The Museum of Arts and Design’s virtual MAD Ball kicked off with cocktail hour and cake.

The crowd included many of the museum’s longtime supporters, including Sybil Yurman, MAD trustee Mike De Paola, Barbara Tober (“We actually used to get in person for parties,” Tober said, when one guest asked how everyone knew each other), and Caledonia Curry, the artist otherwise known as Swoon. “Caledonia Curry! Love you. U make me swoon,” wrote Guild Hall’s Andrea Grover within Zoom’s group chat.

Shortly before the program started, Kathleen Landy — founder of The Feminist Institute, an event sponsor — showed off an impressive cake replica of Judy Chicago’s Lady Dior bag collaboration. (Guests could also bid on a nonedible version of the bag, on offer in MAD’s auction.) Chicago was this year’s MAD Ball honoree, and the artist was among the 100-plus guests who logged on for the digital celebration.

The evening navigated the usual technical difficulties of Zoom — some guests had difficulty hearing host Mx Justin Vivian Bond, or forgot to mute themselves; speakers encountered sound and video delays. But an authentic joy cut through all of that: everyone seemed genuinely excited to be logged on to celebrate the museum.

While the event featured a pre-taped interview with Chicago, the artist was live on the call to accept her honor. Following an introduction delivered by Swoon (and musical tribute sung by Rosanne Cash), one of the guests celebrating with Chicago outdoors in New Mexico bestowed the artist with a crown.

“I don’t exactly know how to feel about being crowned,” said Chicago, growing emotional. “I have gotten a number of awards and I have to say, this tops them all.

“I also have to say that by and large, as much as I am pleased by MAD’s desire to honor me, awards don’t mean that much to me. But what has meant something to me is to help MAD, because that has always been my goal, to make a major contribution,” she continued. “But I got to say that hearing Swoon [Caledonia Curry] talk about me brought tears to my eyes…the fact that I’ve been able to open a space for you and young people means everything to me. As gorgeous as this crown is, that’s the great reward.”

In November, Jeffrey Deitch will present an exhibition of the 11 appliqué, handmade brocade and velvet banners that Chicago created in collaboration with Dior for the house’s spring 2020 couture collection.

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