Shot From the Hip: SculptureCenter Fêtes Fred Wilson, Susanne Ghez at Annual Benefit

Anicka Yi’s work ‘2NE1’ (2013). (Photos by Leandro Justen/BFA)

A topless Russian and an elaborate humanoid ice luge were among the sights that greeted guests at SculptureCenter’s annual benefit gala last night. More than a few attendees looked startled by the spectacle—the half-naked young man was dispensing lemon vodka from twin spigots that stuck out the sculpture, by artist Anicka Yi—but it could have been a lot more shocking. “I originally proposed he be completely nude,” Ms. Yi said as she watched the slender model banter. “That was shot down very quickly.”

Ms. Yi had also intended for Dmitri (who was included in the work’s list of materials) to be serving lines of cocaine on a platinum platter. This too failed to get the green light, which was a shame, she said, because “they would have been very precisely cut.”

The crowd knocking back citrusy shots and milling about the art-deco Edison Ballroom included artists Carol Bove and Adam McEwen (the two newest members of the SculptureCenter board of trustees), Hanna Liden, Maya Lin, B. Wurtz and the evening’s two honorees, Susanne Ghez and Fred Wilson, who is the board’s president.

Ceruti, Wilson and Ghez.

“I’ve never shown at SculptureCenter, oddly enough,” said the exuberant Mr. Wilson, looking dapper in a dark suit and bright polka-dot tie. He does, however, have an exhibition of recent work coming up at Pace Gallery, his Chelsea roost, in the spring.

Dealers abounded, including last year’s honoree, Paula Cooper, Andrew Kreps, Michele Maccarone and Pace president Douglas Baxter, as did museum leaders, with curators and directors like Massimiliano Gioni and Cecilia Alemani, Tom Finkelpearl and Eugenie Tsai, and Agnes Gund working the room.

“The crowd is a little bit different,” said artist Agnieszka Kurant, whose upcoming show at SculptureCenter opens on Nov. 10. “It’s more hip this year.” Ms. Kurant is currently finishing up work for the exhibition, which includes a project with characters who were cut from Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and The Conversation. Ms. Kurant is working with Charlotte Rampling and the other original actors to shoot new footage in which they revisit the roles that were left on the cutting-room floor.

Ushers began asking, then begging, guests to take their seats for dinner around 8 p.m. and eventually got their way. The crowd ceased mingling and munched on asparagus as SculptureCenter’s boisterous board chairman, Sascha Bauer, took the stage. “I have to be very careful with the way I talk about Mary,” he said, referring to executive director and chief curator Mary Ceruti. Last year, he “talked about her so glowingly that Ugo Rondinone exclaimed to his whole table, ‘Oh my god, he’s having an affair with her!'”

Arunanondchai in action.

After listening to comments from her and Ms. Ghez, Mr. Bauer slipped outside for a cigarette. He wasn’t scandalized by the half-naked Russian, he said. “We actually conduct all of our board meetings completely in the nude.”

Back inside, Korakrit Arunanondchai’s highly anticipated performance had started. White smoke billowed around him as he rapped, dressed entirely in denim, as a troupe of too-cool Thai guys, similarly attired, smoked electronic cigarettes and nodded along behind him. It was a lot like watching one of his paintings come to life. “I don’t fully understand performance art in the way that I should,” said Mr. Bauer, as he took in the spectacle from the bar.

After the show, the denim-clad doppelgängers all headed to the karaoke after party upstairs, prompting everyone within earshot to speculate as to which was “the real one.” They all took turns on the microphone.

Shot From the Hip: SculptureCenter Fêtes Fred Wilson, Susanne Ghez at Annual Benefit