On November 5, the Hirshhorn — D.C.’s doughnut-shaped national museum of modern and contemporary art — held its annual Manhattan fundraising dunk among the collectors, dealers, and art makers of New York, at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center. The theme for the event this year — and there is always a theme; last year celebrated women artists — was “Creative Couples and Duos.” This gave them a bit of flexibility, allowing for romantic partnerships (Alba and Francesco Clemente; Ugo Rondinone and John Giorno) to be honored along with twin brothers Simon and Nikolai Haas (who make art as the Haas Brothers.)
“Our inspiration for the theme was that collaborative efforts around creativity seem to be so much more important to artists today than perhaps ever before and we wanted to recognize that,” says the museum’s director, Melissa Chiu. Was there ever a particular art couple she’s been personally most fascinated with? “A couple that I have always been interested in was Riopelle and Joan Mitchell, seeing how their work inspired on another—seeing their paintings evolve,” Chiu says, speaking of the hard-living late painter and her longtime lover, artist Jean-Paul Riopelle. Mitchell, as New York’s Mark Stevens once wrote “battled her lovers, drank away her nights, and maligned her rivals with unbridled ferocity.” So don’t fret, this was a celebration of productive creativity, not merely boring conjugal bliss.
For their part, the ridiculously charming couple sitting next to me — artists Liz Magic Laser and Sanya Kantarovsky (who was wearing the suit he wore to get married in, he said) — didn’t seem in a Riopelle-Mitchell bohemian romantic death match. They were more worried about getting home in time for their babysitter. They were nice enough to crack open one of their matching gift-cakes, that all the honored duos were given, to let us all have a chunk.
The evening culminated with artist Morgan Bassichis, who was a part of the Hirshhorn’s live performance exhibition Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? this past summer, sitting onstage, wearing polka-dot shirt and socks, with two of the honorees, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein, asking, among other things, if he could be adopted by them. Feinstein seemed more willing to indulge the idea than Currin did, but then again she also admitted she’d not bothered to tell her husband beforehand that they had to go up onstage. (Some of the more on-edge liberals in the audience noted there was a bit of an irony of having that couple on stage on the eve of the midterms, having not forgiven them for given declaring their libertarian politics a few years back.)
Beforehand, Seen’s Lucas Michael captured the couples and duos (and one theoretical throuple!) on Polaroid.