It’s Robert Wilson’s Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit and Auction where the well-heeled come face to face with epater la bourgeoisie art installations among its forest trails, tents, and rooftops – and rain feels like God’s collaboration to the structured chaos. The title, FADA: House of Madness, refers to Le Corbusier’s midcentury modern concrete structure in Marseille, dubbed La Maison du Fada, because anyone who would live in such a house would surely go mad.
“Heaven and Hell are together,” Wilson elaborated to Hamptons.com. “So this is like two worlds. I think artists are guardians of our house. They help keep our records together. And often artists are considered like Shamans – mad people. But, we often go back to them. So, welcome to FADA: House of MADNESS!”
The evening was the largest attended ever, raising more than $2 million. Proceeds go towards The Center’s year-round Artist Residency and Education Programs. More living space, a library and storage for the Center’s collection of nearly 5,000 objects are in the works.
Perhaps it was Wilson’s 75th birthday that prompted him to solidify the Center’s legacy. The dramatically lit tableau’s that dot his forest year after year reflect Wilson’s own groundbreaking sensibilities.
House of Madness? Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot’s “Make America Great Again” installation featured an electric chair front and center. Bruce High Quality Foundation, an artists’ collective that eschews star-making identifiers, collaborated with Wilson to present As We Lay Dying – a variety of works and performances interspersed throughout the Center’s grounds, labeled as “coming to terms with the contemporary world through personal, political and aesthetic perspectives.”
Stewart Lane, one of the co-chairs with wife Bonnie Comley, whose daughter Leah Lane was among the interns who performed in and helped prepare the benefit, gave us further insight. There were references to the play Marat/Sade, which takes place inside a mental institution. Of course, the Lanes, Broadway producers who founded BroadwayHD, a streaming service to watch theater online, could reference the 1963 play. It featured the Marquis de Sade and French revolutionary martyr Jean Paul Marat, whose murder in his bathtub was immortalized in Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat. At Watermill, that image inspired a centerpiece rowboat filled with moving water and a thrashing intern reciting narrative. There was even an unintended small dollop of sado/masochism for the bathing interns. The water in the boat was cold, Leah Lane revealed. Not certain how cold John Margarita’s poured glass and concrete pool, with a young man held down by weights, was.
Lady Gaga has attended in the past. Kanye West, set to collaborate with Wilson, was a last minute cancellation. Ja Rule was the surprise substitute performer. Auctioneer Simon de Pury raised over $1 million and Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes performed.
The silent auction included over 125 lots donated by artists such as: Marina Abramović, Francesco Clemente, Annie Leibovitz, and Emilia and Ilya Kabakov.
Madame Giancarla Berti was honored. Guests were greeted by Jacques Reynaud’s Angels of Apocalypse and sound installations adapted from recent recordings by Oscar nominee singer/songwriter, ANOHNI (A.K.A. Anthony Hegarty) lining the bamboo entrance.
Plukka Jewelry integrated some of its most unconventional and sculptural diamond pieces from Yeprem Jewellery and its own brand, into the performances. Maestro Dobel’s Black Diamond Margarita was the passed around signature cocktail.
Guests included Abdullah Al Awadi, Shaika Paula Al-Sabah, Giancarla Berti, Martin Brand, Tory Burch, Seth Cameron, William I. Campbell, Jayma Cardoso, Nicholas Coblence, Bob Colacello, Susan and David Edelstein, Stacy Engman, Kim Heirston-Evans and Richard Evans, Roger Ferris, Eric Firestone, Kate Foley, Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Troy Halterman, Dana Hammond, Jack Hanley, Amanda Hearst, Leila Heller, Kathy and Richard Hilton, Carola Jain, Ilya Kabakov, Barbara and Chiswell Langhorne, Jack Macrae, Fern Mallis, Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney, Christophe de Menil, Edward Nahem, Sophie Oakley, Holly Peterson, Lauren Prakke, Paola Prestini, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Polina Proshkina, Michaela de Pury, Charles Renfro, Ja Rule, Sarah and Izak Senbahar, Roberta Sherman, Eric Shiner, Stanley Stairs, Jill Stuart, Kelly Sugarman, Lady Nahid Taghinia-Milani, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Johannes Vogt and Neda Young.
The Watermill Center is located at 39 Water Mill Towd Road in Water Mill. For more information, visit watermillcenter.org.