There’s nothing more terrifying for outdoor event planners than rain, the ultimate harbinger of open-air-gala gloom. This past weekend, renowned interdisciplinary arts laboratory The Watermill Center experienced the nightmare firsthand during its Annual Summer Benefit—except the nightmare wasn’t a nightmare at all.
Amidst the downpour, keen-eared attendees could make out the voice of Watermill Artistic Director Robert Wilson rising above the pounding deluge, excitedly declaring “It is perfect!” As Wilson watched the newspaper-covered set of his once-in-a-lifetime performance of “Ubu” become waterlogged, he just grinned wider and shouted, “I came to this area to be closer to nature!”
The sound system sputtered to a stop, but not to worry. Wilson narrated the production live by himself. Rather than detract from the experience, the storm augmented it meaningfully—what better way for experimental art to surreally mirror modern life than to make use of extremely unexpected puddles as literal pools of reflection? As they say, the show must go on.
The 2023 Watermill Center Annual Summer Benefit celebrated not only The Watermill Center but also the body’s role in the creation of art, as well as artistic experimentation in general. Entitled “the BODY,” the benefit—long a staple on the high society aesthete’s Hamptons summer calendar—pulled out all the stops.
Luckily, unlike Wilson’s nighttime production of “Ubu,” most of the Benefit’s programming did not fall prey to the whims of Mother Nature. Prominent performance artist and poet Regina José Galindo sat passively inside a police cruiser while it was being dismantled by a team of a dozen mechanics, not even flinching when literal sparks began to fly, in her show-stopping “SIREN” performance; Leah Marojević melted large ice sculptures across her naked torso in her performance of Ola Maciejewska’s “The Second Body;” and the sonatas and partitas of Bach resonated throughout the Center in a live performance by Grammy award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh. The titular exhibition, made up of works from twenty-three of The Watermill Center’s summer Artists-in-Residence and curated by Noah Khoshbin, was presented by Van Cleef & Arpels in honor of American artist Simone Forti and the late philanthropist Baroness Nina von Maltzhan.
The Benefit’s guest list was unsurprisingly studded with stars—everyone from actor Cuba Gooding Jr. to philanthropist Katharine Rayner to Congolese singer-songwriter Young Paris made their way to