This Is the Book of the 2012 Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards

  • [1] This is the book of the 2012 Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street.

    [2] Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts took the stage, and spoke for approximately ten minutes.

    [3] And the minutes after he had taken the stage were around fifteen and he introduced the sculptor Richard Serra.

    [4] And all the minutes that Richard Serra spoke were probably around two hundred seconds, and he showed a video about Paul G. Allen, and bestowed upon Paul G. Allen the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts which, like all of the awards, is in the shape of a Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture.

    [5] And, throughout, there was interstitial music that sounded vaguely like something from Coldplay, and Paul G. Allen spoke for only five minutes and descended the stage carrying his award.

    [6] And Miami-based collector Martin Z. Margulies spoke for a very short period of time about AXA Art Insurance Corporation, and showed a video.

    [7] And all the minutes of the AXA Art Insurance Corporation video were, in actuality, close to five, one would guess, but seemed greater at the time.

    [8] And Christiane Fischer, President & Chief Executive Officer of AXA Art Insurance Corporation accepted the Corporate Citizenship in the Arts Award.

    [9] And Bebe Neuwirth took the stage and someone at The Observer‘s table muttered, “Did you ever watch Cheers? That was Frasier’s wife.” The sort of comment that (isn’t it interesting) really ages a person, and Bebe Neuwirth spoke animatedly for just a few minutes.

    [10] And Bebe Neuwirth showed a video about Brian Stokes Mitchell, and all the minutes of the Brian Stokes Mitchell video were, it’s safe to say, around five, and then it ended.

    [11] And Brian Stokes Mitchell walked onto the stage to receive his Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award and he didn’t read from a piece of paper but was instead really quite casual and enjoyable and able to connect with an audience, which seems about right, for a performer.

    [12] And then dinner was served, and dinner was risotto and something that was either a pork chop or a lamb chop, as well as little packets of broccolinis tied together with a single strand of broccolini, and the servers served the lamb or pork chop, the risotto and the packets of broccolini separately from large serving dishes using large metal tongs or spoons, and when all the guests had been served they talked amongst themselves, and drank wine and ate, and it was pretty good.

    [13] And all the minutes of the dinner were something like twenty or thirty, and then the interstitial music signaled its conclusion, and Maria Bell, Vice Chairman, Americans for the Arts, Board of Directors and Chair, National Arts Awards, made some remarks.

    [14] And then there was a performance by young alumni of a program called YoungArts that included jazz vocalists, a jazz percussionist, a jazz guitarist, a violinist, a violist and a cellist. And there was a passage of music in their performance that was maudlin and moving and for a second there you (or perhaps just The Observer) had the terrifying feeling you were about to experience actual emotions at an awards program, which would somehow seem not just mildly inappropriate but out-and-out gauche, and you would never again be invited to such a thing, and you told yourself, “Keep it together.”

    [15] And the YoungArts alumnis’ performance lasted around ten minutes, and when it was done a video was shown about Josh Groban, and Josh Groban accepted the Bell Family Foundation Young Artist Award, and spoke for approximately three minutes.

    [16] And all the minutes of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s introduction of Lin Arison were probably fewer than five but you wanted them to be more because it was Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    [17] And Lin Arison, who is an arts educator, spoke for a few minutes and that was moving, too, because you got the sense that she was more dedicated to arts education than most people are or ever will be to anything in their entire lives, and despite your private doubts about certain methods of art education, which seem too high on attempts to inspire and too low on teaching the rigors of disciplines, you were moved and—let it be said, because you are fairly deeply cynical and unmovable at these things but it was probably that music before that sort of dislodged something in your hard heart—you were even slightly inspired.

    [18] And Agnes Gund spoke for several minutes and, after showing a video about the Pop painter James Rosenquist, introduced the Pop painter James Rosenquist.

    [19] And the Pop painter James Rosenquist was given the Isabella and Theodore Dalenson Lifetime Achievement Award and gave an impressively brief acceptance speech. And the thing about James Rosenquist’s impressively brief acceptance speech is that you can wait three and a half hours at these kinds of events for a snippet of real eloquence, and sometimes the snippet of eloquence doesn’t arrive, but sometimes it does, and when it does, as it did last night at 10:20, the evening is suddenly and miraculously rendered entirely worth it, the snippet of eloquence being worth every second of every minute of every video; worth every synthesized note of interstitial music; every awkward social exchange like when you remarked to a group of people that Mitt Romney seems like just one among many boxed Mitt Romneys that are unboxed and sent out into the world on a conveyor belt, and then realized you couldn’t be sure of anyone’s politics and had probably committed a hoof-in-mouth; worth every excruciating near-encounter with that person you’re ambivalent about.

    [20] And a set of closing remarks by C. Kendric Fergeson, Chair, Americans for the Arts Board of Directors, and Robert J. Lynch lasted you know not how long and a goodie bag contained you know not what because you left before the former without taking the latter.

    [21] But when you emerged onto a wet but unrainy 42nd Street you were pleased with yourself for having remembered to retrieve your umbrella from the coat check because when you forget to retrieve your umbrella from the coat check it tends to rain, and when you remember to retrieve it, it tends not to.

    [22] Here is what James Rosenquist said: “I served for six years on the National Endowment for the Arts and when senators and congressmen would say, ‘Why don’t we fund liquor stores? They make you feel good, don’t they?’ my standard answer was, ‘An artist provides an abstract mental garden for other people to think, live, work and exist in so maybe if you fund them you might have a little humanism imparted into your own neighborhood.”

  • Artist Julie Mehretu and honoree James Rosenquist

  • Honoree Brian Stokes Mitchell and presenter Bebe Neuwirth

  • Director of the Whitney Museum Adam Weinberg and Event Co-Chair Theodor Dalenson

  • Event Chair Maria Bell and art dealer Tony Shafrazi

  • President and CEO of Americans for the Arts Robert Lynch, honoree Lin Arison, Lisa Rinehard and presenter Mikhail Baryshnikov

  • Presenter Marty Margulies and honoree Christiane Fischer

  • Amy Phelan, Event Chair Maria Bell, Justine Koons

  • President and CEO of Americans for the Arts Robert Lynch and honoree Lin Arison

  • Actress Allyson Tucker, honoree Brian Stokes Mitchell and presenter Renée Fleming

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