Last Night’s Bash: Brooklyn Ball Mixes Vanitas and Paper-Mâché

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Cater waiters: so 2009. DIY food orgies, though? The Brooklyn Museum’s Brooklyn Ball has convinced this writer that a little viscerality and self-service never hurt anyone, especially when it comes to the usually-stuffy dinner gala format. Celebrating its partnership with The Met to create the largest costume collection in the world, the museum threw a fundraising bash featuring an installation series by Jennifer Rubell, all of it edible.

Rubell (if that name rings a bell, it should: she’s the daughter of renowned Miami art collectors Don and Mera Rubell) last made a splash in New York at the Performa09 benefit dinner with a biblically-inspired feast that New York Times art critic Roberta Smith described as “meld[ing] installation art, happenings and performance art with various Old Testament overtones, while laying waste to the prolonged ordeal that is the benefit-dining experience.” Get the scoop Rubell’s “Icons” and see who we ran into at the cheese table, after the jump.

Guests mingled on the fifth floor of the museum, alongside suspended heads of melting cheese and Carr’s crackers. Photo ©Eric Weiss.

In the main gallery of the fifth-floor Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, Rubell hung the walls with monochromatic “paintings” affixed with brass spigots at the bottom — each canvas was filled with liquid, from lemonade to dirty martini, and participants could fill their glasses as they pleased, selecting a coupe (light drinker) up to a beer stein (very thirsty) from a table at the entrance. One set-up involved tubes of edible condiments that could be applied to a pile of potato chips nearby. Artist Nate Lowman, who DJed a set later on in the evening, seemed to dig it. It took a few minutes to isolate the source of a funky smell permeating the gallery space, quickly solved when cruising by a giant installation involving heads carved from cheese suspended from the ceiling, melting and dripping over a pile of crackers below. Um, pass.

Chloe Sevigny sampling Jennifer Rubell’s melting cheese head installation. Photo ©Eric Weiss.

In the next room, a plywood floor was installed on an incline (hilarious, considering the towering footwear present at the Ball) with a patch of carrots “growing” in the center. The brave masses could take a carrot into the next chamber, where buckets of water and paper towels assisted in cleaning the vegetables — kind of a moot point after digging into piles of potato chips smeared in edible “paint.”

In keeping with Rubell’s installation in the gallery, the banquet was served Medieval Times-style with carved meats and flagons of wine. Photo ©Eric Weiss.

The dinner banquet, held in the Beaux-Arts Court, carried through the collective dining theme, with nine courses displayed vanitas-style on platforms in the center of the hall. Ringmaster Mario Batali carved what looked to be pheasants (small pigs? rodents? couldn’t really tell?) with gusto, inspiring similar foodie frenzy in diners queuing up for roast pig, beef, chicken, and turkey. Guests served their own flagons of wine and water, displayed in front of pre-Renaissance paintings on the eastern wall. Pretty awesome, if you ask us, to dine with everyone from Tintoretto to Monet.

Gala chairs Zac Posen (with models) and Vogue editor-at-large Hamish Bowles. Photos ©Eric Weiss.

Of course Diane von Furstenberg looked amazing. Photo ©Eric Weiss.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali carved some unidentified meats in the banquet hall, followed by a light Andy Warhol batting session. Photos ©Eric Weiss.

Jennifer Rubell’s twenty-foot Andy Warhol pinata head, before it was demolished at the Brooklyn Ball. We asked you to guess the contents; now the reveal: Little Debbie cakes, from Ring Dings to Twinkies. Not as inventive as moldy wedding cake, but light and Pop-y all the same. Photo © Adam Husted.