Rain splattered down on an unassuming warehouse in Brooklyn, but inside, the space was glowing. Within the hulking brick structure, two great cultural provocateurs—the New Museum and the house of Alexander McQueen—celebrated the cultivation of new talent at the annual NextGen Dinner.
Thanks to the eyes and hands of Alex Crowder, an abundance of flowers transformed the industrial space. Scarlet blossoms burst from the hundreds of stem glasses that lined the wooden tables and countless candles cast a flickering light.
Emmanuel Gintzburger, CEO of Alexander McQueen, and Massimiliano Gion, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director at the New Museum, hosted luminaries from their respective industries. Young artists like Josh Kline and Mika Rottenberg mingled with more established players like Louise Lawler, who defined the so-called “Picture Generation” along with Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman. A curation of fashion folk included Emmanuel Gintzburger, Selby Drummond, Roopal Patel, Linda Fargo, and Jill Kortleve. Many of the latter donned McQueen for the occasion. From baroquely brocaded suits to slit shouldered gowns, the clothes testified to designer Sarah Burton’s continuation of McQueen’s legacy and her own genius.
After a month of museum protests, last night’s banquet felt even more essential. The duty of fashion and art to protect the different and the defiant remained a constant thread throughout the night. However, honoree Kaari Upson’s speech presented another goal. “I was thinking about laughing a lot,” the irreverent artist said to the room. “I looked up the etymology of the word fun. It means to act the fool or to be made a fool of. Everyone takes themselves so seriously now”
It’s easy to forget that joy and humor, along with the more serious pursuits of subversion and reinvention, remain at the heart of fashion and contemporary art.