Christie's Fall Preview and L.A. Dance Project Take Over UTA Artist Space

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Benjamin Millepied and Natalie Portman

Choreographer Benjamin Millepied chats about his wife, Natalie Portman, his rocky tenure at Paris Opera Ballet and the future of L.A. Dance Project.

L.A. Dance Project co-founder Benjamin Millepied is hoping for a repeat performance.

The last time his wife, Natalie Portman, was pregnant, she won an Oscar for Black Swan, the movie on which the two met. And as awards season approaches, she’s pregnant again and appears likely to be nominated for her portrayal of Jacqueline Onassis in Jackie, in theaters Dec. 2.

“She made a really good work of art and the film is great and she’s terrific in it. It’s great if people see it and it gets noticed. I think it’s an exceptional film,” Millepied told The Hollywood Reporter at the Christie’s New York Fall Auction Highlights event Saturday night at UTA Artist Space in Boyle Heights.

Like a lucky charm, Andy Warhol’s Jackie, a portrait of the former first lady that's valued at roughly $1 million, was hanging on the wall at the event, which also featured a performance from members of L.A. Dance Project.

Dancers Aaron Carr, Nathan B. Makolandra and Rachelle Rafailedes performed short pieces by Millepied, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, modern dance masters whose careers coincide conveniently with the years in which the artworks around them were created. Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat are just some of the artists represented among the 34 works on display through Oct. 24, with a large-scale abstract by Gerhard Richter, "Abstraktes Bild (809-2)" — from the collection of Eric Clapton — looking to fetch $25 million at auction on Nov. 15 in New York.

Among the deep-pocketed collectors present were UTA Chairman Jim Berkus, Paul Schimmel of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and CAA founding partner Steven Roth, father of UTA Fine Arts Division’s Josh Roth, who is married to Christie’s SoCal managing director, Sonya Roth. When UTA opened the space last month with a show of photos by Larry Clark, the agency went out of its way to make sure the space wasn’t referred to as a gallery. It was to be a place where clients or friends could perform, stage readings, hang artwork or even dance.

For Millepied, the event represented a homecoming after a turbulent year and a half as Paris Opera Ballet director of dance. He officially left the position in July over creative differences with the venerable company, the world’s oldest, dating to 1669.

“Dance has changed. We live in a different era,” Millepied said. “I think a perfect venue for dance today isn’t a 1,500-seat theater.” Trained in the U.S. since the age of 15, the 39-year-old joined the New York City Ballet in 1995 and became principal dancer seven years later, before leaving in 2011 to co-found L.A. Dance Project.

Up until Millepied's departure for Paris in 2014, the company's track record was enviable in a city like L.A., where dance has struggled to find an audience. Invisible Cities, a 2013 collaboration with alt-opera group, The Industry, was a Pulitzer finalist. A year later, he staged several well-received performances in downtown’s Theatre at Ace Hotel, working with artists Barbara Kruger and Sterling Ruby. Millepied is looking forward to future collaborations with Rufus Wainwright on his aptly-titled Homecoming — making its world premiere Dec. 9 and 10 at Theatre at Ace Hotel — and Mark Bradford, who provides a backdrop for On the Other Side, set to piano etudes by Philip Glass.

“I’m absolutely working on a musical,” Millepied hints about an upcoming film project. In the past, he has directed and choreographed short films and commercials, but this will be his first feature. “There will also be some really exciting projects in the next year that aren’t what you’d expect. I also think it’s important for us to think about experimenting a little bit with the kind of work we put on.”

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