MoMA President Emerita's Art for Justice Celebrated at Frieze L.A. Kickoff Event

ONE TIME USE_Jim Cuno, Maria Hummer-Tuttle, Catherine Gund, Ariel Emanuel, Bettina Korek - Publicity - H 2020
Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com

"We can advance the conversation around criminal justice reform this year," Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel said at the private Getty Center event.

Frieze Week L.A. kicked off at the Getty Center with a private event Monday night.

Marking the art fair's second run in L.A., the event honored the Art for Justice Fund founded by Museum of Modern Art president emerita Agnes Gund. Proceeds from the initiative went toward mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust James Cuno spoke highly of Gund — who was unable to attend — for her dedication to both philanthropy and art. “[Gund] was convinced that the arts could play a very important role in helping people transition to a better life,” Cuno told THR. “She thought that the arts could serve this purpose so she did an extraordinary thing which was to sell one of her prized possessions, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein, and dedicate that money to Art for Justice.”

Guests were welcomed to a reception where they were served hors d'oeuvres and champagne, followed by a panel discussion and performance. Actress and writer Liza Jessie Peterson opened the evening with a monologue from her play Peculiar Patriot. She played a woman who was passionately explaining to her friend in prison about the causes of mass incarceration.

Peterson’s experience as an art teacher for teens in Rikers Island inspired her to create this play, which was possible thanks to Art for Justice.

Gund’s daughter Catherine moderated a panel of artists and advocates including Tyra Patterson, Dwayne Betts and Hank Willis Thomas. They shared their stories of being in prison and its impact on their lives.

Betts said he attended Yale Law school because he believed that it would make him a “full citizen” in society. However, his record still caused his character to be questioned despite his credentials. “It worked out for me but it did some residual harm.... In Invisible Man where the main character hands in his recommendation...I feel like that cat where I have this letter and every time I go to the office people open it and see it says felon and because it says that, they got their marching orders. Keep them running,” Betts said.

Endeavor's CEO Ari Emanuel made closing remarks as the company has a majority stake in Frieze. He recalled visiting the California State Prison and meeting artists from the organization. “It was an experience I'll never forget. They were an amazing group of people that had great spirit in them.” Emanuel said. “I knew that working with them and other artists, we can advance the conversation around criminal justice reform this year.”

He then called upon Romola Ratnam, the head of the Endeavor Foundation, to announce two programs that they will implement to help the cause. This first is “Out of Bounds,” an exhibition of artists in custody at the California State Prison. The second is the Frieze Impact Prize, which goes to artists who contribute to mass incarceration reform. The winner will be presented at Frieze New York and awarded a $25,000 grant.

Frieze week will continue Feb.14-16.