Art has always had an intimate connection with style, as creative expressions told through compelling visuals. And so, as San Francisco’s artistic community came together Wednesday night to honor the work of mixed media artist Kara Walker, it should be no surprise that members of the fashion world would be on hand to help celebrate.
At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Contemporary Vision Award dinner and fundraiser, friends of the museum, patrons and fellow artists came together to explore Walker’s body of work and learn about her motivations and inspirations. Among them were employees from luxury brand Gucci, as well as local representatives from Alexander McQueen.
“Alexander McQueen is an amazing artist, so it makes sense to support the artistic community,” said Chelsea Jon Voudouris, the general manager at the brand’s San Francisco location.
The crowd was mostly dressed in subdued tones. For guests such as private wealth manager and investment adviser Corey Hyde, that meant a stunning black dress with one-shoulder ruffle, courtesy of Maticevski, and gold fingerless Gucci gloves. For others, that meant a lot of black and neutral hues, with the occasional pop of color.
The attire almost looked like a concerted effort to keep distraction to a minimum and ensure attention stayed on the Contemporary Vision Award winner.
The visual sensibility of the scene also hewed to Walker’s art. Her sketches, watercolors, cut-paper installations and other works are often cast in black and white, to tie into her central study of enslavement, racism and other historical — and emotional — facets of the African-American experience. From one to the next, the works evoke powerful themes that still reverberate in today’s society.
Often times, awards events can be more spectacle than anything else, and when there’s a three-course meal, it usually comes with a cacophony of noise. There was none of that within the walls of the museum on Wednesday.
Instead, the attendees remained transfixed as the soft-spoken Walker weighed in about “black art, or art made by African-Americans” and how they may feel that they must “conform to a certain set of rules that are historically based … [that] it shouldn’t conflict with our history, that it should speak to a black audience, that it should speak in a very positive way.” Squaring such perceived limitations with what an artist wants — or needs — to portray could be seen as an act of courage.
If so, then in a modern era whose cultural fabric sees societal and political forces tear at it with renewed vigor, such acts of bravery deserve all the support they can get.
“We’ve been wanting to put our feet in the San Francisco market, in terms of the philanthropic community,” added Cassidy Mehlman, Vondouris’ colleague at Alexander McQueen. “You want to invest in them. And they’ll invest in you.”