The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has seen the light — at the end of the tunnel, that is.
The museum held its 11th annual Art + Film Gala on Saturday night, a starry affair with co-chairs Eva Chow and Leonardo DiCaprio that drew artists and celebrities, museum leaders and movie producers, along with other art world and Hollywood power players.
At the start of dinner, museum director Michael Govan told the crowd that construction of LACMA’s new Peter Zumthor-designed building is now 50% complete. The museum’s $750-million fundraising campaign has hit the $700-million mark. The gala was the museum’s most successful to date, raising more than $5.1 million.
“We’re 50% done,” Govan told the crowd. “Our leader, Elaine Wynn, said the other day: ‘Some people thought we were half-baked and now we’re half done.”
Heading into dinner earlier, Govan told The Times that the museum was now “unstuck.”
“It’s been a tough few years, not just for LACMA but everyone. The closures. So coming back, having the construction project get out of the ground and gain traction, finally we’re moving forward quickly,” he said. “There is a sense of, metaphorically with COVID and everything, digging out of the hole and finally being able to see the light.”
Light permeated the evening, which was honoring 88-year-old Light and Space movement artist Helen Pashgian and South Korean film director Park Chan-wook.
During the cocktail hour, a canopy of towering construction cranes from the museum’s building project loomed over the Smidt Welcome Plaza, glowing in the moonlight. Rose-tinted party lights bathed the plaza’s purple carpet, which saw the arrival of Billie Eilish, Kim Kardashian, Simu Liu, Idris Elba, Paris Hilton, Park Hae-il, Quinta Brunson, Kim Min-jung, Adrien Brody, Sean Penn, Olivia Wilde, Julia Garner and Jared Leto, among others.
Pashgian said she’d been inspired by light since she was a child. She’s working on a new luminescent piece, she said, which will go on view at LACMA in the spring. The evening’s honor, she said, was especially meaningful to her because she was sharing it with director Park.
“He’s a fantastic filmmaker,” she said. “And what’s interesting, film and art are different disciplines, they live in different worlds, but I see [a connection] through light, which they both use in various ways.”
Other artists in attendance included Henry Taylor, Mark Bradford, Tacita Dean, Tanya Aguiñiga, Catherine Opie, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, Calida Rawles, Victoria Fu, Martine Syms, Rubén Ortiz-Torres, Jonas Wood, Charles Gaines and Lauren Halsey.
Swiss architect Zumthor was in attendance as well, and he appeared somewhat relieved regarding the building’s progress. “It’s coming along as I wanted it to be,” he said. “But if it’s not good, it’s my mistake!” The tower cranes outside, he added, appeared “alive and beautiful, all lit up.”
Opie passed by, giving Zumthor a double thumbs up: “I love the 50%,” she said. “I’m all about the 50%!”
Salma Hayek and Kardashian were in the throes of an intense conversation during dinner, but they took a break to chat with The Times about the brightness of the L.A. art scene.
“L.A. keeps growing, the art world, it keeps moving this way,” Hayek said. “A lot of people thought it would be momentary, but no. It’s amazing.”
Kardashian said she’d recently started her journey as an art collector. “I’m notoriously known for having the most minimalistic art style,” she said, adding that she’s acquired works by Lucio Fontana and Cy Twombly. “I learned from the best here at LACMA.”
After dinner, Elton John, who’s been on a Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, took the stage outside, performing “Rocket Man,” “Your Song,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and other hits on a crimson red grand piano. The latter was dedicated to Taron Egerton, he said, one of his best friends, also in attendance, who portrayed John in the film “Rocketman.” John closed out his set with “I’m Still Standing.”
Outside on Wilshire Boulevard, a throng of fans were still standing as well, waiting for a glimpse of their favorite stars as the evening wound to a close.
Suddenly, they let loose a cacophonous roar. “Billie, Billie!” they yelled at Eilish as she climbed into a black SUV.
The museum’s “Urban Light” installation illuminated the sidewalk. The purple carpet sparkled with gold fringe, shiny cobalt sequins and silver sparkles as the crowd headed home.
Here are more photos from the evening: