When Massimiliano Gioni Met Camille Henrot: A New Museum Dinner Tale
It was like the time Angelina Jolie met Winona Ryder.
What does it take to find yourself situated among the “next generation” of seminal artists? Apparently, less ruthlessness than one might think. At last night’s New Museum Next Generation Dinner, the two honorees, Ragnar Kjartansson and Camille Henrot, and featured artist Ryan Gander, were called “really, really nice people,” by director of exhibitions Massimiliano Gioni. In fact, he believes that quality is what they all have most in common. Who knew the art world could be so warm and fuzzy?
The intimate dinner for 100 was held in the New Museum’s Sky Room, which has one of the best downtown views in the city. The benefit event was sponsored by Fendi, which cast a glamorous sheen over the evening, but like most things the New Museum does, it was clear that it was truly about the art. Wangechi Mutu and Shirin Neshat, two artists who you don’t see much on the social circuit, stood out among the Fendi-clad crowd.
“At the end of a dinner party,” Ryan Gander said, “what everyone does with their napkins is quite representative of their personality, I think.” In the lobby, ten of Gander’s sculptures—delicate casts of linen draped over small wooden pedestals that were inspired by napkins—were available for purchase to benefit the museum. As parting gifts, dinner guests were given special napkins inspired by the artworks, but I’d sooner eat a meal napkin-less than ruin the souvenir’s crisp white beauty.
“I feel like a princess,” Kjartansson said, and laughed. “Especially being honored with Camille. We feel great, and I really love her work. I think her being honored is a great thing, but me being honored is a bit of a misunderstanding.” For a young artist that has found success fast, this type of reaction is understandable. While the awards were amusingly diminutive in physical size, they make up for it in significance.
If you’re an aspiring next generation artist looking to get in good with Gioni, heed this anecdote about his first meeting with Henrot: “We met downstairs in the lobby [of the New Museum], and it was like the meeting of Angelina Jolie and Winona Rider in [Girl Interrupted],” he explained during his introduction. “Which meant two mentally insane people in one asylum. She came and she said she was doing a video about the history of the universe and I said, ‘Oh well that’s wonderful because I’m doing a show about the history of everything.'”
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