With Gucci as sponsor, L.A.’s answer to the Met Gala has honored some of the finest artists and Oscar-winning directors over the past decade.
Words by ALESSANDRA CODINHA
Despite the frequent collaborations of the famously creative, the worlds of art, film, fashion and entertainment convene under a single roof less often than you might think. Give them a reason to get dressed up for a good cause, though, and big things are bound to happen. On the first Saturday in November, these lauded spheres of inspiration and influence will once again align under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for its 10th annual Art+Film Gala, co-chaired by Eva Chow and Leonardo DiCaprio, and sponsored for the 10th year in a row by Gucci.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Famously exclusive and intimate in feel; historically attended by the likes of Brad Pitt, Kim Kardashian, A$AP Rocky, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anna Wintour; and featuring a musical performance by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Florence and the Machine, Anderson .Paak, Beck or Sting — the Gala is the closest thing on the West Coast to the Met Gala. Moreover, the evening has become legendary for its candid, off-the-cuff moments between boldfaced names, whether that means an impromptu speech from Jack Nicholson celebrating Stanley Kubrick, John Legend telling assemblage artist Betye Saar how he bought a piece of her work with his first paycheck, or Ricky Martin getting down on the dance floor with Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy. “It’s often the case that guests know each other’s work but haven’t ever met in person, even though they live in the same city,” says long-serving LACMA director Michael Govan. “That’s part of the magic of the event.”
Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood.
It’s also one of the most culturally resonant events of the year: Since 2011, the Gala has raised more than $35 million for LACMA, with proceeds supporting the museum’s art and film initiatives and future exhibitions, acquisitions and programming. And in 2015, when Marco Bizzarri and Alessandro Michele took the reins at Gucci as CEO and creative director, respectively, the event’s steadfast sponsor became the most buzzed-about brand in fashion, attracting a new cast of Hollywood devotees from Dakota Johnson and Jared Leto to Billie Eilish and Lana Del Rey — an additional layer of cachet.
“Bringing the art and film communities together and recognizing the big picture of the creative energy of Los Angeles is the purpose of this event.”
According to its organizers, the Gala owes much of its success to the city in which it is situated. Los Angeles may be globally recognized for its movie industry, but its power base really becomes clear when you consider the broader arts and creative community. “LA is home to more artists, I think, than any other city on earth,” Govan says. “It’s increasingly known as one of the greatest centers for the visual arts of all kinds. Bringing the art and film communities together and recognizing the big picture of the creative energy of Los Angeles is the purpose of this event. Not only has it raised significant funds for our art and film programming, but it’s brought people together.”
Naomi Campbell and Billie Eilish.
In an annual demonstration of this camaraderie, the Gala honors a visual artist and a filmmaker simultaneously: past recipients include artists Betye Saar, Catherine Opie, Mark Bradford, Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Barbara Kruger, David Hockney, Ed Ruscha and the late John Baldessari (many of whom are L.A. based), and Oscar winners Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas, Kathryn Bigelow, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick and Clint Eastwood.
“Los Angeles is a city I admire as a place where images come to life”
Artist Amy Sherald will be honored at LACMA’s 10th annual Art+Film Gala, alongside fellow artist Kehinde Wiley and director Steven Spielberg.
This year’s honorees are Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley and Steven Spielberg. As the first African American artists to have been commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to paint a presidential couple for the National Portrait Gallery, Sherald and Wiley have likely become used to celebrating together. Their portraits of the former president and first lady, Sherald’s Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama and Wiley’s Barack Obama, will be on view at LACMA in the West Coast presentation of The Obama Portraits Tour, organized by the National Portrait Gallery, from November 7, 2021, to January 2, 2022. There will also be a companion exhibition called “Black American Portraits,” drawn primarily from LACMA’s permanent collection and spanning over two centuries, from 1800 to the present day; both exhibitions, like the Gala, are partially sponsored by Gucci.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele.
A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey.
“It’s a pleasure to be honored together with Steven and Kehinde for our shared interest in storytelling, and in telling American stories,” Sherald says, “especially in Los Angeles, a city I admire as a place where images come to life, a place with a longstanding history of creativity and culture. As a locus for representing American ideas to American people and to the world, Los Angeles is synonymous with the national imagination, something I continue to engage within the realist tradition, expanding who is made visible, whose voices are heard and seen.”
While the Gala is a famously well-documented event, whose red carpet is pored over and disseminated by various international publications, Govan says that it hasn’t always been easy to get equal attention for those visual artists whose work often eclipses their persona. “The first year of the event , I remember almost all of the photographs were of the ubiquitous celebrities of L.A. Many of my friends noticed how lopsided the coverage was. The event was supposed to be about art too. I realized a lot of my artist friends just skipped the red carpet, and most of the photographers didn’t know the artists by person.” LACMA has since addressed that situation by making short films about each artist it honors, asking artists to be photographed and preparing event press ahead of time. “I hope we’ve made everyone at the event feel like a celebrity of our creative work together in this community,” says Govan. At least one night a year, everyone gets the Hollywood treatment for a night out at the museum.
SYDNEY SWEENEY wears HERMES jacket, jeans and glove; CALLE DEL MAR top; and BULGARI and CARTIER jewelry.
Feature image: The carpeted approach to the Gala.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021-2022 issue of C Magazine.
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