SFGate . Carolyne Zinko, Chronicle Staff Writer . Monday, May 17, 2010
As an institution, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is 75, but it has never been so young.
More than 1,200 people celebrated the art museum's birthday Friday, about 550 at a $50,000-a-table private dinner and several hundred others at an afterparty that lasted into the wee hours.
Renowned gallerists, museum directors, artists and art collectors from near and far - Robin Vousden, director of the Gagosian Gallery in London; Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; painter Cheyney Thompson of New York; and San Francisco sound sculptor Bill Fontana, to name a few - came to celebrate the accomplishments of the museum, one of the three oldest modern art museums in the country.
"This is the most ambitious modern art museum in North America," proclaimed Vousden. "Civilization tends to move west. It got to England in the 16th century and it's predominant in San Francisco in the 21st century. This is like England of Elizabeth I - it's the center of the world, for art, for technology, financial services, arts and architecture. The energy is here, it feels young and ambitious and has totally great art and totally great collectors."
"Innovation is deeply embedded in the DNA of the museum, in its history and its present," said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. "There is no other museum, honestly, with such bright prospects, and it's the product of a great community of support."
The depth of support was evidenced by the demand for tickets for the event, from well-established collectors such as Doris Fisher and her extended family to younger patrons such as Google's Marissa Mayer and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. "When I called people to ask them to buy tables," said party chairwoman Norah Stone, "nobody said no."
New York art dealer Ethan Wagner, attending with wife Thea Westreich, said that when he told friends he was going to San Francisco for the museum party, nobody believed him. "No you're not," they challenged him. "It's sold out." Stone and her husband, Norman, fun-loving characters known worldwide as much for their art collection as their joie de vivre, set a playful tone by requesting creative attire.
Charlotte and George Shultz wore coats made of digitally printed fabric with newspaper stories about SFMOMA.
Philanthropist Cissie Swig wore a headpiece adorned with butterflies. Norah Stone wore a hat made in the likeness of the museum's skylight, by New York designer Patricia Underwood. And London art dealer friend Ivor Braka came with drippy black eye makeup a la shock rocker Alice Cooper. Decor man Stanlee Gatti set a chic, spare tone adorning each table with a wood-block centerpiece spelling "SFMOMA" and a single gerbera daisy tucked inside.
There were other artistic creations - catered food by McCalls, the avant-garde music of headliners the Brazilian Girls, and birthday cakes galore in chocolate, fruit and violet by Elizabeth Faulkner, butter cake with strawberries poached in Lillet and vanilla bean with lemon verbena Swiss meringue by Caitlin Freeman, and croquembouche by Gerhard Michler.
But the best artistic endeavor of the night belonged to interior designer Sunny Merry and her mother, Jamie Jackson, a rancher. They put on wigs and had their faces painted with dots earlier in the day at the MAC cosmetic store on Union Street. The result was a Roy Lichtenstein painting come to life.
"I saw it on a Web site at Halloween," Merry said, "but I waited until tonight to do it."