NEW YORK — Where’s Francesco? That was the question on everybody’s mind last night at the New York Academy of Art’s 21st annual Take Home a Nude Benefit Art Auction and Dinner, honoring artist Francesco Clemente. A well-heeled crowd that included such notable guests as Padma Lakshmi, Brooke Shields, and Will Cotton — who also had one of his paintings up for auction — took over Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries to mingle, imbibe, and bid on more than 150 artworks to benefit the figurative art school co-founded by Andy Warhol.
“I wanted that!” exclaimed Naomi Watts when she saw that Aliene de Souza Howell’s linocut, “Ursa Major Lost at Sea” (pictured above), had been snapped up for the Buy-It-Now price of $2,800. Her partner, Liev Schreiber, was still determined. “I got here too late, but I’m now trying to find the artist,” he told ARTINFO.
While Clemente was nowhere to be found, ARTINFO did bump into several of the artist’s friends amid the circus-uniform-wearing stilt-walking auction workers, including one of the event chairs, his longtime friend and gallerist, Mary Boone. “I think I met him the first day he was in New York,” Boone said. “He came to my Julian Schnabel opening dinner, and he was just wonderful.”
Finally, the mystery was solved. “He was supposed to arrive from India and he missed the flight,” the artist’s wife and muse, Alba Clemente, told ARTINFO in her thick Italian accent at the dinner, where festive table centerpieces by Confettisystem, emulating Clement’s work, were displayed. The artist may have missed his own party but Alba and the couple’s twin sons, Pietro and Andrea, accepted the honor on his behalf.
And what was Alba’s favorite nude of herself by Francesco? A 1979 pastel the artist made while the couple lived in Madras, India. “It’s me on a bed, my legs kind of half spread, so you see lots of it,” she told ARTINFO, laughing. “It was very hot, so I didn’t have much clothes on to start. It’s very beautiful.”
Despite the guest of honor’s absence, Take Home a Nude still proved to be a success: the entire auction sold out.
Click on the slideshow to see guests at the New York Academy of Art’s 21st Annual Take Home a Nude Benefit Art Auction and Dinner honoring Francesco Clemente.