It was all a bit strange in that it was oddly normal. Not famous-people-at-a-fancy-event normal – a particular kind of status quo in and of itself – but over-at-a-friend’s house for a dinner party typical.
At the 2014 Museum of Contemporary Art gala held at the Geffen Contemporary in downtown Los Angeles and presented by Louis Vuitton, celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Dita Von Teese, Owen Wilson, John Baldessari and Dasha Zhukova showed up on time. They sat where they were assigned. They actually ate the spring vegetables with butter lettuce salad, the roasted loup de mer and sweet corn agnolotti (not so much on the marjolaine dessert, though).
They clapped when new MOCA director Philippe Vergne took the stage and spoke about the museum’s new beginnings (since the rather public and awkward departure of Jeffrey Deitch, the organization’s previous director) and whooped and cheered when MOCA gala chairman Maurice Marciano offered to match a new young artists program with a sizable matching donation.
Overall, the night netted $2.4 million for the museum. All was well and good – strange for a Hollywood event – that is, until Diana Ross hit the stage.
Rose McGowan hurtled herself through the crowd in a successful attempt to reach her friends in the front row. A cluster of well-heeled women and tuxedoed men rushed the stage, in a cloud of diamonds, hairspray and bowties.
Pharrell, who was seated next to Jane Fonda, briefly considered hoisting his date up on his chair to see over the crowd, but opted out.
The event had a twofold purpose: celebrating both MOCA’s 35th anniversary and the Frenchman Vergne, formerly of DIA in New York and Marseilles, officially taking over the museum.
“You gave us our museum back,” said MOCA board co-chair Lily Tartikoff Karatz of Vergne, who had a similar coif in both color and volume to Conan O’Brien.
“This is not your regular gala,” said Marciano during his speech. “Just a year ago there was a lot of uncertainty.”
Now, the museum has a $100 million endowment.
“I haven’t sat down and I don’t want to,” Vergne told Variety. “This is not just for me, this event, this is for the museum, this is a celebration of young artists and contemporary art and Los Angeles,” he added.
Throughout the night Vergne stressed the importance of working with young, living artists, using the museum as a shelter for them, a place for them to grow, evolve, and ultimately present their work.
But until that time, everyone was pretty over the moon with Diana Ross, dressed in sparkly red, belting out her No. 1 hits.
(Pictured: Pharrell Williams, L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti and Jane Fonda at the MOCA 35th Anniversary Gala)