You know it’s a good event when there are cheers, tears, and champagne toasts — sometimes all at the same time. The sixth annual MTV RE:DEFINE, benefiting the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Dallas Contemporary had all of these, plus a raise-the-roof performance by Chaka Khan.
Always a fun and lively throwdown with deep emotions at its core, the event, held March 24 at the Contemporary, raised more than $2.7 million and was even more touching this year as it served as a tribute to the late singer George Michael, co-founder of the Goss-Michael Foundation.
The energy was palpable from the moment guests filed in for cocktail hour, with chair Maxine Trowbridge and hosts Joyce and Kenny Goss all clad in two-tone Libertine sequins, courtesy of the label’s designer Johnson Hartig, who was the evening’s honoree, alongside painter Eric Fischl.
Both painter Marc Quinn (who contributed a customized giant fingerprint that sold for $300,000) and Fischl (whose thought-provoking piece Surrounded by Dogs drew over $100,000) were milling around meeting and greeting with guests. The latter revealed the night was just the beginning of his relationship with the Contemporary, as the institution is staging an exhibition of his works next spring.
As everyone sat down to dine on a hearty three-course meal catered by Headington Company’s new Italian-influenced restaurant Sassetta, auctioneer Brook Hazelton kicked off the festivities with his opening remarks. Welcoming guests to a “thoroughly good evening,” it was time for a video moment honoring Michael’s contributions to charity. Having first brought attention to the AIDS/HIV epidemic in an MTV Staying Alive documentary, Michael was so much more than a pop star, and tributes from the likes of Tracey Emin and Elton John helped shine the light on the musician’s often unheralded generous heart.
Introduced by Contemporary executive director Peter Doroshenko, Fischl lightened the mood after walking onstage to a soundtrack of the Pet Shop Boys.
“I was expecting a Bruce Springsteen song,” he quipped. “It is a great honor to be honored by strangers. Nobody I know actually will honor me ... but in the context of that, let me just say that I am actually deeply honored to do whatever I can to help the cause of AIDS research, prevention, and education with a great organization like RE:DEFINE, and also to try and further my career by brown-nosing [Doroshenko] and get a show at another great institution as well.”
Next came a moment for Hartig, who revealed that Fischl, Julian Schnabel, Mimmo Paladino, and Anselm Kiefer were his art school heroes, was reduced to tears by the acknowledgement of his creativity.
Most definitely in the mood to buy art after these heartfelt speeches, the crowd kicked off the auction with a $26,000 bid for Tracey Emin’s gouache Just Waiting For You. But it was obvious the major piece of the night was Damien Hirst’s Beautiful Beautiful George Michael Love painting, which ultimately went to a very lucky winner at a very cool $580,000.
Post auction, “Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan delivered an all-killer-no-filler short yet powerful set that got everyone up from their tables and ready to dance. But they weren’t ready to go home just yet: the free-for-all mood continued at the after-party with a schizophrenic soundtrack spun by Hartig’s alter ego DJ “Johnny Boy” Hartig (or as he aptly dubbed himself, “DJ A.D.D.”).
Not only did the packed house stay put to continue to drink and schmooze, but as DJs Chandra North and Mr. Rid took over the decks, the crowd seemed to double in the space of minutes as some of the coolest kids in town joined the old guard in dancing the night away.
Onsite to support, celebrate, and kick up their heels were Princess Elna-Margret zu Bentheim, Baroness Halina von Kempski Rakoszyn, Erin Cluley, John Clutts, Tammy Cotton Harnett, Tim Headington, Bill Hutchinson, Holly Johnson, Justine Ludwig, Jane McGarry, Nancy and Jason Koen, Niven Morgan, Jessica Nowitzki, Rajan Patel, Courtney Sinelli, Chuck Steelman, Steve Stodgehill, Jeremy Strick, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Nancy Rogers, Capera Ryan, Shelby Wagner, and Cris Worley.