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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "Naked" Dinner - Eating With Nudes at Marina Abramovic's LA MOCA Gala Performance

This article also appeared in The NY Observer.

"I think we're going to leave. My friend fainted."

That was the very first comment The Observer overheard as we headed into the entertainment portion of our program at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's annual gala on Saturday night.

Cocktail hour at the gala had been relatively tame--everyone milling about, chatting each other up and giving each other the up-and-down--outfits are important at this event. Dita Von Teese was resplendent in Gaultier haute couture, while Minnie Driver went contemporary in a Douglas Hannant Andy Warhol camouflage number with Pomellato jewelry - yet she was just as va-va-voom as the diminutive burlesque star. Art patron Mandy Einstein cut a lithe figure in black Thierry Mugler and artist Rosson Crow looked like a happy cake topper in light peach vintage Don Loper. Gwen Stefani--sans husband Gavin--was a standout, and perhaps the centerpiece of this precursor to the evening's big event... which is to say: dinner. To which, at that moment, we were summoned...

MOCA is by now famous for having artists 'curate' or rather 'direct' the annual gala; in previous years, the likes of multi-media artist Doug Aitken and artist/satirist Francesco Vezzoli spearheaded everything from the napkins to the entertainment. Saturday night, it was performance artist extraordinaire Marina Abramovic's turn. At this point in her career, the artist is used to hearing the word 'controversy' when her work is a topic of discussion. Just 24 hours before her directorial debut of "An Artist's Life Manifesto," the MOCA gala piece, she was lambasted by legendary dancer Yvonne Rainer for what Ms. Rainer called 'grotesque' and 'verging on economic exploitation' for Ms. Abramovic's use of 85 actors--for two days of services, each participant was to be paid $150 and would also receive a one-year membership to the museum.

But we digress.

The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, Ms. Harry was handed a large knife, which she raised over her head and plunged into her very own likeness. Which, appropriately, was a red velvet cake. Cheers erupted all around--but at some point in the room, those cheers were stifled by the chants of "Violence Against Women! Violence Against Women!" By the time we got up to find the dissenting voices, they had apparently been ushered out. Dinner was over, cake body parts were being circulated by what was now droves of those shirtless men, and MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch appeared beyond pleased. "We wanted an event and we got one," he said.

But the question still remained--was this event exploitative? Our tablemate, who preferred not to be named, blurted out, without missing a beat, "Isn't it supposed to be?"

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The "Naked" Dinner - Eating With Nudes at Marina Abramovic's LA MOCA Gala Performance. In my humble opinion, who wants to eat with a naked body and a skeleton in front of you. I prefer floral centerpieces, this was a bit too avant garde for my taste.

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