It's not often you get to drop the names Constantin Brancusi and Will Ferrell in the same sentence. But guests at the Beyeler Foundation in Riechen, Switzerland last night had the rare opportunity to do so, at an exclusive dinner celebrating an incongruous pair of achievements: the art of Swiss-born Christian Marclay and the new e-commerce site Art.sy. Guests from the funnyman actor to dealer Richard Feigen mingled against the backdrop of an exhibition pairing the sculpture of Brancusi with that of Richard Serra.
The 200-person dinner at the Renzo Piano-designed museum was, by all accounts, the most exclusive event thus far surrounding Art Basel's week-long, star-studded fair. Guests included publisher and art collector Peter M. Brant, auctioneer Simon de Pury, enigmatic megadealer Larry Gagosian, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, and the artist-collector Rubell family.
The event, co-sponsored by Credit Suisse, was primarily dedicated to honoring Marclay, the latest art world darling whose film "The Clock" earned him the Golden Lion for best artist at this year's Venice Biennale. Experimental cellist Okkyung Lee, violinist Maya Homburger, and sound artist Hans Koch performed an interpretation of Marclay's performance piece "Shuffle" for the occasion.
The event also did double duty, functioning as a somewhat schizophrenic promotional opportunity. It offered co-host and Newsbeast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown a chance to promote her site's culture coverage and also served as a preview for Art.sy, a new e-commerce site backed by art doyenne Dasha Zhukova, businesswoman Wendi Murdoch, and Google's Eric Schmidt. Before the dinner, Zhukova and Murdoch gave guests a sneak peek at the program, designed to introduce users to new galleries and artists and led by twenty-something CEO Carter Cleveland and Christie's alum and COO Sebastian Cwilich. (It will launch in Beta later this summer.) The irony of premiering a site devoted to bringing art to the masses at an exclusive dinner in one of the most exclusive cities in the world may have been lost on some of the attendees, noted one partygoer.
The odd but elegant evening was perhaps epitomized by one seating arrangement: Marclay's gallerist Paula Cooper was placed next to movie star Will Ferrell. Ferrell may not be naïve about art, but we wonder if they discussed "Talladega Nights" (is Cooper a fan?) in between chatting about "The Clock" (is Ferrell in it?) and the Serra sculptures that surrounded them. At the eclectic event, such a conversation would have been only fitting.