“I used to think Bob Colacello was the most popular person I know, but now I think Kenny might be,” said David Kratz, president of the New York Academy of Art, who has paid tribute to Kenny Scharf, the artist and contemporary of Keith Haring. and Jean-Michel Basquiat, at his TriBeCa ball on Tuesday.
Mr. Colacello took the beard in stride. “I’ll be nice and say being No. 2 isn’t so bad,” he said.
The ball was held at the five-story school building on Franklin Street, bequeathed to the school by Andy Warhol. At 6 p.m., guests began exploring the students’ paint-splattered studios on the upper floors.
“It’s all about the artists,” said Eileen Guggenheim, president of the school. “These are artists who may have never sold work before and are bringing the work to all these collectors, gallery owners and supporters of the school.”
The crowd included prominent collectors like Ashley Abess and Beth Rudin DeWoody, as well as artists like Brian Donnelly (better known as Kaws), who spent some time in the studio of Telvin Wallace, whose work includes pastels reclaiming scenes from Wes Anderson films with young black figures.
Model Helena Christensen examined the works of Hope Buzzelli, who used colored pencil to depict a rabbit being dissected; and Jed Smith, who paints cowboy watercolors inspired by his home in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Did Mrs. Christensen acquire anything? “I have to buy a new wall to put them on,” she said.
And Mrs. Guggenheim? “I saw a painting that I really wanted, and it had just been sold,” she said. “But he sold to friends of mine.”
At 8 p.m., the 250 guests, including actresses Naomi Watts and Brooke Shields, gathered for dinner downstairs. “These date back to midnight,” Ms Shields said, referring to her diamond-encrusted earrings on loan from Van Cleef & Arpels, a sponsor of the ball.
After an aperitif of asparagus risotto, the guests mingled with the pink and orange columns. The atmosphere was chatty, even joyful. “Benefits tend to be a bit boring, frankly,” said Colacello, who was jumping off the table. “But it’s really fun, and it attracts a lot of artists, which is great.”
Tony Shafrazi, a downtown drug pioneer, pinched Mr. Scharf’s cheek before planting an avuncular kiss. Next to him, Francesco Clemente tore artichokes with his hands, while Leonard McGurr, otherwise known as Futura, drew on his napkin with a Sharpie. (He then stuffed the masterpiece into his jacket pocket.)
After the bass main course, Mrs. Guggenheim toasted Mr. Scharf. “It’s the artist who created his own scene,” she said. Mr. Scharf reciprocated and recounted how, before Mrs. Guggenheim taught him at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was only interested in studying what he called the “three B: bongs, beers and babes”. Mr. Scharf was then awarded an honorary doctorate, to much applause.
Mr. Clemente offered one more compliment before the evening was over. “Kenny is the best human being that ever lived,” he said. “He’s the nicest and funniest person.” Popular, indeed.