The MOCA Benefit Brought Out Big Stars and Really Good Fashion

The art wasn’t the only thing to ogle at the museum’s 40th anniversary benefit

On May 18, artsy Angelenos gathered at the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo for MOCA’s annual benefit, which has become the cultural (and fashion) equivalent of New York’s Met Ball.

Sure, the Oscars and Globes are glamorous, but MOCA’s crowd did feature some bonafide celebs: Keanu Reeves, Ricky Martin, Katy Perry (in bright apple green satin, with significant other Orlando Bloom in a matching three-piece jade suit), Christoph Waltz, Sharon Stone, Courtney Love (in rare well-behaved mode), Mark Ronson, and director Sam Taylor-Johnson and husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson. On top of that, it was also filled with world-class artists: Ed Ruscha, Mark Bradford, Catherine Opie, Doug Aitken, Alex Israel, Sterling Ruby, Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairey; collectors like Cliff and Mandy Einstein, donors like Sean Parker, architect Frank Gehry; patrons like Steve Tisch amd Peter Morton), art world chroniclers like Bettina Korek; gallerists Shaun Caley Regen, Larry Gagosian, and Honor Fraser; and LACMA director Michael Govan and wife Katherine Ross. And these cultural types treat fashion as culture. This crowd dressed more originally—even exotically—than movie stars with four-grand-a-night stylists. And never crossed the line into costume territory ala the Met Gala.

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Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry

Zack Whitford/

Designer Gela Nash set the avant-ornate tone of the evening in a color blocked violet/red full-sequin bell-sleeved bell-bottomed jumpsuit. Husband John Taylor made for a nice accessory. Fashionista N.J. Goldstone sported boobs popping out of a dangerously lowcut Prada paillette dress and full gauze tulle Oscar de la Renta swing coat. MOCA board chair Maria Seferian paired her long sleeve gold sequin body con gown with scarlet streaks in her black blunt bob. China Chow, with boyfriend Billy Idol in tow, had on a black slip gown with a silver leather floor-length harness that looked like a pair of scissors. Marisa Tomei’s pastel rainbow full-skirted gown had a print that looked like paint splotches. We observed a veritable sea of glorious gowns: pale lime green chiffon, silk bumblebee stripes, all white ruffles, a maxi full-fringed floral. Designer/entrepreneur Tamara Mellon looked absolutely stunning in a gold gradient mega pleated accordion gown that looked like it was worthy of a frame itself.

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Gela Nash-Taylor and John Taylor

Jason Lowrie/

Actress Lisa Edelstein was a Barbie-like vision in high ponytail and black-and-white ruffles. One art lover donned a coat of rainbow-hued tinsel she got on Etsy. Angelique Soave of Soave Enterprises had the best dress of the evening: a sky blue Givenchy long-sleeved, all-pleated gown—even the waist was pleated. Artist Margaret Morgan sported a giant Cathy Opie pendant, an oversized cameo of Cathy herself breastfeeding her baby; apparently only three of these exist.

Billy Idol and China Chow

Zack Whitford/

The theme of the evening was “Honoring: The Artists: Who Made, Make and Will Make MOCA, MOCA.” Newish MOCA director Klaus Biesenbach, former director of PS1 and MOMA in New York, gave a 55-minute speech thanking the artists and his newfound L.A. art world friends. Maria Seferian lectured the tony crowd engulfed in moody purple lighting that the evening was not a gala: “This is not a party,” she declared. “This is a benefit,” meaning checkbooks were being summoned—but for good reason. New MOCA president Carolyn Clark Powers took the stage, claiming, “When people ask me why I look so good, I tell them I collect contemporary art.” Then she announced a $10 million endowment to MOCA. The idea is to make MOCA and contemporary art free to the public (it now charges $15 admission), so that people of all incomes can enjoy, wonder at, and learn from art.

A trombone player welcomed guests into the dining room, and a platform in the center had a piano, used by crooner Rufus Wainwright to serenade the crowd. Then Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye took the stage to play a number of the singer-poet’s best known rabble-rousing anthems, including “The People Have the Power,” which had the entire rebellious crowd jumping up, dancing, and singing every word. When MOCA becomes a free museum, the people will certainly have the art.

RELATED: Look Out, Broad: MOCA Will Soon Have Free Admission Too

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