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Gorgeous Gems and Raunchy Performance Art at the Whitney’s Spring Dinner



Curators, collectors, and friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art came together for its annual National Committee Spring Weekend to celebrate the 2014 Whitney Biennial exhibition, which openedthe first week of March. The cocktail and dinner was hosted by jeweler Coomi Bhasin, who’s best known for incorporating genuine historical artifacts into her intricate, dazzling designs. “We have pieces that are from art from the 15th century BCE, prehistoric beads, and arrowheads that are 20,000 years old,” she told “We buy these pieces from museum dealers and put them in our house, but we don’t adorn ourselves, so I thought, Why not? We are the best canvas in the world.”

Coomi’s gold-worked, sculptural jewelry for Spring and Fall …14 took over the museum’s entryway—diamonds and rubies glistened among Egyptian motifs, inspired antique ivory pendants, and floating Buddha heads. Whitney trustees and committee members from across the U.S., including the Biennial’s three curators, Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner, joined the designer for the seated dinner, which saw a special performance by Biennial artist Jacolby Satterwhite.

Satterwhite—outfitted in a metallic silver suit with video screens conceived as extended, bodily appendages—danced explicitly as partygoers dined. Digital avatars of the artist also played on a video backdrop in an ethereal dreamscape. “Today I was an extended-frame digital media queen. Fuck post-Internet, I’m here now,” he said. “I took the language out of my videos and gave you life today…I twerked on Michelle Grabner, I ate Scott Rothkopf, and I played piano on Dave McKenzie’s dick.” Needless to say, his performance was an interesting contrast to Coomi’s elegant gems.

The evening was one of the last for the committee’s reunion in the museum’s Madison Avenue building. (The Whitney moves to the Meatpacking District in Spring 2015.) “It’s always a little bittersweet,” Adam Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, said, “but it’s great to be in a new home. It’s a great building for artists, the setting is fantastic, and while it’s a much bigger building, it also has a lot of integrity and intimacy with a great sense of outdoors and indoors. While they’ll miss this, they’ll be even more excited about the next thing…it’s like old loves and new loves.”

Photo: Matthew Carasella 

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