Gloria Steinem, Judy Chicago, and Mickalene Thomas Ruled at the Brooklyn Museum Artists Ball

Artist Judy Chicago, Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman, and philanthropist Elizabeth A. Sackler.
(© Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.)

NEW YORK — It was all about the power of the female at the Brooklyn Museum yesterday. “Women love women,” said artist Mickalene Thomas, one of the numerous ladies fêted last night. The sentiment echoed throughout the evening with a four-part marathon that celebrated, among other things, the fifth anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

The packed crowd at the institution rivaled the place settings of artist Judy Chicago’s 1979 feminist homage, “The Dinner Party.” The event kicked off with activist and journalist Gloria Steinem, who presented 15 honorees – including Nobel-Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and broadcast journalist Connie Chung ­– with the Sackler Center First Awards. The honor earned each woman in the group a seat in the symbolic fourth wing of the iconic installation by Chicago, who was hard not to miss as she roamed about in a bright pink, blue, yellow, and green sequined dress.

The cocktail hour was just the second round of a full night at the museum. An interactive video installation by Nicole Cohen that allowed participants to be depicted in artists’ studios flanked the entrance. Towards the end of the hour, the center’s founder, collector and philanthropist Elizabeth A. Sackler, announced an undisclosed seven-figure endowment to support the appointment of a permanent curator of feminist art at the museum.

Afterward guests flooded the institution’s grand Beaux-Arts Court for its annual Brooklyn Artists Ball, where Sackler was awarded with the Augustus Graham Medal, and artists Martha Rosler, Amy Sillman, and Mickalene Thomas received the Asher B. Durand Award.

All eyes gravitated to the 40-foot-long table environments created by 16 female artists from Brooklyn. Actors in Viking costumes poured Mead (a honey wine) into hollowed-out cow horns for diners to enjoy at artist Liz Magic Laser’s table, titled “Honey and Horn.” Street artist Swoon scattered layers of cut paper and relief prints that represented rivers progressing towards the sea. Artist Chitra Ganesh used found mannequin parts to create a surreal feminist sci-fi sculptural and collage piece with eyeballs and legs. The artists had the entire day to prepare their installations, but many completed them in just a few hours due to their busy schedules. “They didn’t give any specifications,” Ganesh told ARTINFO. “They just told us it would be 40-feet-long.”

As the dinner wrapped up, everyone headed back downstairs for the final festivity of the night — a lively after-party. “I can’t think of a better occasion to be celebrated,” said Thomas, who has an upcoming solo show at the museum this fall. “I’m just very happy about that because these women paved the way for me to be who I am today.”

Click on the slide show to see guests at the Brooklyn Museum Artists Ball.