The event was sold-out weeks ahead of time, the line up to get inside queued all the way around to 54th Street and the night’s star performer Kanye West attracted both of the men who run New York – Jay-Z and Mayor Bloomberg. This was last Tuesday’s MoMA Party in the Garden, an annual benefit gala that raised over $4 million this year and honored MoMa trustees, bringing the spotlight of the city to the sculpture courtyard of the museum.
Though the cocktails and dinner earlier that evening drew Leelee Sobieski, David Rockefeller, Jeff Koons, Terence Koh, Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic to the mingle and feast with the MoMA philanthropists who paid $1500 a ticket, it was the afterparty which was the draw of the night. In fact the garden party was much more of a garden concert – but a phenomenal one at that. By the time most guest were wrist-banded and finally inside, crowds were starting to form around the elevated stage erected in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. Kanye came on at around 11pm with the performance lasting over an hour, at which point the security began ushering everyone out of the building. The atmosphere of a thousand attractive guests in suits, cocktail frocks and stiletto heels, bobbing on the marble levels of the outdoor terrace to a soul-searing rhymes of Kanye was an exultant sight.
Kanye West, whose infamous egocentrism and televised award-show rants have disgraced him times before, made a public comeback this fall with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – an innovative album with musical virtuosity and poignant lyrics. A well-known art connoisseur, his latest album cover featured George Condo’s work, a collaboration that has just recently extended to a series of Kanye-Condo printed scarves.
Dressed in jeans and a grey hoody, Kanye began the performance with a smoke filled stage and a rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s They Won’t Go When I Go, a pained and soulful melody reprised in Autotune. The tormented emotions of the lyrics set the tone for much of the evening. Seamlessly moving through his innumerable hits like Run This Town Tonight, Jesus Walks, Stronger and All of the Lights – Kanye enchanted the audience and gave them a performance of a caliber not seen in the halls of MoMA since that of Abramovic. Filled with angst, hurt and diatribal tirades, all staples of the Kanye allure, he thanked the audience for “loving me when they told you not to love me.” As the smoke continued to billow and he dropped hit after hit, I was witness to a sea of smartphones, which were flooding all of the social media channels with up-to-the-second updates of his soul-searching antics.
The energy built and the mood finally ascended from frustration to energy – with Kanye even making a joke that the people in the surrounding buildings were “getting a free show.” His rendition of Gold Digger had everyone in elation, which was only topped by the surprise appearance of Jay-Z who thrilled the audience. The duo jointly serenaded the crowd with the city’s anthem, Empire State of Mind, and drove the well-heeled and coiffed masses to toss up their be-clutcheted hands into the air. The night was a spectacular achievement for the MoMA and a sure highlight of the season. Since the focus of the evening was so heavily laden on Kanye, it left little time to mingle, however that did not dampen the spirits and as the crowds spilled onto 53rd Street, all seemed overcome by a bout of the ‘good life.’