The Art F City Guide to Spring Benefits

by Paddy Johnson on April 15, 2015 Events

Brooklyn Artists Ball

Brooklyn Artists Ball

Put on your glitter shoes and button up your vests. It’s benefit season, people, which means the gentleman in the room will be in a need of a bow tie or two. For the next two months, your calendar, or at least your inbox, will be filled with invites to these fundraising events. Navigating all this can be a bit of a minefield; a bad benefit asks people to donate while forcing them to listen to misguided speeches, whereas a good benefit can make you feel special for contributing. Without going to a few, it’s impossible to know the difference in advance.

Well, good news: I happen to have been to quite a few, and can offer several recommendations and thoughts. Each benefit gets rated on a scale of one to four Koons balloon dogs.



Honoring: Arnold Lehman
Date: Tonight! Dance party starts at 10:00 p.m.
Tickets: Dinner is sold out but tickets to the dance party are still available: $100
Location: The Brooklyn Museum of Art

A benefit that promises tables decorated by a bunch of different artists. Last year, Nina Katchadourian gave people kits to dress up like figures from portraits in the museum’s permanent collection. I thought that was pretty great. This year, Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw are doing a table. They have a reputation for placing dinner tables on hydraulic lifts, so I hope they do that again. In general, the art tables can be hit or miss, but the networking is not. Everyone goes to this thing, so it’s worth attending. Also: Desserts. Last year after the dinner, visitors got to walk through a hallway of desserts by Amirah Kassem’s Flour Shop that could be pulled off the wall. It was amazing and she’ll be back this year.

Hangover expectance: Low. Don’t expect the bottomless wine bottle.
Speech run time: Five minutes.
Art Experience: Uneven. We give this year’s ball three of four Koons balloon dogs, just for Catron and Outlaw alone.






Honoring: Alanna Heiss (founder of PS1, director/founder of Clocktower) and Pablo Helguera (pioneering social engagement artist)
Date: April 23, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Tickets: Starts at $45
Location: Art in General, 79 Walker Street, 6th floor, New York

Many benefit auctions intended to support artists sideline the stars of the show for the rich folk who attend. Not Flux. Their benefit is filled with artists, curators, and even City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. (Yes, he actually attends.) This benefit has more heart than any of the others and it always reminds me why I love art: artists are some of the most interesting people on the planet.

Hangover expectance: Extremely High. Flux likes to liquor up their guests. I’ve never had a drink that tastes good here, but they’ve always made me feel good.
Speech run time: Usually just a tad longer than you want: 20 minutes total. This year they honor Alanna Heiss (founder of PS1, director/founder of Clocktower) and Pablo Helguera (pioneering social engagement artist, MoMA’s Director of Adult and Academic Programs, Department of Education).
Art Experience: Pretty great!
balloon-dog balloon-dogballoon-dogballoon-dog



Trevor, from Like Lazarus Did, 2013, Choreography: Stephen Petronio. Living Set, The Lazarus Cradle: Janine Antoni. Performer: Nick Sciscione.

Trevor, from “Like Lazarus Did,” 2013. Choreography: Stephen Petronio. Living Set, The Lazarus Cradle: Janine Antoni. Performer: Nick Sciscione.


Honoring: Christopher Wool, Lia Gangitano and Dan & Estrellita Brodsky
Date: April 28, 6:30 p.m.
Ticket cost: Starts at $750. Alumni and faculty: $250
Location: 4 World Trade Center, New York

A giant ball room full of people, many of them kind of stodgy. But every patron is seated at a table run by artists, which is why this event is so much fun. Skowhegan alumni are some of the most interesting practicing artists around. These are the artists you need to have dinner with.

Hangover expectance: High. They serve good wine frequently.
Speech run time: 20 minutes. Usually heartfelt.
Art Experience: Meh. Last year Jeanne Antoni was hung from the ceiling in a coffin while a Stephen Petronio dancer danced below. This year we’re promised an installation by Meredith James, an artist known for installations that distort a viewer’s perspective.


Art table luncheon

ArtTable luncheon


Honoring: Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy. Keynote by Martha Wilson
Date: May 1, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Ticket cost: Members $300, Guests $400. A good price!
Location: 583 Park Avenue, New York

I’ve never been to a better networking benefit; hundreds of New York’s most powerful and capable women, all in one room for lunch. Every speech I’ve seen given at these parties has been incredible. This is the benefit you can’t afford to miss. No art, though.

Hangover expectance: Extremely low. It’s lunch time. Leaving this party drunk will make people think you have a problem.
Speech run time: 45 minutes
Art Experience: None.



Date: May 2, 4:00 p.m.
Ticket cost: $300 for two. Not bad at all!
Location: Smack Mellon, 92 Plymouth Street, Brooklyn

I love this benefit. Anyone who buys a ticket gets a work of art; guests bet on horses to determine the order in which they pick their art. So that’s fun. But there’s also a crazy hat contest. So awesome.

Hangover expectance: Medium to high. Lots of delicious mint juleps, but I usually get so engrossed in conversation I forget to drink.
Speech run time:
Nebulous. No honoree, but Guy Richards Smit is the MC. He’s chatty— in a good way!
Art Experience:



Date: April 23, 6:00 p.m.
Ticket cost: Starts at $275 (entry for two, each will receive one work of art)
Location: 56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn

These guys are benefit veterans, so it’s a no nonsense affair. Buy a ticket, get a work of art. A raffle determines the order in which attendees get to pick their work. This has some pluses and minuses: on the plus side, you get a work of art, and minus side, if your number gets called near the end, you will have had to have stood around for it for nearly 45 minutes or more. Chances getting some good art at this benefit, though, are high, so this benefit gets the thumbs up from us. Naturally, there’s also a Paddle8 auction.

Hangover expectance: Low: You have to really slam them back fast to make this happen. The benefit doesn’t last long.
Speech run time:
Art Experience:

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