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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Watermill Center held its 24th annual "Fly Into the Sun" gala this past Saturday July 29, 2017 with cocktails beginning at 6PM.  This year's benefit and auction was sponsored by Van Cleef and Arpels and honored Laurie Anderson and Isabelle Huppert in tribute to Lou Reed.  The Jewish New Yorker in me has a habit of continually comparing this year's event to last year's with the ultimate conclusion that "last year was better."  However, this dinner was one of those rare occasions where I thought this year superseded the others.  When I arrived at the outdoor destination, there was an hour long wait just to enter the area.  Judging by the eclecticism of the massive crowd it was readily apparent the event was already a smash success.  

With nearly 2,000 people in attendance there were socialites/philanthropists: Jean Shafiroff, Somers Farkas, Prince Dimitri, Randi Schatz, Janna Bullock, Toby and Larry Milstein, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Cassandra Seidenfeld, Lauren and Bob Roberts, Ziel and Helene Feldman, and Alexander Soros; actors: Robert Downey Jr., and Isabelle Huppert; fashion heavyweights: Fern Mallis, Nicole Miller and Bibhu Mohapatra; and famed photographers Mick Rock and David Prutting.  Let's just say Kanye West who was a no-show this year and last was hardly missed.  Famed artist Robert Wilson who counts celebrities such as Kanye and Gaga as friends, heads the event each year and invites international artists to create site-specific installations.  

Tonight there were 24 artistic installations and performances featured in the outdoor forest with a large black sign reading "She outwits him/she outlives him."  The scene was other-worldly with an African American man lying in a pile of bananas; women in various states of undress; and men with white eyeballs dangling from trees.  This was the "unenchanted forest" and there was no holding back-the anger was blaring.  I had the opportunity to speak with legendary rock photographer Mick Rock who was enjoying the artistic displays but was not a fan of the Hamptons since it was "too self conscious."  

He revealed that he received a free evening at the gala after donating a 1973 print of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Lou Reed to the auction and was enjoying the event since it was all about young artists.  He was also there to pay tribute to Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed's wife, and remarked that he was surprised at how diminutive actress Isabelle Huppert was in person.  Following the lengthy two hour cocktail portion, which cost $500, a more expensive dinner of $1,500 and $2,500 was held in the tent where illustrious guests such as Alexander Soros, son of George, and superstar Robert Downey Jr. enjoyed the auction part of the evening.  

Downey took to the stage to implore guests to donate money even offering a selfie for anyone who donated $5,000.  Tatiana Platt, wife of interior designer Campion Platt, bought a selfie to the delight of the excited crowd.  Soros, who arrived with three tables of top models bid on some artwork during the live auction conducted by the well known Simone de Pury, who flew in from the Di Caprio fundraiser in St. Tropez the night before.  The first item auctioned was a Michael Dweck print which sold for $55,000.   The Carrie Mae Weems silkscreen which had an estimated value of $45,000 sold for $70,000.  Unfortunately, the Robert Wilson photograph of Isabelle Huppert received $70,000 despite its estimated value of $100,000.  We were also treated to a mini fashion presentation of Bibhu Mohapatra who agreed to design a haute couture dress for the lucky guest who bid $15,000.  

After the business portion of the evening, guests headed outdoors to hear Laurie Anderson perform while petit fours were served.  The night concluded with a DJ and dancing with guests heading home at midnight after experiencing one of the premier events of the summer social season.

By: Lieba Nesis