Wet Paint in the Wild: Renaissance Society Director Myriam Ben Salah Takes Us Behind the Scenes at the Institution’s Gala

The director and chief curator of the Chicago museum ran into Laila Gohar and Korakrit Arunanondchai along the way.

Myriam Ben Salah (left) at the Renaissance Society's annual benefit.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, an extension of Annie Armstrong’s gossip column wherein she gives art-world insiders a disposable camera so they can give us a peek into their corner of the madcap industry.

I was fortunate enough to cover EXPO Chicago this year and took an extra day to explore some of the city’s world-class museums. A trip to the Renaissance Society (which at the time had work by one of my favorite artists, Meriem Bennani) solidified my impression that Chicago is an underrated American city. I wish I could have gone back for the Ren’s annual benefit, but why not live vicariously through the museum’s director and chief curator, Myriam Ben Salah, instead?

The kick-off to another Chicago summer.

Our exhibition manager, Pierre Sondeijker, worked with artist-chef Laila Gohar on fabricating her quirky plaster pedestals.

In the spirit of the Ren’s centering of artists in every endeavor, this year we gave carte blanche to a single artist to organize our annual benefit gala (aka RenBen): L.A.-based Piero Golia, who choreographed the entire evening, including bringing in collaborators like Laila Gohar (pictured here) and dancer and choreographer Stephen Galloway as the evening’s M.C.

Stephen Galloway, pictured with performer Anne Hermanson on stilts that she wore the entire night (!).

The armature for Laila Gohar’s tower of asparagus, held by her collaborator Malena. The tower was one of the dinner’s highlights, alongside giant fava beans, butter, fresh bread, and other seemingly simple foods presented so intricately and poetically.

The view outside to the South Shore Cultural Center. The lake is just beyond.

Cakes on cakes on cakes.

Another key highlight of the evening: Piero’s invitation to the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, founded in Chicago.

The evening was elegantly supported by our partner, Gucci.

Back to business: a visit from Diane Severin Nguyen for her talk with literary scholar and theorist Anna Kornbluh. Diane’s show, “If Revolution Is a Sickness,” is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition, and was co-organized with Sculpture Center in New York.

Thank you to Hyung Jung Jun, artist and chef extraordinaire, for a post-RenBen birthday celebration for all of us Geminis on staff! Hyung Jung (@dreamcaketestkitchen) is based in Chicago.

More out-of-town visitors. Here, artist Korakrit Arunanondchai in our offices.

Thank you, most of all, to Piero and to everyone—artists, staff, board, visitors—who make the RenBen what it is.

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