Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Brad Grey Celebrate LACMA's 50th Birthday

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Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin at the LACMA gala

Attendees at Saturday's gala event were split 50-50 between top-tier entertainment executives and stars from the art world.

A 50th birthday is cause for a major celebration, and not only did LACMA pause to toast its golden anniversary on Saturday night, but the museum also opened its doors for the biggest and most glamorous art party of the year. The event also served as the launch of an exhibition of promised gifts, entitled 50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA's Anniversary.

The names that came out for the dramatic affair were appropriately divided 50-50 between celebrities from the art world and those from the entertainment industry. Museum director Michael Govan has made a concerted effort during his tenure at the museum to embrace the entertainment industry, and it showed on Saturday, thanks to an A-list roster of industry execs and celebs including Will Ferrell and wife and LACMA trustee Viveca Paulin, Jim CarreyNaomi Watts and Liev Schreiber.

The industry front included such big names as Bob Iger with Willow Bay, Brad Grey with Cassandra GreyJimmy Iovine with Liberty RossTed Sarandos with Nicole Avant, Ryan SeacrestBrian Grazer, Steven and Krista LevitanBryan Lourd with Bruce BozziJason ReitmanLawrence BenderSteve Tisch and Sherry Lansing.

Other Tinseltown notables in attendance were Julie Bowen, Laura Dern, Dustin and Lisa HoffmanAnjelica Huston, Armie Hammer, Barbara DavisJami Gertz and Irena Medavoy.

Art stars in attendance included Ed RuschaCatherine Opie, Barbara KrugerMark Grotjahn, Gagosian Gallery director Deborah McLeod, curator Paul Schimmel, MOCA director Philippe Vergne and Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin, along with event co-chairs and LACMA trustees Ann Colgin, Jane Nathanson and Lynda Resnick.

Brad and Cassandra Grey at the LACMA gala

The night was full of drama (and bubbles from Krug Champagne), starting with the drummers and aerial dancers whom guests first encountered as they arrived close to 7 p.m. beside the Chris Burden sculpture Urban Light. The entrance to the Resnick Pavilion and the 50 for 50 exhibition was shrouded up until the dramatic unveiling of the installation consisting of promised gifts to the museum. The show 50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA's Anniversary features works of art that hail from the 15th to the 21st centuries and will be on view to the public beginning April 26.

Sponsored by Christie's, the evening concluded with a glamorous dinner, featuring a performance by Seal; a breathtaking turn by Australian performance troupe Strange Fruit, which entertained the crowd with a circus-style show on stilts; and a grand finale from the Vocal Music Association of Burbank's John Burroughs High School that consisted of a "Happy Birthday" serenade.

In further celebration of the museum’s 50 years in operation, LACMA will present a series of events for the public throughout the month.  On Sunday, April 26, LACMA will host a 50th Anniversary Community Free Day. The day of free museumwide admission will conclude with a free performance by the Los Angeles Pierce Symphonic Winds in LACMA's Bing Theater.

THR asked gala attendees about their first memory of the museum or their recollection of a significant moment with a particular work or exhibition that stayed with them. Following is a selection of responses from the night's most notable attendees.

Jim Carrey at the LACMA gala

Jim Carrey: I was stuck in the tar pits and Brian [Grazer] pulled me out. Thank God. My nose was just going under when Brian reached for me. I actually don’t remember the first time I came here; I think I was high. But I loved the James Turrell exhibit. That was amazing. It didn’t change my life. In a relative sense, maybe there was a blip on the screen, but in an absolute sense, I don’t even know what my life is. It can’t be changed.

Bob Iger: I first came to LACMA in the late '80s. But my wife is on the board now, so I come a lot more often, and not just because of that, but because LACMA has grown in such extraordinary ways — not just from an architectural perspective but from an art perspective. We like to come often and appreciate all this great art.

Willow Bay: You walk through those lamps, and you just know that you’ve reached a special place and a place that has become a city center in many ways. It certainly wasn’t, not too many years ago. Those lamps signal extraordinary energy and excitement, and it’s a beautiful piece of art that is also welcoming.

Viveca Paulin: The best part of coming here is bringing my three kids here and letting them just kind of wander and see what they love. I loved this Variations show on abstract painting that Franklin Sirmans put together. And my kids loved the Samurai show — I think we saw it four times. And their school brought them, and they got so excited about it that they started looking around at other things. There is something fun about opening your eyes to something new that you don’t know anything about.

Ted Sarandos: I’ve been 100 times, but one of the highlights was bringing my kids to the Tim Burton [exhibit]. They were blown away. That exhibit got them over the hump [of going to the museum], and now they come all the time. We come about once a month. To me, the evolution of LACMA since I’ve been here is exciting. L.A. seemed to be free of an arts scene, but in the last five years, there’s been a huge improvement.

Ryan Seacrest: I drove by this for the past 10 years because my office is there [points down Wilshire Boulevard], so I came for the first time 10 years ago. I can’t remember anything because I was art-dumb at the time and naive, but I’ve fallen in love with the place. This is a landmark, a global landmark. Not only a destination for those of us in L.A. County, but for anyone who loves art.

Brad Grey: I came here for the first time about 20-some-odd years ago and started to bring my kids. There have been so many memorable exhibits, but the one that comes to mind, most recently, is the Turrell exhibit. I thought it was astonishing. It’s an extraordinary institution, and we’re happy to be a part of it.

Cassandra Grey: I’m much newer to Los Angeles, and I think the first time I came was for an event, the Film+Art Gala. But I also really enjoyed the Turrell exhibit. I came three times because it was such an experience.

Jimmy Iovine: I’ve been here so many times, I don’t remember the first one. But I came to see Turrell here, which I really loved. It was magnificent. That was the best we’ve seen here.

Brian Grazer: We think Michael Govan has done the most outstanding job. I met him on his first day, actually. He surprised me — I signed up [to give] for 10 years — I have never done something like that before.

Steve Levitan: I particularly liked the James Turrell exhibit. We came at a wonderful time, and we got to go into the tank and experience that, and it was really, really memorable. Amongst many that we’ve seen, that one stands out.

Krista Levitan: After seeing the Turrell, we came out different people than when we went in. It was life-changing. He created something with science and art, and it left you in awe of this man and all of the things he was doing to you. It was amazing.

Ann Colgin: I have to say that one of the things that I love dearly at this museum is by the Mexican artist [RobertoMatta, and it’s a painting called “Burn, Baby, Burn,” and we purchased it during a Collectors Committee weekend in 2009, and that was the first year that I chaired the Collectors Committee. I’ve chaired every year since. This painting is a very, very large work and very intricate and inspired by the Watts riots, and it had to stay in Los Angeles, and I’m so glad that we have it here at LACMA.

Mark Grotjahn: I remember standing in line with my parents to see Tutankhamun. I saw David Hockney when I was a kid, too. In the back of his book, there were some photocopies that only existed in that form so they were actually like original prints, and then I saw Mike Kelley’s work here, and that changed my life. And I think Govan has been kickin' ass!

Catherine Opie: My personal greatest moment at LACMA was when they asked me to do an exhibition alongside the [Thomas CopperthwaiteEakins retrospective. So that, to me, was a really huge highlight, to be a part of that long conversation, from Eakins to me. And the way that they are merging contemporary with the older work — even with [JohnBaldessari, with the clouds on the rugs he made for the [ReneMagritte show.

Lawrence BenderBreathing Light [James Turrell] was amazing. I took my son, and I love taking my son here. He’s only 8½, and it’s hard to get little boys to go to museums, but I take him here because my dad took me to museums when I was a kid and, of course, I was not one who took to art when I was a boy, but as you grow up, art can be very influential on your life.

MOCA director Philippe Vergne: The John Baldessari retrospective. I was lucky enough to visit the exhibition with Walter De Maria, and being with Walter and talking about his work, which was also on view, and talking about the humor of Baldessari’s work was [an] extraordinary moment.

Gagosian Gallery director Deborah McLeod: I would say that the breadth of experiences one has at LACMA is the thrilling thing. I brought my boys here not long ago to see the Samurai exhibition, which was incredible, and I brought them here to see the Richard Serra and the Chris Burden. And of course, with a museum like this, you have your own favorites — Tony Smith’s Smoke I have to see every time I come.

UTA Fine Arts’ Joshua Roth: The show that was just here in the Resnick Pavilion by this French artist named Pierre Huyghe was an incredible experience of film and installations and a dog with a pink leg walking around. It was a special and ambitious show. Michael and the artist did a great job putting the show together. Two things LACMA has done a brilliant job with is creating a campus that is a real destination for families and people who are interested in art and culture with Chris Burden’s lights to Metropolis to the Heizer rock. There are major monumental artworks that people come here to see. And also LACMA’s connection to the entertainment world and fashion and the film gala have really energized the entertainment community, which I feel like was under-stimulated for a long time.

Carole Bayer Sager: The most inspiring exhibit I’ve seen out of all of them is James Turrell. The way he uses light and the aversion in light is so extraordinary. I loved that. I’m so proud of everything LACMA has done for the city, and to be a part of it as one of its trustees is a great gift.

Sterling Ruby: I don’t remember what I saw, but I first came to LACMA 13 or 14 years ago, and I did the trajectory between the museum and the tar pits. The collection was phenomenal, and the grounds have increased over the past 14 years and now to a point where I’ve never expected to see some of the public sculptures. It’s been phenomenal. The Tony Smith sculpture in the atrium is my favorite of all time.

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts at the LACMA gala