LOS ANGELES Locals know that Los Angeles is a rich cultural center. But they're also gratified every time that fact is validated in an unmissable form. And last week marked one such validation: the debut of the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, the Annenberg Foundation's substantial new photography gallery in the gleaming glass shrine of the 2000 Avenue of the Stars building. And to celebrate the debut with appropriate fanfare, two back-to-back parties took to the space—the official grand opening on Wednesday night, and a party cohosted by W magazine and Dior on Thursday.
“The combination of [parties] was to target as broad a potential audience for the space as possible,” said Annenberg Foundation communications officer Liza deVilla, who oversaw the event with a team from the foundation. ”Because we're trying to create a space that is free to the public but that stands for a certain level of artistry, we wanted to make sure that we targeted the cultural elite but also nonprofits, working creative artists in the city, and many members of the entertainment industry. We tried to create something that was really for a wide swath of the L.A. community.”
About 1,400 guests RSVPed for Wednesday night's large-scale grand-opening party, produced by J. Ben Bourgeois Productions, in the gallery and a large adjacent tent. White banquettes lined the perimeter of the dramatic black tent, where a dark scrim overhead showed a kinetic display of still images that served as a surprising reveal.
“We wanted to create a feel that was appropriate for a new photography space, so we went with the black-and-white theme as our palette,” said Bourgeois Productions senior project manager Paul Marks. ”The idea [behind the projections] was to complement the photography [in the gallery] and to bring color into the tent. The whole concept was... that everyone there experienced what a photographer would experience when looking through the lens.”
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., Wallis Annenberg gave brief remarks (including some she would repeat verbatim the following night). Guests stayed for hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and cocktails served with linen—not paper—napkins at the bar for a luxe, pre-recession-feeling touch.
Thursday night's party with W magazine and Dior, also produced by Ben Bourgeois, beckoned only 400 guests for a more intimate party that took over the gallery's spaces and barely spilled into a smaller tent. “For the grand opening, we had people who were friends and family and associates of the Annenberg Foundation, philanthropists, city officials who helped make the space, members of the supportive arts community,” said Jennifer Gross, whose Evolutionary Media Group handled PR for both events. “On Thursday, it was more fashion, celebrity. Tastemakers who might not normally get over to Century City.”
On the response to the parties and the space, deVilla added, “People are so excited—thrilled and grateful to have a space dedicated to photography. I can't tell you how many people have individually and collectively said how badly this space was needed.”