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The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden got into a New York state of mind for its 40th anniversary on Monday night.

“This is the first time the Hirshhorn is doing a gala in New York City. It’s also the anniversary of my first year at the Hirshhorn Museum,” said the museum’s newest director, Melissa Chiu, speaking from the 68th floor of 4 World Trade Center. The gala had decamped from the nation’s capital and landed instead in Manhattan’s Financial District, a controversial move that drew the ire of several Washington, D.C. art critics. Whether or not its hometown got snubbed, the move paid off: the Hirshhorn set a record for a one-time fundraising event, raising more than $1.5 million even before the hors d’oeuvres started making the rounds.

“I think Melissa is really ushering in a new era for the Hirshhorn,” said Jason Wu, an honorary chair for the gala and friend of Chiu’s. “And she is challenging tradition — I think that’s really exciting.”

To commemorate its four-decade milestone, the Hirshhorn honored 40 contemporary artists (why not?) and quite a wide swathe of them turned up for the party: Marina Abramović, Chuck Close, Shirin Neshat, Lee Ufan, Mark Bradford, Martin Puryear, Anish Kapoor, Lynda Benglis, Lawrence Weiner, to name a few. And what would an art party be without a performance? Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi sang “Walk With Me,” during which they led the crowd — which also included curators and dealers Larry Gagosian, John Auerbach, David Collens and Alex Poots — into dinner.

“I like the Hirshhorn because it sits in the middle of power, and in the middle of that power is culture,” noted L.A.-based artist Bradford, who was recently commissioned by the museum to create a site-specific painting. “It’s great because politics are Washington,” the artist continued, giving D.C.’s art scene a diplomatic shout-out. “So we can be like the unruly kids on the block.”

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