Last night's spring gala and auction honored Gilbert & George as well as philanthropists Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis. The celebration took over the top floor of 7 World Trade Center, which offers panoramic views of the entirety of Manhattan from a gutted office environment. The artist duo jokingly pointed out that while they were being honored by the New Museum, they had never shown there. "We only know it from the outside. But I've heard that it's very successful," George told me.  Gilbert responded: "We're very jealous."

The pair returned to New York for the occasion, after a three-year hiatus (the last time they were in the city was for the opening of their retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2008). The New Museum had a kind of animal appeal: "There's a very high attendance, we've heard," said George. "Everyone likes to be loved. We're the same."

For his part, Jeff Koons has a long history inside, most recently as curator of the exhibition "Skin Fruit." "I've always loved the museum," he told A.i.A. "The first one-man show I felt I ever had was in the window at the New Museum when it was on 14th Street, in 1980."

I spotted photographer Bill Cunningham, fresh from a run at Film Forum of the celebrated 2010 documentary about him by Richard Press. He paid special attention to a pair of polka-dot heels and sheer stockings, and printed cocktail dresses. Ever deferent, he led me to Gregory Crewdson, whose studio is in the neighborhood. Crewdson laughed, "I drive by the new museum every single day to drop off my daughter at school in Brooklyn. So that's my primary relationship with it. I drive by it."

The event raised some $1.3 million. Whatever their connections to the museum, benefit-goers bit at the auction, led by Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art. A photographic portrait by Chuck Close, commissioned especially for the event, went for $250,000. An edition of 30 unique collages by Josh Smith sold out.


PHOTO: Nicholas Hunt / PatrickMcMullan.com