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Wednesday night, at The Surrogate’s Courthouse, 500 special guests celebrated Free Arts NYC’s 16th Annual Art Auction, as they raised over $1 million for the non-profit’s arts education program. The festivity, sponsored by Gucci and Beats by Dre, also honored artist Rashid Johnson for his many contributions as an artist and mentor to the organization.
Liz Hopfan, Free Arts NYC’s Founding Executive Director, opened the evening by welcoming the crowd into the Beaux Arts municipal building (which serves as the Hall of Records and Department of Cultural Affairs) and led the crowd into a brief discussion about the organization. She welcomed CNN’s anchor Kate Bolduan to deliver a quick message—that 60% of NYC public schools lack access to arts education—and then welcomed Johnson to the stage. Last month, Johnson invited 15 children from the program to his studio for a day of art activities, and last night, two of those children presented him an award for his ongoing support and mentorship within the program.
Throughout the evening, guests enjoyed bites courtesy of Carbone, Casa Lever, The Dutch, and The Smile. DJ couple Hannah Bronfman and Brendan Fallis played tunes to complement generously provided drinks by Titos Handmade Vodka, Avion, and Peroni. All guests were photographed throughout the night by Hank Willis Thomas and Todd Eberle, and walked away with an oversized 20×24 polaroid, with all proceeds going back to Free Arts NYC.
Attendees included Peter Marino, Brooke Shields, Nell Diamond, Waris Ahluwalia, Selby Drummond, Lily Kwong, Valerie Boster, Casey Fremont, Cecilia Alemani and Massimiliano Gioni, Claire Distenfeld, Cleo Wade, Studio Museum’s Thelma Golden, Bill Powers, Richard Phillips, Andi Potamkin, Alexandra Chemla, Michael Avedon, Emily Senko, Haley Mellin, Sophie Oakley, Daniel Arsham, Michelle Hellman Cohen, Bettina Prentice, Kelly Rutherford, Gabriela Palmieri, Amy Phelan, Sarah Hoover, Laura de Gunzburg, Bethanie Brady and contributing artists Aurel Schmidt, Angel Otero, Chris Succo, Kasper Sonne, Max Snow, Tali Lennox, Cleo Wade, Spencer Tunick, Todd DiCiurcio, Sheree Hovsepian, Pryce Lee, and Shinique Smith.
Closing the night was the anticipated annual live auction—this year led by Paddle8’s Alexander Gilkes—that included an array of works by artists like Alex Katz, Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, Justin Adian, Kiki Smith, Tara Donovan, Wade Guyton, and Lawrence Weiner. The celebratory night ended with the sale of Christopher Wool’s Untitled piece for $410,000. For every $1,000, one child will be provided with a yearlong arts mentoring program, and by the sale of this piece alone, 410 students will now be able to participate in this year’s Free Arts NYC program.
By providing self-confidence through mentoring, arts education, and support, Free Arts NYC continues to propel the idea that children can reach their highest potential.