High on the Line: Design Trust Celebrate a Park and Its People at Annual Benefit

Susan Chin, with event co-chairs Kitty Hawks and Cindy Allen looking on.

The great and the good of the New York design world convened last Wednesday at West Chelsea’s 548 Center, where The Design Trust for Public Space hosted it’s annual benefit art auction, and at the same time honored the much-fabled High Line.

Nowadays the mere mention of The High Line swells New Yorkers with a sense of pride and joy, but at one time many thought it would ever see the light of day. So The Observer rolled up its sleeves and bumped and shimmied it’s way amongst the smiling faces and pumping fists, all the while availing of the ample free beverages.

Cindy Allen, editor in chief of Interior Design magazine—sponsor of the night—got things officially underway. “Architects, designers, artists and manufactures; everybody wants to give to the Design Trust,” she crowed. Not holding back, she added, “I can only describe it as love, tonight we have love and shopping, what’s better than that?!”

Man of the hour, Robert Hammond, president and co-founder of Friends of the High Line, took the opportunity to be modest. “It was such a long shot, I’m a dreamer but also a realist, I knew the chances of the High Line happening were one in 100,” he told The Observer. Between exulting the uses of iPhone covers, which he hasten to add were greatly overpriced, he brushed off the credit for the High Line, praising The Design Trust “It’s a privilege to be honored by them, because really its us who should be honoring them. All the good ideas were brought by them, we just helped organize.”

Architect Joeseph Donovan heaped praise on Mr. Hammond and his co-conspirator, Joshua David. “The beneficiary of the benefit is a really great organization,” he said. The music was a tad too loud for his liking, but he found the “the bipolar situation very amusing, with the traditional art on one side and the functional art on the other.”

Jean Tatge, of the Municipal Art Society said, “This is really like our family.” She was very surprised and happy at the number of young people attending the event. She told us that projects involving public space “need to build a constituency, the real success of any project like the High Line is building the support of the public.” Before we parted ways she told us all she had bid on was a chair, something “more practical.”

The art on auction was rich and varied, including evocative photography by Kramer O’Neill and Eric Laignel, and beautiful furniture pieces by Lepere, Frances Palmer and a Harry Allen table, which caught a lot of attention.

Rebecca Ward, a Brooklyn-based artist, had a week to come in and design something that reflected the Trust’s mission, She settled on an interweaving tape installation that wrapped around the columns.

Whilst admitting it was somewhat rushed, she was delighted with the finished piece and the positive reaction to it. “I think it adds to the space, without being too intrusive, which is what you try to do with public space design,” she said.

“I’m an addict to silent art auctions” said Leith ter Muelen, president of LandAir Project Resources, who had just bid $1,200 on photographer Michael Moran’s picture. “I’m the only bider so I’m probably win it,” she said, hopefully. She did, and later met the artist, who she stopped from explaining the piece. “If it doesn’t continue to intrigue me I feel like I’ve wasted my money,” she joked.

When the bar stopped and the DJ packed up the records, the bouncers had the hardest job of the night, trying to usher everyone to the exit. The line for coats was buzzing with smiles with the sanguine words of Susan Chin, the new executive director at the Trust, ringing in everyone’s ears. “My dreams are big for the Design Trust,” she said.


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