Wednesday night’s Guggenheim International Gala was a bittersweet affair. On one hand, it was an opportunity for the museum’s supporters to take in the recent Alex Katz retrospective “Gathering” after hours; on another, the evening marked the conclusion of Dior’s 10-year sponsorship of the event, and the forthcoming departure of Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong after 14 years with the museum.
Guests including Thuso Mbedu; Rachel Brosnahan — who recently finished filming the final season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; “Rosaline” star Isabela Merced; Dior beauty ambassadors Christian Serratos and Nina Dobrev; Alexandria Daddario, and Maye Musk all donned Dior looks for the occasion.
“I love doing things I’m not supposed to do, like have dinners at museums,” said Dobrev, making her way up the rotunda inside the Guggenheim Museum with beau Shaun White during the pre-dinner exhibition viewing and cocktail hour. “Normally you’re not allowed, and it’s very dangerous and exciting. And we obviously love the brand and we love this museum, it’s such a beautiful space.”
“I’ve never been here before, so I was very excited,” added White, glancing at Katz’s paintings lining the walls. “First time. Just taking it all in.”
Artists populating the spiraling rotunda path included Dior collaborators like Mickalene Thomas and architect Peter Marino, Rashid Johnson, Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool and Nick Cave, who has an exhibition opening at the Guggenheim on Nov. 18.
Armstrong and Dior were the evening’s honorees, a fitting homage to celebrate the decade-long partnership.
“It’s the last time I’ll be here, at least in a free position,” said Armstrong during dinner, the statement met with booing from at least one table sad to see the leader depart. “Dior’s been an amazing partner over these 10 years,” he added. “It’s rare that you have a partner who has even higher aesthetic demands than you have as an art museum, but that’s true of Dior and we find them to be the perfect partner for us.”
“Look at this space: there’s nowhere better to host an event than this iconic rotunda,” said New York-based Marisa Pucci, senior vice president communications and image, Christian Dior Couture and Parfums Christian Dior, who joined the company 10 years ago shortly before the inaugural gala. With a splashy opening celebration for Dior’s collaboration with Harrods in London set for the following day, Dior’s Paris-based executives including creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari were unable to make the international flight, but offered parting words via video during dinner.
After chef Rōze Traore’s main course was served, curator Naomi Beckwith offered a heartfelt tribute for Armstrong. The evening culminated with a performance by Norah Jones, which left much of the crowd captivated. Merced cheered the pianist and singer on throughout, and was one of the first to offer Jones a standing ovation at the conclusion of her set. “Yes queen! Wow,” said the young actress, her exclamation soon drowned out by applause.
It’s certainly a hard act to follow. Which brand will be up for the challenge next?