“Utopian black tie”, silver sequins: as part of the sumptuous gala of the Orange County Museum of Art

There are museum galas that require cocktail attire. And those asking for guests arrive in black evening dress. And then there is the “utopian black tie”.

Such was the case at the Orange County Museum of Art gala on Saturday night, which asked its nearly 400 guests to arrive dressed in utopian black tie. The dress code set the tone for the evening, however, an upbeat but serious affair marking the start of the museum’s new $94 million building, which will open to the public on October 8.

And the utopian black tie, ultimately, is largely interpretive. For museum donor Mary Carrington, that meant a Comme des Garçons architectural cage-skirt dress with black ruffles; for donor Marsha Anderson, a black satin sheath dress by Rabih Kayrouz; for the donor Mindy Stearns, a long dress, by a French designer, made of fishnet and geometric mirrors. And for so many others, that meant glittering cash.

A woman in a red dress.

Artist Alexandra Grant poses in front of the OCMA facade.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A person holding a handbag.

At Saturday’s gala, glittering silver abounded.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A man poses for a photo.

Sanford Biggers’ large-scale, site-specific sculpture, “Many Waters…” (2022), greeted guests at the top of the museum’s grand staircase on the upper terrace. He was the guest of honor at the gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A group of people talking.

Party attendees share amazed looks as another guest says something to them that — judging by their reactions, at least — seems shocking.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A woman in a white dress.

Textured fabrics and sparkly accessories reigned at the OCMA gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

It all made for a festive grand opening for Costa Mesa’s newest neighbor, which completes the campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The scene was punctuated by colorful pre-dinner cocktails, like a vodka-enriched lemonade that turned from clear to purple thanks to the organic butterfly pea flower floating in each glass.

Museum director Heidi Zuckerman joked that her tiered midnight blue tulle dress was a “ballgown utopia” because “my boyfriend and I feel like teenagers together.” (His name was JP McNeill, and he wore Scottish tartan.) Then Zuckerman got serious. The night for her was “thrilling,” she said.

“As the final piece of the cultural puzzle here on the Segerstrom campus, we are able to animate and activate this space in ways that have never been possible,” she said of of the new museum building. “We’re open at 10 a.m., six days a week, and the fact that we have free general admission for the first decade, people keep saying, ‘Really? It’s free?’ We know that contemporary art can be weird or scary for people, so to remove as many barriers to entry as possible is just a dream come true.

A man is drinking champagne.


(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Man and woman

The revelers in conversation.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A person in a purple tuxedo is holding a martini.

The Martinis are back. Not that they ever left, of course.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Photographers gather.

While waiting for this perfect shot.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Two women in black dresses.

Museum donors Mindy Stearns, left, and Mary Carrington wear black ruffled dresses.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

The Morphosis-designed building, under the direction of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and managing partner Brandon Welling, has been under construction for more than a decade.

During cocktails, Welling inspected the scene – a mix of high finish, with the building’s shiny glass and terracotta tiles, and some admittedly rough edges, like part of the building’s exterior where the edges of the tiles were unfinished and on display – and said it all seemed “a bit surreal”. But that’s how it goes with an ambitious new museum building.

“I’ve never opened a building that I felt was 100% ready,” he said. “There is always something. It’s not unusual.”

The opening of the OCMA, he added, was particularly rewarding.

“We work on buildings all over the world, but public buildings are the best because you get an influx of prospects and you reach the most people,” he said.

A woman behind flowers.

Athena Denos from the David Kordansky Gallery takes a moment to relax in the shade of the flowers.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A woman exclaims.

A perfect night for a small, jeweled purse to make an appearance.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

People's shoes look under their dresses.

Fancy feet.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Two party people.

Glenn Stearns, right, shares a laugh with another reveler.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Among the performers in attendance — many of whom, Zuckerman said, she has known for more than half her life — included Sanford Biggers, Fred Eversley, Alexandra Grant, Doug Aitken, Lily Stockman, Fred Tomaselli and Peter Shelton.

Guests were treated to a preview of the museum’s opening exhibits, which included a survey of the work of 81-year-old New York sculptor Eversley; an exhibition of works by “13 pioneering women artists” from the OCMA collection, which pays tribute to the 13 founding women of the museum; and a resurrection of the museum’s long-running California biennial.

Heading to the exhibits, Aitken noted the history of the area as it relates to the museum.

“It’s interesting how much the influence of UC Irvine and Orange County has been underestimated for seminal art,” he said. “So many artists from the light and space movement – Chris Burden, Robert Irwin – all went to school here. Every community has to have its beacon, its beacon, and it’s interesting that there there is actually a very deep root system here.

Wine glasses on a table.

Food and wine pairings accompanied each course of the gala dinner, hence the abundance of the glass.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Two people look at each other.

Here is looking at you.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A man holding a glass.

Impossible to go wrong with a bow tie for a gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A handbag hanging over a chair.

Truly a statement piece.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Woman's hands and back.

Is there anything more chic than a backless dress?

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

Woman and man talking

Heidi Zuckerman (left) speaking to the dinner crowd at the OCMA gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

The evening’s guest of honor was Biggers, whose large-scale, site-specific sculpture, “Many Waters…” (2022), greeted guests at the top of the museum’s grand staircase on the upper terrace. The 24-foot-wide, 16-foot-tall steel and aluminum piece adorned with two-tone sequins – a hybrid representation of classical African and European sculpture – shimmered against the setting sun as dinner began. Biggers described the piece as being about many things, including “painting, optics, composition, trompe-l’oeil, and illusory space. But it is also in conversation with monuments and memorials, history and culture.

The evening, Biggers added, felt like a homecoming in more ways than one. The New York-based artist is originally from Los Angeles – he grew up in Baldwin Hills – but Zuckerman is also a 20-year old friend. The two worked together on her first museum exhibit, “Psychic Windows,” while she was a curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum. and Pacific Film Archives in 2002. “So to be able to come back and collaborate again is deeply satisfying,” he said.

As dinner began, outside on the patio, Zuckerman greeted the crowd.

“What if we asked ourselves, every moment of every hour of every day for the rest of our lives, ‘what would I like? “, she said. “What if we allow ourselves the incredible gift of connecting with our truest and deepest desires? What if we believe that we are not only able or entitled to do so, but that we know that by granting ourselves this gift of connection, we make the world a better place – better for ourselves, for our partners, for our children, for the planet? What if this art space encouraged and reinforced this notion ?

People gesture to each other.

This guy !

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A black dress and shoes.

Soak up the atmosphere, one stylus at a time.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

People are dancing.

Please no photos. I’m shaking.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

The event, she added, raised more than $2.1 million for the museum, more than double what the museum raised at its gala last year.

But nothing says utopia like a sumptuous al fresco food and wine pairing on a chilly fall evening (guests were given blankets, a nice touch). The four-course dinner, per Untitled Events, included no less than seven wine pairings, with separate glasses for each pour. This meant around 70 empty wine glasses, of various heights and shapes, grouped together and covering each table at the start of the meal.

Master sommelier Jay Fletcher guided the crowd through the wines served, describing a French Chablis as coming from “cold and restless ground” and somewhat “nervous”. (It was, indeed, quite fiery.)

Soon, the assortment of glassware was filled, to varying degrees, with liquid of varying shades of ruby ​​red and gold. Spotlights from the event streaked across the darkened sky, dipping above the table so that bursts of light shone around the edges of the wineglass. The effect was surprisingly beautiful, like a scalable and utilitarian art installation table centerpiece.

At that time, DJ Dylan released a house remix of “Funky Town”. And guests flocked to the dance floor in the center of the square, a festive sea of ​​silver tassels, silver trains and silver sequins.

People are kissing.

Glenn Stearns, center, and his wife Mindy Sterns, right, share a hug with a friend.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

A group of men.

Standing in front of the new building.

(Michelle Groskopf / For the Time)

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