Whitney Gala Brings Guests and Artwork to Downtown Expansion Site

By Anna Sekula May 12, 2010, 2:25 PM EDT

The tent for the Whitney Museum of American Art's Art Award dinner

Photo: Matt Carasella

Whitney Museum of American Art's American Art Awards
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The construction and completion of the Whitney Museum of American Art's downtown facility may be years away, but that didn't stop the institution from hosting an event on the High Line-adjacent site last Thursday. Honoring Alexandre von Furstenberg and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the museum's American Art Award dinner gathered 300 guests and raised $1.6 million under a tent pitched on the plot of land at Gansevoort and Washington Streets.

In addition to navigating the logistics of using what is currently a maintenance and operation facility for the park on the High Line, the museum also used the gala as an opportunity to showcase a new site-specific art project from Guyton/Walker.

Commissioned by the Whitney to herald the coming of the satellite location, Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker, the duo that make up the collaborative art outfit Guyton/Walker, wrapped the site's 450-foot perimeter fence with a colorful vinyl mural of fruit, zebras, and graphic patterns. To incorporate this installation into the visuals for the award dinner, the museum's team—overseen by senior manager of special events Rachel Arteaga—brought in a tent with transparent walls and tapped MKG to decorate the interior with coordinating elements.

Overlapping translucent plexiglass panels suspended from the tent's ceiling echoed Guyton/Walker's colorful, architectural sensibility, and images created by the artists provided the patterns for the stage backdrop and 10 of the otherwise white tablecloths.

Arteaga, who described the event as fun, but a production with a lot of moving parts, worked closely with the Parks Department and the Friends of the High Line to obtain the necessary permits and befriended the museum's soon-to-be-neighbors, meat purveyors DeBragga, for additional space to set up restrooms. The planner also acquired permission from the city to close certain lanes in the meatpacking district to allow three buses to shuttle guests like City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Larry Gagosian, John McEnroe, and Lorne Michaels, from the reception at Diane von Furstenberg's studio to the dinner tent.

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