“It’s the polar opposite, isn’t it?” said Camilla Belle, as she was scanning the room on Thursday night at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Seated all around Belle in the rotunda, save for a few PYTs — Zoë Kravitz, Leelee Sobieski, Olympia Scarry — were some of the éminences grises of the art, philanthropy and fashion worlds: Sidney Toledano, the chief executive of Christian Dior; the real estate developers William Mack and Harry Macklowe; the architect Peter Marino; the artist Alex Katz and art dealer Larry Gagosian, who must have been taking a break from the fall auctions.
It was the second night of the very extravagant Guggenheim International Gala, which raises money for its foundation — $2.1 million this year. The gala honored photographer Carrie Mae Weems, the Chinese artist Wang Jianwei and the founders of the German artist group Zero: Heinz Mack, Günther Uecker and the late Otto Piene.
Suspended high above the rotunda, Piene’s work was projected in alternating flashes on a spectacular white inflatable balloon of his design.
Belle had been here the night before, when the museum threw a pre-party for those youngsters who couldn’t afford Thursday’s $30,000-a-table prices. That meant that dozens of members of the Guggenheim’s Young Collectors Council got to rub shoulders with the likes of Marion Cotillard, A$AP Rocky, Karlie Kloss, Lauren Santo Domingo, John Cameron Mitchell and the diminutive “Transformers” star Nicola Peltz. From several levels of the museum, the crowd took in a performance by the British indie band The xx.
“Last night was a little more rock ’n’ roll,” Belle continued, before taking her seat beside Toledano. The actress was there at the invitation of the executive and Christian Dior, which, since last year, has taken it upon itself to make all this happen. Like other luxury fashion brands, especially within LVMH, Dior has sought to find common ground with the world of art as the company seeks to project itself as more than just a purveyor of luxury goods. Of all the benefits that Dior may see from its association with the Guggenheim, one was plainly evident to Raf Simons.
“This is an established institution,” he said. “Dior is an established house. The evening last night was important to have another generation pulled in, just like I want to pull in another generation into Dior. It’s a drive for me to have these two generations communicate.”
He chose the young band with that in mind. Surprisingly, Toledano, who seems more like a Johnny Hallyday fan, was saying he enjoyed The xx show when one of its members, Romy Madley Croft, walked up to him.
“My kids — they’re not kids anymore — told me about you two weeks ago, when I heard you’d be coming,” he told the singer. “So, when I travel, I’ve been hearing your songs on my iPhone, on Spotify or whatever.”
His — and by exension, the brand’s — relationship with the museum was deepened earlier this year, when he was elected to its board of trustees. The executive, who was on the tail end of a world tour that included Seoul, Tokyo and, on Tuesday, a new store opening in New York, sees only an upside in the alignment of their mutual interests.
“The only thing I know is that it works together: the idea of modernity of the museum’s and the artists it represents works with my team, and it works with Raf because [they are] the artists he likes. There’s a good synergy between both,” he said.
It doesn’t hurt that the Guggenheim dovetails seamlessly with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s larger commitment to the arts and architecture. “I’m sure if Mr. Wright would have met Mr. Arnault in the past, they would have done something together,” he said.
Now, there’s an idea. What would Arnault have cooked up with Wright? Simons, who was not too far away, was intrigued.
“I’m a bit disappointed you don’t ask what Frank Lloyd Wright would have done with Dior,” he said. “I’m sure that Mr. Arnault would have given him all the possibilities, but I would be fascinated to know what he would have done with very little possibilities.”