Pace’s Half Century, Under the Highline

Last Thursday evening, after a flash flood of biblical proportions, Arne Glimcher greeted arriving guests like Noah shepherding animals onto his ark. But unlike the guests on Noah’s Ark, the guests at Mr. Glimcher’s 50th anniversary party did not differ in species and were all of the art-world genus, differentiated only by breed–artist, collector, curator, museum director–and rank in the food chain.

Mr. Glimcher stood at the end of the covered entry gallery appropriately lit with hurricane lamps. The thin-lipped septuagenarian, who opened the earliest incarnation of the Pace Gallery 50 years ago in Boston, welcomed well-wishers with smiles.

“It’s nice when you look at really early things like all the pop stuff that we were there selling,” Mr. Glimcher mused to a guest, batting a bamboo frond out of his way. “Warhols for $200 and Oldenberg’s for $150.”

“How much was De Kooning?” asked Lisa De Kooning of works by her father.

“We were selling De Koonings, too. I had sold ‘Women’ drawings, probably the first things I sold were in the late ’60s.”

“The thing my father told my mother about the ‘Women’ series, he turned to her and said, ‘Jesus, Elaine, I wouldn’t wanna meet her in a dark hallway.'”

Mr. Glimcher chuckled low and appreciative, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Quite literally a block party, an unrolled carpet of inch-deep fresh grass extended south from West 25th Street to the northern sidewalk of 24th Street. The graffitied walls of what is usually a parking lot under the High Line and the braille-like rivets of the track’s girders were the only reminder of what the Cinderella-like space once was. Now glowing with oversize white paper lanterns and fairy lights, looped swag and jabot from the High Line’s underbelly, thick bouquets of sunflowers, moss-covered settees and thickly striped black-and-white table cloths created a Narnia out of asphalt.

Artists included in the exhibition reveled under the train tracks, including Jim Dine, Joel Shapiro, John Chamberlain and Chuck Close.

Asked what 50th anniversary the artist would most like to celebrate, Mr. Close, minimalist chic in a slate silk scarf and black flannel fedora trimmed with a grosgrain ribbon, also black, replied flatly, “I don’t know, I’ve been married 43 years and I’m getting divorced, so I’m not going to have one of those.”

Über-collector Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, effervescently explained that they had flown in from Paris the night before, “especially for this!”

“We were at the opening of the Murakami exhibition at Versailles and we were also at the Jeff Koons exhibition there.”

Asked what 50th anniversary he would like to celebrate, Mr. Broad smiled warmly that he and his wife already celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary five years ago.

And they’re not the only ones. Mr. Glimcher and his wife, Milly, celebrated their golden anniversary earlier this year, but with a more low-key celebration: “We just had our children and grandchildren to dinner.”

What was on the menu?

“Roast turkey–it is my favorite meal–with mashed potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce.”

Like the couple’s anniversary, this celebration featured hordes of Glimchers–children and grandchildren, including gallery president Marc and his wife, Andrea.

Around 9 p.m., the birthday cake floated above guests’ heads on caterer’s palm-up hands. Skinny tapers in thematic black and white crowned a four-tier tray of crème-brûlée-caramelized doughnuts.

Helping Mr. Glimcher celebrate his 50 years as gallerist were artist progeny, some barely half the gallery’s age. The coterie of second generations included Kate Prizel Rothko, Ms. de Kooning, Chiara Clemente and Vito Schnabel.

“I would dance like nobody’s looking,” answered Ms. de Kooning when asked how she would celebrate a 50th anniversary of her own.

“My father said to me when I was 13, and I was getting angry about not being able to go to a party, he looked at me and he said, ‘You know, Lisa, there’s always another party.’

“And I thought, ‘Wow, he’s right.'”

It takes some chutzpah to question the wisdom of Willem de Kooning, but the Pace Gallery’s golden anniversary under the High Line may prove the Abstract Expressionist wrong–there’s not always another party like this.

At a back table, Mr. Close tapped his hand on his knee to the beat of Michael Jackson playing overhead: “People always told me be careful of what you do, don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts …”

–Chloe Malle

Pace’s Half Century, Under the Highline