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Love it or hate it, the plan to host an upcoming 40th anniversary gala in New York City is working out for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Big time. Thus far the museum has raised $1.55 million on the party, City Paper has learned, setting a museum record for a one-time fundraising event.
Melissa Chiu, the museum’s director, raised eyebrows across D.C. when she announced that the Hirshhorn would hold its big birthday bash in New York, not in the District, where the museum lives. Even after Chiu detailed her agenda (for a recent City Paper cover profile), some critics still weren’t satisfied.
It would be hard to paint the gala as something short of a success—exceeding the museum’s projections by at least $50,000. To put that $1.5 million figure in perspective, museum parties past have raised an order of magnitude less. The elegant opening reception and gala the museum held for Shirin Neshat earlier this year raised around $300,000.
Perhaps that has something to do with the profile of the guests. The Nov. 9 gala, which will take place at 4 World Trade Center, will honor 40 artists critical to the museum’s history (pictured at top). Most of them will be in attendance, making for an elite convention of the contemporary art world.
Here’s the complete artist guest list for the gala:
Marina Abramović, Janine Antoni, Siah Armajani, Lynda Benglis, Walead Beshty, Mark Bradford, Cai Guo-Qiang, Christo, Chuck Close, Dan Colen, Petah Coyne, Thomas Demand, Mark di Suvero, Spencer Finch, Charles Gaines, Sam Gilliam, Terence Gower, Roni Horn, Allen Jones, Jennie C. Jones, Ilya + Emilia Kabakov, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, Lee Ufan, Shana Lutker, Julie Mehretu, Maggie Michael, Jason Moran, Malcolm Morley, Shirin Neshat, Ernesto Neto, Park Seobo, Martin Puryear, Sean Scully, Nobuo Sekine, Dan Steinhilber and Lawrence Weiner.
Now, critics might be right to say that a 40th anniversary gala in D.C. would shake the tree just as well (especially given the same lineup). It would be a boon for the museum to host a high-valence fundraiser in D.C., where much of the philanthropy in this considerably wealthy metro area is geared toward theater.
Still: $1.5 million is a huge purse, surpassed in recent years only by the $2 million gift that Chiu brought in from new trustee Joleen Julis and her husband, Mitch Julis. Their gift will go toward redesigning the museum’s lobby and Sculpture Garden spaces. Funds from that gala, on the other hand, will boost new museum programming—one example being a major Mark Bradford commission coming to the museum in 2016.
That’s the thing worth noting: One year in, Chiu is making progress on developing museum spaces that every Hirshhorn director has given the side-eye while also organizing impressive new shows (Bradford, Christian Marclay) and hiring an all-new senior staff from the bottom up. After Nov. 9, D.C. residents who are still sore about the party may nevertheless want to start thinking about the museum’s bright future.