Dior Gives the Guggenheim a Twirl - by The New York Times
September 11, 2014
For the second year in a row, Dior sponsored the Guggenheim’s big fall gala, held Thursday in the museum’s landmark rotunda. And after a rocky journey that found the Dior brass grounded after extreme turbulence in Paris, a full caravan arrived to toast the occasion: Raf Simons, Dior’s creative director; Sidney Toledano, the company’s chief executive; and many others.
Mr. Toledano explained that the sponsorship was, in fact, Mr. Simons’s idea. A guest remarked that this is an expensive idea for an employee to pitch to his boss, especially if, as in this case, the gala was bifurcated into two nights: a young-guns party on Wednesday, for which Mr. Simons drafted the electro-pop band the xx to play; and a more traditional seated dinner with the great and good (and most generous) of the art world on Thursday.
Mr. Toledano, who recalled the Guggenheim as the first museum he visited on his first trip to New York, professed not to mind the expense.
“When things are good, it’s not expensive,” he said aphoristically. As he added from the podium later on, “If we can give something to the world beside beautiful dresses, we say it is worth doing it.”
What’s more, he said, the Guggenheim represents modernity, a sentiment echoed by Mr. Simons in plainer terms.
“How the hell could you pull that off back in the day, to make a museum like that?” he said, marveling at Frank Lloyd Wright’s design. “The floor’s not even straight.”
Though the previous night had likely siphoned off some of the younger partygoers, the actresses Leelee Sobieski, Zoë Kravitz and Camilla Belle were on hand, as were Anna Wintour, the architect Peter Marino and the artist Marilyn Minter, not to mention two of the evening’s honorees: the photographer Carrie Mae Weems and the Chinese artist Wang Jianwei. Though the art types and fashion folk sometimes seemed to be speaking to one another across the aisle (there was Mr. Toledano, in his peak-lapel tux, and the Guggenheim’s director, Richard Armstrong, in jacket and tartan trousers), there were surprising overlaps.
Ms. Weems, a MacArthur-winning photographer whose work focuses on the African-American experience, and whose retrospective ran at the museum from January to May, revealed herself to be a shrewd critic of fashion photography.
The latest Marc Jacobs campaign, with its blunt-wigged, mannequin-like models, didn’t strike her fancy (though she noted its similarity to the work of Alex Katz), but she had nothing but praise for the photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, perhaps best known for their photos of Kate Moss for Playboy — the first Playboy, she added, she had ever bought.
“They’re fabulous,” she said. Some at her table, including Jennifer Blessing, a senior curator of photography at the Guggenheim who had worked on her show, expressed surprise that she should be so well versed in fashion photographers.
Ms. Weems laughed. “I look at everything,” she said.