On Tuesday night a flush crowd indeed gathered at the Whitney Museum to see Jeff Koons host the Wall Street Journal‘s first Donor of the Day Celebration, a black-tie evening to honor philanthropists who recently spotlighted in the paper’s column about impressive altruists. Presented by Harry Winston and Oscar de la Renta, the gala also served up an unintended boon: it brought its wealthy honorees within range of the Whitney’s fundraisers, who are currently laying the groundwork for a blowout 2014 show to cap the museum’s half-century stay at the Marcel Breuer building on East 75th Street before heading down the Meatpacking District. That exhibition, a career survey of Koons’s hugely popular—and enormously costly—art, promises to be one of the most expensive in the Whitney’s history.
Scott Rothkopf, the young superstar curator who has been quietly organizing the show for over a year now, was good-naturedly shuttling from one cluster of patrons to another. A “scholarly” overview of Koons’s oeuvre, the exhibition will fill all but one floor of the museum—the first time the artist’s work has been shown in depth since his 2008 survey at the Château de Versailles. Will Puppy, the artist’s monumental sculpture of a good dog made from 70,000 fresh-cut flowers (which Jerry Saltz dubbed the best artwork of the last decade), be kenneled in the show? While the beloved sculpture hasn’t been seen in New York since being displayed at Rockefeller Center in 2000, and while the dog could be spectacularly displayed in Central Park as part of the exhibition, Rothkopf said it would be unlikely unless a generous patron steps forward to foot the considerable bill for the piece. Hmm… perhaps a certain public-art-loving billionaire mayor whose epic term ends on January 1, 2014, could be persuaded to pick up the tab?
Speaking of patrons, Koons himself was honored at the ceremony for his generous support of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children through his Koons Family Institute, a charitable organization he created after losing his son, Ludwig, when his ex-wife, the porn star Ilona Staller, took the boy to Italy despite Koons’s legal custody. Koons gave an emotional speech about his charity work before ceding the stage to ICMEC executive Ernie Allen as a crowd including Susan Sarandon, Daniel Boulud, Glenn Fuhrman, Alex Tisch, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, and John Varvatos looked on. Finally, the night was concluded with a rousing set by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.