Willem Dafoe, Wes Anderson, The Who Fete New York's Pace Gallery Flagship

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Polydor Records
Pete Townshend (left) and Roger Daltrey of The Who revealed Sir Peter Blake-designed new album cover at NYC's Pace Gallery on Sept. 12, 2019.

The Thursday opening in Chelsea featured a performance by the iconic rock band and drew artist-auteurs Gus Van Sant and Rashid Johnson along with stars Jonah Hill, Luke Wilson and more.

Pace Gallery launched its global flagship in Manhattan’s West Chelsea with an all-out spectacular for more than 800 guests, including luminaries from the worlds of the arts and entertainment, and a performance by The Who. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey also announced their legendary band’s first album of new material in 13 years, with cover art by fellow Brit Sir Peter Blake, the pop artist best known for helping design The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The eight-story building, designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, will open to the public on Saturday.

At the start of the evening, Pace president and CEO Marc Glimcher and his wife, Fairfax Dorn (co-founder of the art nonprofit Ballroom Marfa), stood by the door despite the drizzle to greet guests including Willem Dafoe, Wes Anderson, Julian Schnabel, Gus Van Sant, Rashid Johnson, Julie Taymor, Jonah Hill, Maria Sharapova and Luke Wilson. 

Other notables in attendance included Linda and Mort Janklow; museum directors Max Hollein of the Met and Adam Weinberg of The Whitney; Los Angeles gallerists David Kordansky and Honor Fraser; actor Richard Schiff; Dasha Zhukova and fiance Stavros Niarchos; and Miami collectors Marty Margulies and Mera and Don Rubell, whose family will be opening its own much-anticipated private museum during the December art fairs in Miami.

As DJ Questlove finished his set to warm up the crowd for The Who, Schnabel (whose Vincent van Gogh film Eternity’s Gate scored a 2019 Oscar nomination for star Dafoe) situated himself and his posse at the front of the stage to await the band.

Daltrey and Townshend took the stage to whoops and wails not often heard in a gallery context. They opened with “The Kids Are Alright” — and a shout-out from Townshend that the way to keep that sentiment alive is “through art” — before moving on to “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Pinball Wizard,” the theme song from 1975 cult film Tommy. Front-row fan calls for “Baba O’Riley” went unheard, and the short Pace performance did not include the new album’s first single, “Ball and Chain.”

Later, LACMA’s Michael Govan and his wife Katherine Ross were spotted under artist Fred Wilson’s chandeliers on the seventh floor, where the late-night entertainment was the jazz band of composer Graham Reynolds (frequent collaborator of director Richard Linklater, including on Where’d You Go Bernadette?).

The 75,000-square-foot gallery immediately establishes itself as an important cultural institution and must-see for New Yorkers and tourists alike, akin to Hauser & Wirth’s location in downtown L.A. For starters, the venue can uniquely now accommodate seating for 150 on its seventh floor; that space is key to the success of Pace Live, a new performance, new-media and event program for which the gallery hired the head of performance from the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum in Washington. And Pace’s new place has three floors of indoor galleries, sans columns; two floors with office space; a large, partially covered terrace (where The Who performed) which is ideal for showcasing outdoor sculpture; and, at the tippy-top, an area for super-VIP private viewing and a rooftop sculpture garden. There’s also a research library with more than 10,000 volumes and a dining room for private events.

The inaugural presentation is an array of work by varied Pace artists: Alexander Calder (first floor); Yto Barrada, a Moroccan multimedia artist based in Tangier (first floor library); relative newcomer Loie Hollowell (second floor); David Hockney (third floor), with a large, new, panoramic work that sweeps along a curved wall; Peter Hujar's black-and-white photography (third floor); and Wilson, with an array of his famous Murano chandeliers, including one he told THR had been part of his presentation when he represented the U.S at the Venice Biennale in 2003 (seventh floor).

Pace has grown into a global art powerhouse since it was founded by Arne Glimcher, who before the party on Thursday recalled with emotion that to open the first gallery in Boston in 1960, “I had to borrow $2,800 from my brother, Herb.”

Art became a “religion” for Glimcher, a producer of films including 1992's The Mambo Kings (he wrote the lyrics for its Oscar-nominated original song "Beautiful Maria of My Soul") and 1995's Just Cause. “There is something extraordinary about being close to moments of creation,” he continued. “I love artists whether they are making paintings, performing or making movies.”

Marc Glimcher, Arne’s son, has presided since 2011 over the family enterprise that now encompasses seven locations: the new flagship, East 57th Street in Manhattan; Palo Alto, California; London; Geneva; Hong Kong; Seoul; and Beijing.

In addition to Schnabel and Wilson, more than 50 artists from Pace attended the opening, including the architect Maya Lin; Claes Oldenberg; Kiki Smith; Joel Shapiro; Lynda Benglis; Nina Katchadourian, who joined the gallery this month; and L.A.-based artist Mary Corse, whose “Survey in Light” is on view at LACMA through Nov. 11. Corse is expected to be in the next batch of artist exhibtions in the space, which will also include Benglis, Isamu Noguchi, Li Songsong, Arlene Shechet, Jean Dubuffet and Robert Ryman.