RSVIP: Party Paradise at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center
Watermill Center, an endless rectangular modernist structure, began as a 30,000-square-foot Western Union research facility on a former outpost of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Robert Wilson, considered a key figure in experimental theater, spearheaded the summer art colony and museum on the East End of New York's Long Island. He is best known for his 1976 piece "Einstein on the Beach," with music by Philip Glass.
In summer, Wilson and the Watermill Center host artists from around the globe who join the kibbutz-like arts community, where artists not only create, but also wash plates and prune trees.
During cocktails, tiki torches lit a path to dancers that decorated a maze of outdoor art installations in the woods. Created by 70 artists from 12 nations, including Kuwait, Russia, and Thailand, the vignettes interpreted the evening's ethereal "Paradiso" theme.
Standing In a small tree fort, a man in a white suit played sonorous violin music. Dancers in nude body stockings hung from branches in pod-like netting. The amplified sound of gushing water accompanied a shimmering lane of trees wrapped in silver foil. A working television was also embedded into the ground and dusted with brush.
Drama in the dark.
Just before dinner, a tiki torch caught fire. Four men in black raced to the scene, where wood chips on the ground flared into a spreading bonfire. "I've never used one of these before," said the gent with a fire extinguisher.
Within the vast, tented silent auction, Taryn Simon, married to Gwyneth Paltrow's brother, Jake, had snapped the clean, clinical, chromogenic print of an artificial heart. Francesco Clemente's inkjet on paper of a heart was going for $3300. A hand-painted skateboard by Marilyn Minter, "Skateboard Pearls," was a steal at $3000. Lisa de Kooning donated a screen print by Willem de Kooning, squiggles of color, number 49 in an edition of 75, that already had a bid of $7000. And "Lil Gazelle," 2008, a gazelle zipped into a leather mask by artist Michael Combs, was going for $5500.
Photographer Spencer Tunick donated "Montauk 2," his image of hundreds of naked models standing by the Montauk lighthouse and facing the morning sea. There was also some flesh on view in the dinner tent. Two male guests with rippling muscles wore skimpy togas and white feather wings.
"I hope people will come to this museum and lose their heads," announced Robert Wilson shortly before his pal Sharon Stone auctioned off a bronze chair from his production of "The Winter's Tale." Stone sold two of these chairs for the estimated price, $45,000 each. She also double sold the next lot, a private concert by Rufus Wainwright, a pop crooner who has worked with Wilson. To help shill, Wainwright got up and sang an impromptu, heavenly rendition of "Over the Rainbow" a cappella. After bidding $20,000 herself, Stone hopped into Jay McInerney's lap, with Alec Baldwin watching. She later whispered in "Law and Order" actor Ronald Guttman's ear and managed to sell the private concerts to both Guttman and team Baldwin and McInerney, for $50,000 each.
On the mike, Stone, who attended the event with her carrot-topped young son, Roan, then recalled attending artist Maria Abramovic's 736.5-hour performance at MoMA, "The Artist Is Present." "It was a mind blow," she said before selling a black-and-white self-portrait of the Serbian artist holding a pair of skull-faced maracas for $35,000.
A-list dinner guests included Calvin Klein, Anne Hearst, Emily Mortimer, Marisa Berenson, Roger Waters, Rick and Kathy Hilton (Paris' parents), and artist Terence Koh who sat with Lisa Anastos. "It was hilarious, said Anastos, "as a part of his art piece that night, Koh took a vow of silence. We spent the whole dinner, trying to get him to talk."
Stone went on to discuss voting to keeping art in our children's schools. Meanwhile, the inspired caterer Olivier Cheng served serrano ham and figs, white asparagus, beef tenderloin and black sea bass, and, later passed dark chocolate-dipped popsicles. "I was on the phone with Watermill five times a day for the last few months," said Anastos. "We needed to figure out a menu that could be served for 1000 people for cocktails and 600 for dinner."
Revelers were further entertained by "Readymade Dance," performed by an athletic Vincent Morelle of France and Cherif Zaouali of Belgium, who wore only boxing trunks as they skipped rope madly about the marquee tent. The full work will debut in Rotterdam. Guests were apparently amused--the gala netted $1.4 million.