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At the sold-out annual gala of MOCA on Saturday night, April 15, Keanu Reeves and his girlfriend artist Alexandra Grant, walked the red carpet and shared a kiss in front of the phalanx of photographers, before joining around 600 other guests inside the museum’s Geffen Contemporary building in downtown L.A.
During the cocktail hour, attendees — who also included Tiffany Haddish, Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison, Paramount Animation chief Ramsey Ann Naito and Reeves’ one-time Bill and Ted co-star Alex Winter, Jennifer Tilly, Lisa Edelstein, David and Susan Gersh, producers Lawrence Bender and Carolyn Folks, and CAA’s Joel Lubin — got the first look at MOCA’s new exhibit, Carl Craig: Party/After-Party, an immersive soundscape and light installation, ahead of its opening today. “It’s so intense and the vibrations are so strong, that you can’t even hang art in the adjacent building,” MOCA director Johanna Burton told THR of the show.
Running through July 23, the exhibit is the creation of DJ and music producer Carl Craig. Burton said the show brings together themes of both celebration and alienation. “It’s a 30-minute immersive experience — this idea that in 30 minutes you experience the revelry of a party and then the kind of after-party feeling where you’ve been out dancing all night and people start to drift away,” said Burton, who joined the museum in late 2021.
During the cocktail hour, guests snapped photos of each other inside Party/After-Party, where loud techno music pulsed and crescendoed, beams of LED light changed colors and a large central chandelier-like light fixture hung over an X on the floor, creating a focal point inside the hulking warehouse space.
Many attendees donned sequined and beaded outfits with one gala guest, Lauren Nathanson, wearing a pink tulle skirt with white lights woven into it, all in keeping with the evening’s dress code. “Our attire is called Catch the Light in honor of Carl Craig,” said MOCA trustee and Advancement Committee co-chair Terri Smooke, adding that, “Frankly, the way the world has changed, we’re trying to catch whatever light there is out there.”
During dinner, where spring panzanella salad, branzino and sticky toffee olive-oil cake by Savore were served, Burton gave remarks and shared that MOCA’s next big show of works from the permanent collection will take over the museum’s entire Grand Avenue space. “We’re really digging deep into our world class extraordinary collection,” said Burton. Other upcoming exhibitions will include spotights on artists Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio and Josh Kline.
In a video montage, MOCA also thanked artists Mark Bradford and Catherine Opie, who are ending their runs as museum board members, for their service to the arts institution. “You know what makes MOCA so different from so many museums [is that] we were created as the artists museum. Artists are a part of our board. Artists are part of our philosophy, our decision-making and our direction,” said Smooke.
Among the artists on hand to celebrate MOCA at the gala were Karon Davis, Martine Syms, Betye and Alison Saar, Mark Grotjahn and Christina Quarles (who both serve on the museum’s board), Elliott Hundley, Max Hooper Schneider, Tala Madani, Kim DeJesus, Diedrick Brackens, Andrea Bowers, Charles Gaines, Paul McCarthy, Jonas Wood, Lara Schnitger, Jordan Wolfson, Mary Weatherford, Mungo Thomson, Edgar Arceneaux and Henry Taylor. Taylor’s critically acclaimed show, Henry Taylor: B Side, is in its final few days at MOCA, closing April 30.
Finishing out the gala evening (which was presented by Tiffany & Co.), jazz singer Samara Joy, who won best new artist the Grammy Awards earlier this year, came out to sing a three-song set, wowing the crowd with her powerful vocals. “MOCA has a history of bringing in musical artists right before they become huge,” said museum board president and Advancement Committee co-chair Carolyn Clark Powers, noting past gala entertainers Lady Gaga and Janelle Monaé.
THR also spotted gallerists Tanya Bonakdar, Anat Ebgi, Tim Blum of Blum & Poe and Esther Kim Varet of Various Small Fires in the crowd, which swelled after the gala dinner with new arrivals showing up for an after-party, which included additional opportunities to check out Carl Craig’s installation.
The evening raised $2.7 million to support the museum’s exhibitions, education initiatives and programming.
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