I am intrinsically skeptical of any events which merge automobiles and art – since the art usually takes a backseat while the cars manage to amuse only one sex in the room. Last Monday, the Museum of Modern Art managed to avoid those pitfalls and held a grand celebration for its new partnership with Volkswagen – a two year sponsorship deal surely worth millions. The aim of the collaboration is to foster innovation and contribute to “the development of an international contemporary art exhibitions” as the expansion of online education new installations at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. This deal with Volkswagen is the first partnership of this scale between the New York cultural institution and a public corporation and is done in part with the VW ‘Think Blue’ initiative. The event spared little expense and brought out the highest order of celebrities and museum supporters including queen of pop Madonna herself, who paired down her usual D&G attire to a very sleek ‘gallery look’ complete with thick-rimmed glasses and a curator on her arm.
This event comes right on the heels of the annual Party in the Garden spectacle – tonight, however, sans Kanye and Jay-Z. Whoever is in charge of booking musical acts for MoMA deserves major praise for this year’s line up and did not dissapoint that evening, with performances by Martha Wainwright followed by the LCD Soundsystem DJing the afterparty. Rain broke out at several points of the night, which hampered the guests from filling the garden completely. A row of white-umbrella clad attendants greeted the visitors all along the extended path into the garden, evoking allusions to a Terence Koh piece in its precise measure and execution; incidentally the artist was in attendance, also dressed head-to-toe in white.
Klaus Biesenbach, Director The MoMA PS1, whose program will also receive a generous boost through this incentive was a lively host, catching up to exchange some words with James Franco and pose for a photo-op with the cars. Other attendees included: Lucy Liu, Yoko Ono, Penn Badgley and Kim Cattrall. Glenn Lowry chatted with the car compary execs most of the night – after posing with Dr. Martin Winterkorn, the Chairman of Volkswagen AG in front (and inside of) some of automobiles. Winterkorn commented on the cultural partnership citing that “Artists give us food for thought and let us look at the world from new angles…this partnership expresses our corporate commitment to take responsibility for the environment and for society.”
The gracious sponsor had a visible but not overstated presence, with a sports model at the front and a vintage VW in the MoMA lobby reminding the guests what the festivities were about. Overall, I was greatly impressed with both MoMA and VW for keeping the affair from feeling too much like a giant marketing ploy – with no promotional videos, logoed napkins or car pamphlets in sight. Everyone was there in appreciation of the institution, newly excited by the plans of expansion and development as they take over the Folk Art Museum.