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Last Thursday, March 7, over 150 art collectors gathered at Milk Studios in Chelsea, NY to celebrate Mana Contemporary’s First Annual Collectors Dinner to honor performance artist great Marina Abramović. Broadcast journalist Charlie Rose hosted the evening that included a panel discussion and performance by Armitage Gone! Dance group.
The evening began with guests sipping champagne and nursing cocktails amid “Larry Clark Stuff,” a retrospective-esque exhibition that, true to its name, included rare T-shirts, film posters, skateboards, and other “stuff” on display that belong to the acclaimed filmmaker and photographer.
An hour later, it was time for dinner in the penthouse on the 8th-floor of the space. Once in the elevator, the group spoke jovially about how we were leaving the work of one influential artist to celebrate another.
When we arrived at our seat, the first course of tuna tartare was already in place. Minutes later, a side of biscuits appeared, which we’ll just refer to as “heavenly.” With a room full of “esteemed” collectors, it didn’t take long for the conversation to elevate from niceties to full on venture capital, investment banking, and title insurance talk.
Halfway through our second course of grilled fish and risotto, Mana Contemporary co-founder, Yigal Ozeri welcomed the group, followed by an introduction of panelists by Rose, host and moderator. The panel included Eugene Lemay, founder and president of Mana Contemporary, Karole Armitage, choreographer and dancer, Nazy Nazhand, founder of Middle East Art, and Thomas Sokolowksy, curator, art historian, and museum administrator.
The panel focused on Mana’s organizational philosophy as a place of “shared resources and community.” The discussion also went into issues like the definition of art, with Sokolowski stating almost as fact that art is “about hitting you in the gut,” and that museums should “shake shit up.” Armitage chimed in that art should “say contradictory things.” Nazhand opined that viewers “don’t have to love everything, but you need to think about it” and that “artists must be catalysts for change.”
As the panel discussion ended, Armitage Gone! Dance group treated us to a performance. While a talented bunch, we were all a little confused (mostly because we weren’t paying attention during the introduction) about how dance fit into Mana Contemporary’s mission, but then we learned that it’s part of their overall strategy to engage the community in Jersey City.
After what was already a full evening, Rose introduced Abramović, our fearless performance art leader. Their conversation began with a trailer of The Artist Is Present, an HBO documentary about the artist’s legacy and her famed exhibition at MoMA of the same title. During the discussion, Rose probed Abramović about her career, endurance, love, and using her body as muse. One of the highlights was Abramović admitting – according to American scientists who studied her brain during the exhibition – that she is a unique individual and that her brain is unlike most humans, which solicited loud laughs and applause.
The evening ended with Shai Baitel, Vice President of Mana Contemporary, bequeathing a cabinet to Abramović for the Marina Abramović Institute planned for Hudson, NY.