If there were ever an arts event that was site-specific, it would be MTV Re:Define. Now in its seventh year, the gala benefiting the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Dallas Contemporary has always been one of the highlights of the social season, and — depending on the venue — possesses a wildly different spirit from year to year.
At its original location at the Goss-Michael Foundation, the event tended to be rollicking and raucous; at the Contemporary, more subdued and sophisticated (at least until the after party). So, having moved to NorthPark Center, how would the auction’s new environs affect the celebratory vibe?
To be sure, holding a gala inside a mall is a bit of an outlier move. But NorthPark is far from your ordinary mall. Full of acclaimed 20th and 21st century art, the setting is quite often the first museum a Dallasite will ever encounter, and an art-filled destination for tourists.
For NorthPark co-owner and co-founder of the Nasher Sculpture Center Nancy Nasher, Re:Define’s new location makes perfect sense.
“We’re thrilled to host tonight,” she said. “We love (event hosts) Kenny and Joyce Goss, and everything they’ve done to build this. It’s such an important cause, and it brings great art and great artists to our community. I can’t say enough about them as art lovers and people that truly give back in important ways.”
Having raised more than $12.5 million to date for HIV prevention through MTV Staying Alive, and the Dallas arts community through Dallas Contemporary, Re:Define is a significant event, no matter where it occurs. Still, mixing and mingling with the likes of artists Kenny Scharf and Marc Quinn in the shadow of a Louis Vuitton boutique felt surreal.
When the Contemporary’s assistant curator Lilia Kudelia joked that “this looks like something out of a Fellini movie,” she wasn’t wrong. But if Re:Define were a Fellini film, it would most definitely be La Dolce Vita, with all the pleasure and indulgence that famous flick embodies.
Curious onlookers couldn’t help but stare as well-dressed partygoers sipped cocktails and sampled savory caviar macaroons. Once everyone filed into the courtyard and entered the greenhouse-like tent in the shadow of artist Leo Villareal’s illuminated Buckyball sculpture, it felt like glamorous business as usual.
Guests grazed on a salad of endive and beets and an entrée of duck, potatoes, and glazed sea bass while Dallas Contemporary director Peter Doroshenko delivered his opening remarks, revealing that Ian Davenport and Francesco Clemente are slated for shows in 2019.
For Dallas Contemporary deputy director and chief curator Justine Ludwig, who is soon leaving Dallas to helm New York’s arts organization Creative Time, the night was significant because of its unusually large stable of female talent.
“2018’s Re:Define is all about power women,” she said. “(It’s) chaired by Brooke Davenport and Maxine Trowbridge and supported by generous donations including those by important established and emerging female artists Ghada Amer, Alicia Kwade, Valerie Keane, Amélie Bouvier, Chloe Wise, and Sarah Morris."
Then Joyce and Kenny Goss introduced honoree Tracey Emin. Renowned for her confessional and polarizing works, she was surprisingly soft-spoken while speaking about her auction lot of a rare neon artist’s proof and three gouaches.
“They came from my personal collection because Kenny said, ‘You’ve got to pick something that’s really good and really special,’" she said. "They’re supposed to be for me, but I took them out of my auction so if you don’t bid on them, I probably will.”
Some lucky guest snapped up the quartet for $220,000, setting the pace for a fast and furious set of bids led by expert auctioneer Simone de Pury. A Marc Quinn piece also garnered $220,000 and Scharf’s colorful canvas went for a cool $70 grand.
After a set by singer-songwriter Arlissa, guests filed out into the empty mall to look over their winnings. Although the final tally is still being counted, Kenny Goss said he was ecstatic at both the sales and Re:Define’s new venue.
“This is so great, there was so much energy,” he said as patrons filed out into the night. “If they invite us back next year, we’re there."
Adding life to the proceedings were attendees Brian Bolke, Heidi Dillon, Tammy Cotton-Hartnett, Lynn McBee, Melissa Enriquez, Faisal Halum, Jason and Nancy Koen, Muffin Lemak, Dr. Nimesh and Bina Patel, Amanda Lund, Jane McGarry, Anne and Steve Stodghill, Chuck Steelman, Jeremy Strick, David Simmons, Capera Ryan, and Taylor Tomasi-Hill.