Tracee Ellis Ross Gives the New Museum Gala Crowd a Tour of Her Marni Gown

“The art must be seen,” Tracee Ellis Ross declared early on Wednesday evening at Cipriani South Street, where she was hosting the New Museum’s spring gala. The evening was honoring visual artists George Condo and Mickalene Thomas, but Ross was eager to show off a different piece of art: her hand painted dress, designed by Francesco Risso of Marni. “I’m going to give you a tour,” said Ross.

The actress walked to one side of the stage and slowly turned in a circle, and then shuffled to the other side of the stage for another spin. The blue hand-painted gown featured a high neck and drop armholes that revealed a cyan leotard underneath. Stationed back behind the podium, Ross touted the museum’s commitment to platforming diverse artists and celebrating contemporary ones. The New Museum, currently undergoing a building expansion that will double its exhibition space, is closed until early 2025.

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“This award makes complete sense,” said author Jacqueline Woodson, onstage to present Thomas with her honor. “The New Museum has been a home for radical imagination, and Mickalene has used her own radical imagination, radical generosity and radical connections to change the world,” she added. “And I would be remiss to not shout out her amazing fashion. We could spent a good half hour deconstructing the eyewear alone.”

Onstage, Thomas gave shout-outs to many of her friends in the crowd that have supported her throughout the years: New Museum deputy director Isolde Brielmaier, Emil Wilbekin, Derrick Adams, Robert Verdi, Mckenzie Liautaud, Darrell Walker and Michael Chuapoco.

“One of my missions is to create a platform that allows me to challenge society norms and create space for voices that aren’t often heard,” said Thomas. “Let’s continue to create a world that celebrates our differences, that amplifies our voices and that inspires us to be our authentic selves.”

Miles Greenberg, George Condo and Lisa Phillips
Miles Greenberg, George Condo and Lisa Phillips.

The evening drew some of the biggest names in contemporary art and culture, with other guests including Tschabalala Self, Sanford Biggers, Thelma Golden, Rashid Johnson, Kennedy Yanko, Hannah Traore, Lee Quiñones, Leo Villareal, Tierra Whack, actress Celeste O’Connor, photographer Tyler Mitchell, and Quil Lemons.

“We want to right the wrongs in the world,” said Condo of the collective artist mindset. “If politicians would just think like painters, they might be able to figure out how to get over some of this division,” he added. “We as artists take the most disparate tones and colors, and work with the most crazy and outrageous mismatched materials, and we put them together in such a way that there is unification of those things, and the outcome is beautiful.”

After dinner, the live auction offered up an assortment of collectibles. A Mickalene Thomas Dior Lady Art Bag was sold for $35,000 (Condo raised his paddle at $20,000, but was quickly outbid), two Marilyn Minter portraits went for $105,000 each, and a Nari Ward painting sold for $180,000. The final lot was a one-week rental aboard Guilty, the mega yacht owned by New Museum trustee Dakis Joannou which features a graphic exterior by Jeff Koons. Both men were in the crowd as they watched the final paddle price hit $115,000 (gas not included).

What better way to sail around the Ionian Islands this summer, knowing your support for art brought you there?

Jeff Koons and Dakis Joannou
Jeff Koons and Dakis Joannou

Launch Gallery: Tracee Ellis Ross, Tierra Whack, Mickalene Thomas and More Attend the New Museum Gala 2024

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