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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Bay Area Treasure Award traditionally goes to artists. But on Thursday, the museum’s Modern Art Council chose to bestow the 15th prize on a titan of the technology world, Jonathan “Jony” Ive, the influential Brit who is Apple’s senior vice president of design.

“Jony Ive is one of the greatest and most influential designers of our time,” said museum director Neal Benezra, as many guests raised their iPhones to capture the moment. “Exquisite design underpins everything he does. He has elevated our lives and our everyday experiences.”

The reserved design guru was unusually emotive as he thanked his coworkers at Apple.

“I’m very grateful and happy with this honor, and I’m accepting it on behalf of my team, who are all here tonight,” he said. “My team today is the same team I started working with in 1996. Everything I do is collaboration.”

The sold-out gala dinner, held at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in the Financial District, drew Dede Wilsey, Heather Ive, Andrew Gn, Randi Fisher, Allison Speer and Trevor and Alexis Traina. In a discussion with the museum’s design curator, Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, and Frances Anderton, a design commentator on NPR, Ive discussed the future of the Apple Watch.

“We have a childlike awe and curiosity about the watch — and we know wearers will find many ingenious and artful ways of using this interactive object,” Ive said. And Apple will no doubt rack up the sales.

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