Richard Serra, Unwell, Skips National Art Awards
Ben Stiller and Shepard Fairey among those who did show up.
Richard Serra was notably absent at the 2014 Americans for the Arts National Art Awards, held at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street on Monday night, despite headlining the list of honorees. Nevertheless, an elegantly attired crowd that included actor Ben Stiller, Jeffrey Deitch, and the evening’s featured artist, Shepard Fairey, gathered to recognize the accomplishments of arts organizations, artists, and philanthropists alike.
The evening began with a standing ovation for Madeleine H. Berman, a longtime Americans for the Arts donor and board member and key supporter of the arts in her native Detroit, as she was presented with the inaugural Legacy Award. Vicki and Roger Sant of Washington, D.C. received the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts, sponsored by the award’s namesake couple.
Available for sale throughout the dinner was a limited edition artwork by Fairey titled Obey Monkey Pod Tree. The set of 50 artworks was produced by Pace Prints, and the $1,500 price goes directly towards Americans for the Arts.
Two organizations were also recognized: American Legion Auxiliary, which offers art therapy as part of its mission to support our nation’s veterans, was honored for its Outstanding Contributions to the Arts, while Los Angeles’s P.S. Arts, which supplements arts programs in California public schools, received the Arts Education Award. Stiller presented the latter, joking that he had only agreed to do so after Jeff Koons, who designed the Balloon Rabbit statuettes given to winners, offered to make an aluminum cast of the actor having sex with wife Christine Taylor—or with Koons’s wife: Stiller’s choice.
Performa’s RoseLee Goldberg presented the Young Artist Award to ballet dancer David Hallberg, who has been a principal member of both the Amercian Ballet Theatre and, more notably, at Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet, the first American so honored. He offered heartfelt remarks thanking his parents for not pushing him, a kid from South Dakota, to give up dance for t-ball or some other more mainstream activity, and expressing the importance of giving back as an artist. Hallberg has already started two scholarship programs for aspiring dancers.
Too Sick to Attend
Serra’s award, presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Jennifer Russell, was accepted by proxy, as the Lifetime Achievement Award winner was rumored to be too sick to attend. Also absent from the festivities was President Barack Obama, although the Commander-in-Chief contributed a letter to the evening’s program, noting that “with a single chord, short brushstroke, or slight movement, artists can unlock a world within us.” Obama concluded by asking guests to “take pride in your commitment to exploring new ideas and inspiring tomorrow’s creative minds,” and to enjoy the evening.
In the latter regard, following the President’s instructions was easy. In addition to sipping on Cipriani’s signature peach nectar bellini cocktails, dining on a delicious meal highlighted by succulent veal chops served with a hearty farro salad and broccolini, guests were treated to performances from former YoungArts winners including jazz singer Elliott Skinner and dancer Caleb Teicher. While attentions may have threatened to wander during the evening’s many speeches, the music and dance were utterly mesmerizing.
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