Art Market Darling KAWS Was the Star at the Glamorous 2019 Tribeca Ball

The street artist was fêted at the gala, which raised more than $850,000.

Brooke Shields, KAWS, and David Kratz at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.
Brooke Shields, KAWS, and David Kratz at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

The students of the New York Academy of Art threw open their studio doors last week, welcoming hoards of fashionable art lovers to the 24th annual Tribeca Ball.

As guests lined up to enter the event, which was sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels, they were greeted by a jazz band and elaborately costumed stilt walkers. Inside, larger-than-life performers were quick to pour glasses of Champagne Bollinger’s Special Cuvée from magnum sized bottles. But despite all the bells and whistles, the focus was on the art.

“I love to be able to actually get to experience the artists in their environment and hear about their inspirations,” academy devotee Brooke Shields told artnet News, noting that she had made, as always, several purchases to help raise funds. She also weighed in on her character on Jane the Virgin, River Fields—an amazing name if there ever was one. “She’s a piece of work. River’s not a bad person, but she’s very needy, and she thinks she’s an icon, so we need to treat her with kid gloves!”

Naomi Watts at the Tribeca Ball. Photo byJoe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

Naomi Watts at the Tribeca Ball. Photo byJoe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

The event honored street artist Brian Donnelly (better known as KAWS), who has returned to New York fresh from his headline-stealing week in Hong Kong, where his massive floating public sculpture was an Instagram sensation and his auction record soared to new heights with a $14.7 million painting changing hands at Sotheby’s. (The artist was loathe to discuss his growing success; when this reporter identified herself, his response was “oh no! Should I be talking to you?”)

Some 900 guests turned out for the star-studded occasion, including fashion designer Donna Karan, model Coco Rocha, and actors and former couple Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts. Seated at KAWS’s table were his friends and fellow artists Peter Saul, Lee Quinones, and Erik Parker, as well as SPRING/BREAK Art Show founders and directors Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori.

“Brian [KAWS] owns about 20 of my paintings. I hope some of his prosperity trickles down to me,” Saul joked to artnet News at the dinner, presented by chef Daniel Boulud.

Nick Korniloff, Pamela Cohen, Kevin O'Leary, and Linda O'Leary at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

Nick Korniloff, Pamela Cohen, Kevin O’Leary, and Linda O’Leary at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

There were just two auction lots on the night: a KAWS print, which sold for $40,000, and a vintage necklace from longtime Tribeca Ball sponsor Van Cleef & Arpels, which fetched $32,000.

The diamond Alhambra piece, with its signature clover motif, was the inspiration for a roulette wheel-themed photo booth that attracted long lines during the cocktail hour, as was Jacques Arpels’ motto: “To be lucky you have to believe in luck.”

Academy president David Kratz assured guests that they were giving to a good cause: “Since we don’t even have a sports team, we don’t look at Photoshopped water polo champs.” The gala raised a total of over $850,000.

Watch a video of the event below.


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