Some 600 people were in attendance at the first annual Brooklyn Artists Ball, held Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Museum. Dumbo-based Situ Studio wrapped the Great Hall's columns with white fabric and fitted them with narrow white benches. Perched on one was Fred Wilson, one of three honorees receiving the inaugural Asher B. Durand award, given to contemporary artists who are making a "lasting impact" on the borough. Wilson, dressed superbly as usual, snatched truffled mac and cheese hors d'ouevres from passing trays. "Since I'm an honoree, I'm just going to eat everything."
Wilson does not live in Brooklyn, but has a studio in Bushwick. "I've lived in the East Village for more than 30 years, and there are no artists there now-just a handful. But I really enjoy an artist community. Just being around that kind of life is great."
Fred Wilson, Lorna Simpson and Fred Tomaselli. Photo by Eric Weiss
By contrast, Lorna Simpson, another honoree, has never left Brooklyn. She grew up in the Clinton Hill/Fort Green area, and lives and works there today. Her exhibition "Lorna Simpson: Gathered" is on view in the museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art through Aug. 21. Simpson was at the ball with her tween daughter, Zora. "I like to spend some time in Manhattan and stuff, for a change," reported Zora, "but I wouldn't want to live there."
Sarah Jessica Parker--one of the producers of the reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," whose winner, Abdi Farah, had a show at the museum last August--co-hosted the ball with Liv Tyler. Museum director Arnold Lehman delivered the honors, shouting above the crowd as he handed inscribed block-shaped plaques to outgoing chair Norman M. Feinberg, along with Simpson, Wilson and Fred Tomaselli, the third artist honoree. "I have an award from another museum which is weirdly the same size," said Tomaselli, examining his. "So I'm going to use them as bookends."
Surely this one is more special, given Tomaselli's many years in the borough? "Oh yes," he said. "I moved to Williamsburg in 1985, straight from California, and I still live there. People were perplexed: ‘You moved all the way to New York and you missed Manhattan by three miles? You're a total loser.' But Brooklyn came up in the world."
Sarah Jessica Parker and Stephanie Ingrassia. Photo by Eric Weiss
He added, "I never could understand why Williamsburg's gotten so expensive--it's still kind of shitty. Though the food is really good now." And the parties? "Yeah, well, I don't know anything about that. I'm ancient. I have a 13-year-old son. He can start telling me about parties soon enough-all the raves, and whatever they're going to be doing in the future."
People prepared to leave the cocktail party to attend the dinner. Forty-foot-long tables were fitted with installations--custom-designed candelabras, centerpieces and such--by 16 emerging Brooklyn artists, among them Aleksander Duravcevic, Valerie Hegarty, Angel Otero, Duke Riley, Brian Tolle and Sara VanDerBeek.
Moving furtively through the crowd and darting behind columns as he snapped away was longtime New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. "I'm the only person in New York who will not let Bill photograph them," said Pamela (Mrs. Arthur) Lehman. "We have a deal. He'll always say, ‘Mrs. Lehman, excuse me, will you move out of the way?'"