New Museum Turns 7 World Trade Into a Brazilian Paradise For Its Spring Gala


“Press the button! Press the button!”

 It was around 10:30 on the night of the New Museum spring gala, and an elegant woman was being smushed by the elevator doors at 7 World Trade Center. She stood stoically, staring straight ahead and holding the doors apart with her arms. When finally someone pressed the button, she exhaled and entered. Someone hit 45 and up they all went. “It’s like the New York subway!” someone said as the elevator zoomed up, to giggles.

“Well, at least no one died, right?” offered a foreign man, then made a joke about Ground Zero that no one really knew what to do with.  

The woman, regaining her composure, made sure her eyeliner was still in order, and when the elevator stopped, the group went out and joined the party.  

Dinner had wrapped up not long ago; some guests were still lingering while new arrivals-those who paid $100 for their tickets-crowded around the bar.

“I’m on the tip sheet?” exclaimed a pretty blonde woman with delight, looking over the printout of “fashionable downtowners” that publicity was giving out at check-in to party photographers and members of the press.

The theme of the night was Brazil, in honor of the Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, whose mid-career retrospective at the New Museum will open June 23rd. That meant a thicket of palm trees in the middle of the room, Capirinhas at the bar, and a mandate against wearing black clothing that about half the attendees either didn’t know about or ignored.

Also there was a performance by Forro in the Dark, described as a “New York City band of Brazilian expatriates who conjure up beat heavy, sultry, street party music.” The band started their set with a string of unassuming but pleasant tunes, then overreached with a bewildering cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with the lyrics sung in Portuguese.

A young woman with Brazilian roots was asked whether the decorations were true to life. She looked around before declaring her approval. “I mean, It’s all true,” she said. “Usually people are a lot less uptight, but other than that…”

Many wore scarves. Some wore fashionable hats. One fellow wore suspenders over a plaid shirt. In general people dressed in a way one must assume will seem pretty silly a few years from now. One woman came in what looked to be a mermaid costume.

Alex Gartenfeld, an editor at Interview and Art in America and one of the four young co-hosts of the evening, said hello to the British curator Norman Rosenthal. The two met at a salon at Jeffrey Deitch’s, Mr. Rosenthal said; lately they have been going to the opera together. So far they’ve seen three, and Mr. Gartenfeld has already started reviewing opera on the Interview website.

Mr. Rosenthal took a seat under one of the giant beach umbrellas that had been set up along the perimeter of the space. “I’m a victim of the volcano,” he said, explaining that he’d been in New York to work with Julian Schnabel on something and to do interviews for his book with Jeff Koons. He could have gotten on a plane last night, he said, but decided to wait till today so he could attend the New Museum gala and an afternoon talk by General Petraeus at the 92nd St. Y.

Mr. Rosenthal seemed slightly wary of the kids in the art world today.

“They love to talk about ‘my friends,'” he said. “It’s very strange. I never used to talk about ‘my friends’ in that way.’ I think people are much more happy to be approved of by their friends.”

He said this tendency has made the art world more local, even as it’s become more international. “I see a new provincialism coming on,” Mr. Rosenthal said, clarifying a moment later that he meant that in a good way.