on to note that throughout history, artists have always had a critical role as an insurgency. When people are fighting for a cause, it’s the artists who are the last to back down.

“It was a great success,” Cheryl Hines said after the live auction, adding that she was nervous to scratch her head for fear of having it being mistaken for a bid. “Waterkeeper is very important to me, because they protect waterways and water sources for people around the world. And we have a tendency to take it for granted. But you don’t have to go far to see contamination in water.” She noted Flint, Michigan as a prime example.

Hines, an actress, is married to Kennedy, and his words about artists resonated with her. “When he was talking about artists being able to be satirical and able to laugh at themselves, it’s so true. Because if we don’t have that, what do we have?”


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