SRO FOR THE WHITNEY: “They’re never going to get this crowd to sit down.” That prediction proved true at the Whitney’s American Art Awards Wednesday night. Blame it on the selfie-friendly Warholian aluminum foil-covered walls or the fact that art-gazing is not a sedentary pursuit, but guests preferred to stand and gab. Eventually, the 325-person crowd was corralled into dinner at the High Line Stages in time to honor Dorothy Lichtenstein, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Maramotti family of Max Mara. And the event raised $1.7 million for the museum.
Honorary chairs Bob Colacello, Agnes Gund and Jane Holzer — as well as the dinner’s chairs Susan and John Hess and Brooke and Daniel Neidich — helped wrangle such artists and art lovers as E.V. Day, Larry Gagosian, Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, Jeff Koons, Rainer Judd, David Zwirner, Giovanna Battaglia, John McEnroe and a Heidi Klum-less Vito Schnabel. In between courses, Maria Giulia Maramotti and other devotees lined up patiently to have a word with Lichtenstein. (McEnroe was so intent to get back to his table that he moved a stranger out of the way by her shoulders.)
This story first appeared in the May 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At the podium, Lichtenstein drew a cheer by reminding the room that the Whitney is moving into a Renzo Piano-designed space in her downtown zip code. Afterward, she spoke of what her notoriously shy husband would have made of being honored. “Roy was a realist,” she said. “I think he would have liked it for a platform for something else, for something that really mattered.”
Her fellow prizewinner Joel Wachs, the Andy Warhol Foundation’s president, spoke of a similar mind-set. His group has doled out more than $250 million in grants to artists and nonprofit art organizations in 50 states, and it has donated 51,000-plus works of Warhol art to 331 U.S. museums.
For her part, Maramotti clued in guests to the fact that in 2007 her family’s business transformed an old Max Mara factory into a museum to share its art with the public. The company also awards the Maz Mara Art Prize for Women through a collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery. After picking up her family’s Josephine Meckseper-made award, Maramotti wasn’t sure what she was most excited about. “Aside from being honored with the Andy Warhol Foundation and Dorothy Lichtenstein?” she asked excitedly. “I mean my grandfather started the collection in the early Seventies so for us to be awarded by an American museum, which is one of the greatest museums ever, is really pleasant. As you can imagine there is a lot of pressure on the third generation, but on the other hand we continue the passion for art. This is something I feel very strongly about.”