"Oil Paint, Plasticine, and Sweaty Bodies"

Inside the Tribeca Ball with honorees Laurie Simmons and Carroll Dunham


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April showers continued to pound the city last night, but inside Tribeca's New York Academy of Art, spring was already in full bloom. For the annual Tribeca Ball, five floors of the building had been transformed into a Garden of Eden, complete with students' work, performances by musicians and artists, and models roaming around accessorized with large, floral headpieces and jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels.

"This feels like Sleep No More, only with the lights on," said one partygoer on the crowded fifth floor, as she passed the live art tableau featuring a man and a woman dressed like Adam and Eve. Artist Carroll Dunham, who was being honored with his wife, Laurie Simmons (they happen to be the parents of Girls' Lena Dunham), concurred: "It's hard to see the art because there are so many people. I don't really trust myself looking in such a crowded situation." Simmons, for her part, was busy taking in the aromas swirling about the studios. "I just really love the way it smells here," she told before sitting down with the likes of Dustin Yellin, Alan Cumming, Padma Lakshmi, and Misha Nonoo. "All art schools smell the same—it's a mix of oil paint, plasticine, and sweaty bodies."

Midway through a dinner by Daniel Boulud, when Simmons and her husband were presented with honorary doctorates of fine arts, she admitted to the crowd, "We have taught at a number of schools, including Ivy Leagues, and we have always managed to keep it a secret all these years that we don't have one of these." It doesn't have to remain a secret anymore, Dr. Simmons.

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