MOCA gala fetes Baldessari

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Deb­o­rah Vankin deb­o­rah.vankin @la­times.com

The writ­ing was on the wall — scrawled, re­peat­edly, in black ink and pro­jected onto the sides of the tent: “I will not make any more bor­ing art.”

The sen­ti­ment, from a 1971 John Baldessari litho­graph, was a fit­ting homage to the 83-year-old artist, hon­ored Satur­day night at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art gala in Los An­ge­les.

“He’s some­one who’s been an in­spi­ra­tion, a teacher, a friend, a leader for many of us,” mu­seum Direc­tor Philippe Vergne said. “And for us at MOCA, he’s a mar­velous board mem­ber, a board mem­ber who tells it like it is — and God knows we need that.”

The an­nual fundraiser, which brought in more than $3 mil­lion for MOCA, also marked the be­gin­ning of Vergne’s sec­ond year at the mu­seum.

His in­au­gu­ral year was one of re­build­ing: bring­ing on new chief cu­ra­tor He­len Molesworth, re­turn­ing artist trustees to the board and grow­ing an en­dow­ment that MOCA says now ex­ceeds $120 mil­lion.

That pos­i­tiv­ity was nearly pal­pa­ble Satur­day, from the bustling cock­tail re­cep­tion in the Gef­fen Con­tem­po­rary in Lit­tle Tokyo to the elec­tric Janelle Monáe per­for­mance that rocked the dining tent af­ter the Wolf­gang Puck-catered meal of loup de mer and spring veg­eta­bles.

“We chose Janelle be­cause we wanted en­ergy. This is a cel­e­bra­tion — of MOCA, of John, of the re­cent auc­tion,” said board coChair Lilly Tar­tikoff Karatz, re­fer­ring to a two-day Sotheby’s sale last month that raised $22.5 mil­lion for the mu­seum. “And Janelle, she’s just so high en­ergy. You know, this is an amaz­ing time for us.”

Ac­tor Al­bert Brooks, whose brother Clif­ford J. Ein­stein is a mu­seum board mem­ber, said, “I’m for any artis­tic win in L.A., and this — MOCA right now — is a win.”

The event, pre­sented by Louis Vuit­ton, was thick with other celebri­ties and art­world fig­ures, in­clud­ing artists Mark Brad­ford, Ed Ruscha, Shep­ard Fairey, Mary Weather­ford and Diana Thater; MOCA artist trustees Catherine Opie and Bar­bara Kruger; ac­tresses Pa­tri­cia Ar­quette and Marisa Tomei; ar­chi­tect Frank Gehry; art col­lec­tor and MOCA board mem­ber Eu­ge­nio Lopez; and gal­lerist Michael Kohn.

Ear­lier in the evening, Baldessari seemed taken aback by all the at­ten­tion. He sat in the back of the Gef­fen dur­ing cock­tails, chat­ting with Brooks and Vergne or sim­ply sur­vey­ing the crowd, as if in awe.

“This is scary, re­ally ter­ri­fy­ing,” Baldessari said. “I kinda like to stay in the back­ground, you know. But I’ll get through it.”

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