A Night of Poses and Performances at the Whitney Art Party

Performance artist Kalup Linzy at the 2012 Whitney Art Party
(Billy Farrell Agency)

It was midnight in the concrete lot behind Skylight Studios, in Soho, and the two dancers wrapped in white cloth were writhing and voguing beside a leafless tree trunk. Their tunics scrunched up below their waists like deconstructed tutus, and the tree branches contorted outward like sprawled legs in a handstand pose. Dubstep was blasting and Iona Rozeal Brown, the artist who arranged the performance, yelled directions to her actors.

There was a crowd, but it was smaller than the one inside the studios, where last night’s Whitney Art Party was taking place. There, around the square glass bar, a cluster of patrons to the museum and other guests jostled for the next drink, the next conversation, or the next significant sighting.

“If I were doing a party, there would be more performance and more dancing, because this is all just ‘seen and be seen,” Chuck Close told ARTINFO. “It’s just hours and hours of ‘see and be seen.’”

Well, there were plenty of luminaries preening, and even more onlookers to take in the spectacle, but why not? With a few years of anticipation left before doors open at the Whitney’s new location in the Meatpacking District, the museum has decided to make sure the downtown parties are plentiful and packed with the art world’s finest. Last night’s event was hosted by the Whitney Contemporaries, the museum’s troop of young collectors, and the average age was stuck somewhere in the mid- to high-20s.

But despite the concerns of Chuck Close, there was more going on than just champagne and conversation, especially if you walked out back.

“This particular part of the myth that I wrote is supposed to be the scary part,” Brown told us. “The character’s been taken away and led to this strange forest and she can’t leave, she’s stuck. There’s a tree-spirit, and the character doesn’t know whether she’s dead or alive. You know what it’s like? ‘The Sixth Sense.’ You know how Bruce Willis doesn’t know that he’s dead? Boom!”

(If you haven’t seen “The Sixth Sense” at this point, well, apologies.)

Also elevating the bash beyond your average scene-heavy party: the auction.

“This event is a party for art,” said Olivier Theyskens, the fashion designer behind Theory. “The important [things] are the pieces of art that are up for auction. So the look of the event shouldn’t be overwhelming.”

Perhaps he meant this. When we asked who in the crowd had come wearing Theory, Theyskens professed that he had no idea. In fact, co-chairs Maggie Betts and Bettina Prentice were both in Theory. As was Kate Bosworth.

The last performance of the night came from Kalup Linzy, who decided to eulogize one of his characters, Taiwan Braswell, along with Whitney Houston.

“I started to dreeeeam!” Linzy belted as a Dixieland band grooved behind him. “The evening ended and I went home to sleep.”

Well, not quite yet — we all had a funeral to get to. After the band put down their instruments, Linzy walked to the coffin and began to lift the lid.

James Franco!” someone yelled. Perhaps the actor/writer, a frequent collaborator of Linzy’s, was inside the coffin this whole time.

“Franco!” someone else yelled.

And then Linzy opened the coffin on the stage. It was full of Jell-O and marzipan flowers.

But it still wasn’t time to follow Linzy’s lead and head to bed. Like most parties, the Whitney Art Party had an after party, so we piled into a Town Car stuffed with seven people — and two bags of swag from the Chanel dinner earlier in the night — and arrived inside a new place in the Meatpacking District that this writer has been told not to write about. We saw, we were seen, and we can’t repeat a thing.

Click on the slide show to see images from the Whitney Art Party.

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