MOCA gala fetes Baldessari
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.”