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NEW YORK Guests at the Performa benefit on Tuesday night entered Skylight Soho to find a long red carpet and a swarm of fake paparazzi waiting, but the effect could leave you feeling more unsettled than glamorous. As guests walked on the carpet the group of 45 hooting performers with flashing cameras would roar in a moment of arrivals-zone authenticity not seen in regular TV and magazine coverage. Some of the guests ate it up and posed—the artsy crowd had plenty of people clearly dressed to be noticed—while others hurried past to get into the party proper.
There the tables turned, as five more performance art installations provoked many benefit-goers to get out their iPhones and snap pictures of the performers, some of them in various states of undress. While a young man sat in a chair reading a book, naked except for a pair of iPod earbuds, two more sat, fully clothed, in chairs on either side of a bed before undressing and spooning every 20 minutes or so. In another area, six (casually clothed) men stood in a circle at sinks, washing the same six plates, assembly-line style, for the duration of the night.
The fund-raising event, overseen by Performa general manager and producer Esa Nickle, was held to kick off the organization's biennial festival, “Performa 11,” and the installations were the first live retrospective of work by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. Elmgreen and Dragset's commissioned piece “Happy Days in the Art World” debuted earlier in the evening at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Some 700 guests turned out for the gathering, which offered passed dishes from Bite, including actor Joseph Fiennes, artists Marina Abramović and Terence Koh, and W editor in chief Stefano Tonchi.