The Carnegie International is without question the most important event in our art world, and, by extension, the Gala Premiere and Opening Night Event is the party to top all art parties. And so it was Friday when more than 1,600 guests poured into Carnegie Museum for a first glimpse of an exhibition that was three years in the making.
The energy was palpable throughout the evening, in part because the three-tiered gala was designed as a continuous flow of activities. The first wave of VIPs gathered in the Music Hall foyer for welcome remarks by CMA director Lynn Zelevansky and board chair Marty McGuinn, an introduction of curators Dan Byers, Tina Kukielski and Daniel Baumann, and a thank-you to the Friends of the Carnegie International, who raised more than $800,000. A second group of big ticket patrons was greeted by a red carpet and strands of gold pennants strung across the ceiling, a nod to the re-installation of the Playground Project.
In a break from previous Internationals, a buffet instead of a seated dinner was served, allowing guests to dine at their leisure, either before or after they previewed the exhibition. It also meant more mingling with the artists and other visitors at tables scattered throughout the halls. Bill Jones and his staff from Parkhurst did an outstanding job with a menu of braised short ribs, poached salmon cakes, a delicious Mediterranean orzo salad and many more offerings -- no mean feat when you're serving an army of 900.
When it was time for dessert, another 700 guests arrived for cocktails in the Scaife lobby before migrating back to the Music Hall, where a high stage, with a bevy of bars cleverly located beneath, was the setting for a performance by spooky drag queen Sharon Needles. More out than outrageous, she emerged from a coffin and scared a lot of people away. But to be fair, the poor acoustics in that marble cavern were also to blame.
The vitality and sense of play that permeate the International were evident throughout the gala, which was simply great fun. The terrific people-watching, with a crowd that ranged from black-tie to funky, was a show in itself. The loose structure and innovative use of space (a tent was erected over the Carriage Drive for the buffet, for instance) lent a freshness to the evening. Enormous credit for orchestrating such a huge undertaking goes to gala chairs Nancy Byrnes, Kitty Hillman and Jessica O'Brien and the other members of the CMA Women's Committee.
Among the many having a swell time were Women's Committee president Susan Block with husband John, Maja Oeri, Alan and Barbara Ackerman, Marcia Gumberg with Ina and Larry Gumberg, Jim and Karen Johnson, Pam and Ken McCrory, David and Gabriela Porges, Bill and Vivian Benter, Wallis and Marshall Katz, Bill and Janet Hunt, Jeff and Jacqui Morby, Alice Snyder, Jane and Harry Thompson, Debbie Demchak, Dr. Fred and Katy Sherman, Steve and Peggy McKnight, Damian and Terri Soffer, Barbara Barry, Chip and Lynn Desmone, Gary Carlough and Anne Chen, Richard and Maureen Burkland and Will and Pam Burkland, Dawn and Chris Fleischner and Sara Scaife.
Also there were David Hillman with Lila Swan, Becky Snyder, Jeff and Sheryl Broadhurst, Lloyd and Mary Margaret Stamy, Dr. Helene Finegold, Matt and Melissa Ferrari, Woody and Nancy Ostrow, Barbara Mendlowitz, Rhoda Neft, Jack and Ellen Kessler, Kathe and Jim Patrinos, Pam Bryan, Bernita Buncher and Bill Fetter, Jennifer Muse, Dr. Bill and Natalie Hoffman, Milt and Nancy Washington, Henry and Colleen Simonds, Dave and Brenda Roger, Anne Stone, Thommy Conroy, Clare Westwood with Eric Werner, Evan and Holly Frazier, Steve Mendelson and the Warhol's Eric Shiner.
First Published October 7, 2013 8:00 PM