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High above the smoggy city in the newly renovated “Infinity” tennis court (named so because one edge of it appears to drop off a cliff like an infinity pool) of the Sheats-Goldstein House — a John Lautner house in Beverly Hills owned by a very eccentric moneyed man named James Goldstein — the MAK Center for Art and Architecture held its first annual MAK Games, sponsored by Maison Martin Margiela and Taslimi Construction, on Oct. 26. The tennis tournament, which raised funds for the center to continue its work promoting a dialogue between contemporary art and architecture, provided an opportunity to see a select group of L.A. art and film world denizens show off their skills on the court.
Several matches — LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans and Viveca Paulin-Ferrell (Will Ferrell’s auctioneer wife) vs. contemporary artist Friedrich Kunath and his partner, Perry Rubenstein gallery director William Hathaway, for instance — went down to the wire as guests cheered while snacking on Baby Blues BBQ and Cool Haus’ fittingly architectural-themed ice cream sandwiches (they’re named after Rem Koolhaus, after all) and drinking Grey Goose Vodka cocktails and Steigl Austrian beer. “We’ve been demoted,” said Paulin-Ferrell, after she and Sirmans were beaten, which sent them into the losers’ bracket.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) displayed his competitive streak, winning the whole shebang with his partner, Grammy-winning artist and producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse). “I haven’t played competitively since I was 17 on clay courts in Kentucky,” quipped Gaghan, whose sharp service helped him and Burton beat the team of artists Benjamin Weismann and Gunner Fox.
“Gaghan put the pressure on me to participate. He said, ‘Don’t be an asshole,’” said Burton, laughing. “I haven’t really played since high school.”
Added Sirmans, a sporting enthusiast who is curating a soccer-themed art show for LACMA in February 2014, “Tennis is about footwork and putting yourself in the right position. In that way, it’s similar to football.” He went on to praise the MAK Center, which puts on architecture-themed exhibitions at its Schindler House location in West Hollywood.
Guests included fashion personality Cameron Silver, writer Rose Apodaca, artist Doug Aitken, architects Ron Radziner (Marmol Radziner), Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee (Johnston Marklee), and Lautner disciple Duncan Nicholson, who built the tennis court and is currently working on Club James, Goldstein’s private nightclub beneath the home.
“We’re a little nerdy and avant-garde,” said MAK Center Los Angeles director Kimberli Meyer, “so it’s good to see these stylish, sporting new supporters. The Games helps us keep the doors open — we oversee three Schindler Houses and organize architectural tours — and keeps our programming fund stocked.”
One of those supporters is MAK Game co-host Esther Kim Varet, who runs edgy Venice art space Various Small Fires and who sits on the MAK Center board. “When my husband [media entrepreneur Joseph Varet] and I moved to Los Angeles from New York three years ago, we noticed L.A. was much more architectural than New York,” she said. “People use architects here and have much more of a dialogue than in New York. In fact, I’m working with an architect to build a gallery in Hollywood.”
She continued, “This is MAK Center’s first public event — it is a young organization, and this is a good way to help bring it to maturity.”
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