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The Hammer Museum has announced the particulars of its 12th annual Gala in the Garden, being held this year on Oct. 11. This year’s honorees are Joni Mitchell and artist Mark Bradford. Bottega Veneta will provide sponsorship for the second year running, and, as always, Suzanne Goin of Lucques will treat guests to a catered dinner. A musical performer will be announced shortly.
“It’ll be a time to reflect on how much the museum has changed in a year,” says David Morehouse, director of donor relations, who has helped produce many Hammer galas with Hammer director Ann Philbin and deputy director of advancement Jennifer Wells Green. The museum announced at last year’s gala that museum visitation would be free to visitors starting in February this year, something that has caused attendance numbers to skyrocket, Morehouse says. (“We’ve noticed a 25 percent increase in attendance since going free,” a museum spokesperson confirms.)
Bradford, who was selected as a MacArthur “genius” award winner in 2009, will be opening a show at the museum in 2015. A multimedia artist, the South Los Angeles-born Bradford is best known for his densely layered paintings that make use of collaging techniques. Mitchell, on the other hand, is “a relatively new friend” of the museum’s, says Morehouse, noting her iconic status and her own painting practice as considerations in honoring her. Mitchell has often considered herself a painter first and a musician second, and her artwork has graced the covers of several of her albums, notably a self-portraits on the covers of Clouds (1969) and Ladies of the Canyon (1970), and a figurative abstraction on the cover of Court and Spark (1974). The singer is often shy about awards, even skipping her own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Art historian Sarah Lewis will honor Bradford, and Mitchell’s tribute will be given by Cameron Crowe.
Past honorees have included fashion designer Miuccia Prada, author Joan Didion, architect Frank Gehry, and chef Alice Waters alongside Angeleno artists like Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari. “It’s always a nice pairing,” says Morehouse.
The gala promises to be one of the better and more intimate such affairs in town, says Morehouse. “It’s kind of like a really chic, fun dinner party,” he says of the uniqueness of the event. “We’re fanatical about spend as little of the money we raise on the event. Obviously, we want to have an A-plus night for the people that are coming. It’s really beautiful flowers and whatnot, but in a personal way. We’re lucky we have a beautiful courtyard, and that helps keep expenses down. But we’re not spending money for spending money’s sake. If you’re there, it’s like Annie Philbin and Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta invited you over for a chic dinner party. It’s almost like she’s been there a few hours before, whipping it up herself.”
Plus they have one secret weapon. “We have really great food,” Morehouse says. “Lucques, we were their first catering gig 12 years ago; now they have a huge catering business. It’s novel to go to an event like this and eat good food. We’ve been lucky.”
Morehouse credits seeing eye-to-eye with sponsor Bottega Veneta as a boon to the night. “They get that this gala has a wonderful reputation, so they said do exactly what we’re doing,” says Morehouse. “Other brands want a step-and-repeat and a hundred celebrities. It’s all very light touch and elegant. Our people, who are very sophisticated, really appreciate that nothing’s being shoved down their throats.”
That being said, celebrities are a factor in the evening — this year’s co-chairs of the event are Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, and Danna and Ed Ruscha. Last year’s attendees included Viola Davis, Jodie Foster, Will Ferrell, and Diane Kruger. Ferrell filled in for Tom Hanks, who was unable to attend last year, coming out in a Hanks costume with Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson, for a hilarious address.
Last year’s gala raised $2 million for the museum, and Morehouse says that they’ve already broken that record.
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