Once again art world celebrities, artists and collectors flocked to the Watermill Center in New York for the 23rd Annual Summer Benefit and Auction titled, FADA House of Madness. The event is a must for all those interested in contemporary art and performance specifically within the philanthropic model, since by attending, monetary support is given directly to the center for assistance in educational programming and their international residency. This year, visitors were greeted by “Angels of Apocalypse” ghostly, sword carrying, statuesque figures on totems in the woods by Jacques Reynaud and a stream of waiters carrying margarita’s in wide glasses, rims dipped in black sea salt. The ambiance was set by the cloudy early evening sky and light humid mist in the air. Audio throughout the venue was provided by musician Anohni and a series of performers as part of Bruce High Quality Foundation’s (BHQF) “As We Lay Dying: Lecture Notes.” Rich with visual information, both natural and curated, the Watermill Center Benefit and Auction is a feast for the eyes for those eager to be seen and to look at others because the guests are just as much a part of the festivities as the artwork.
Visitors and patrons were led through the woodsy landscape of the Watermill Center, weaving on paths lined with white stones and wood chips, respectively. Artist projects were installed in various capacities along the way including site-specific works by political Russian collective Pussy Riot, BHQF, Christopher Knowles, Tony Matelli, Nikita Shokhov and others. At times it was difficult to discern between performer and visitor as some of those present, including my favorite look of the evening by Tracy Stern, took the theme of the evening, “Color Fusion” to heart. Her look was indeed otherworldly, a gauzy flowing dress, butterfly applique as well as shoulder and neck detail right out of the original Mad Max (1979) or Blade Runner (1982) merging the delicacy of nature with the artificiality of our technological era. The look, somehow perfectly summed up the aesthetic of the center, colorful, fashionable, chic, yet willing to take unexpected chances. Such a chance could be said to have been taken on Norwegian artist, Tori Wrånes who is one of the most dynamic and spatially engaging artists working today, responding to both historic and personal mythology. Wilson asked the artist, who will participate in the residency officially starting September 2016, to perform a 2009 work titled, “To be heard is to be seen.” Flying high above the élite dinner guests Wrånes, played the accordion and sang while in motion. When asked days later how it went, she stated in part saying that the work had changed from its original 2009 iteration and that with all performance it is reflective not only of the time in which it was made but also the artist, in this case Wrånes, and what she was going through, experiencing, at the time. Much like a painter who attempts to make the same painting as he or she executed years prior, the performance, even if specific directions are followed, will respond to the physical limitations and bodily energies of the performer herself. That said, in her words, ‘it changed’ but in the same way that everything changes and evolves with time.
Another highlight of Fada House of Madness was the enigmatic artist Orlan, who recently appeared in several articles after losing a court battle originally filed in 2013. The artist sued Lady Gaga on counts of plagiarism, claiming that the pop star copied several of her very distinct body modifications in which she is known for, in the video and album cover for “Born this Way” (2011). From a July 27th article published in Artforum online, “The court determined that the messages of the works differed and that the idea of transforming the human body into a hybrid does not belong to Orlan. The artist said that she plans to appeal the decision. Orlan filed a separate suit in New York in January, in which she is asking the court to subpoena the fashion director and makeup artist who collaborated on the “Born This Way” video with Lady Gaga.”
While it is difficult to trademark specific body modifications, Orlan was in fact making these bodily, sculptural interventions in 1989 when Gaga was only four years old. Her presence at the Watermill Center was refreshing as it is whenever she graces art world events. Orlan pushes boundaries and whether or not she can win against the mega-million dollar system that Lady Gaga is part of (Interscope Records), she has and continues to be an institution all her own continuing to pave the road for artists who take the sculptural and carnal performance to the next level.
As part of the live and silent auctions galleries and artist’s alike are invited to donate works whose sale benefits the Watermill Center. This year some of the stand-out contributions in the silent auction were by in demand painter Henry Taylor, a print diptych by Derrick Adams, a hanging sculpture by Iranian artist Shaqayeq Arabi, an acrylic painting by Anton Kern artist Brian Calvin, and a mixed media work by Enoc Perez. Other artists of note were Margaux Ogden courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery and German artist Frederike von Cranach courtesy of the Berlin based Magic Beans Gallery. Artists included in the live auction included Francesco Clemente with a watercolor valued at $35,000 and Peter Lindbergh’s commissioned portrait of model Kate Moss valued at $100,000.
The live auction raised over 1 million dollars for education and residency programming.
Scheduled last-minute as a special performer, Kanye West ended up cancelling just two days before the event with a promise to do something next year. So as a friend stated, “I’m not that into Kanye but I was hoping to see Kim’s butt in person. I just want to touch it, I think she’d let me.”
If that isn’t motivation for next year, I don’t know what is.
Katy Diamond Hamer is the founding editor of Eyes Towards the Dove and contributes to many art magazines. Please follow her on Instagram @katyhamer
More soon xo