Ava DuVernay, Keanu Reeves, Henry Taylor, and More Fête MOCA at Its Annual Gala

Alexandra Grant, Keanu Reeves, and Carolyn Clark Powers.  
All images courtesy of MOCA.

Most museum galas honor an artist. But few hand over the event’s entire creative direction to one. The artist-designed, over-the-top installations and performances at the annual fundraising gala for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, have made it one of the spring season’s most coveted tickets. 

On Sunday night, artists and patrons braved the damp weather to enter an otherworldly atmosphere created by the LA-based artist Max Hooper Schneider at the museum’s Geffen Contemporary location. Guests were greeted by a giant bioluminescent meteor crater installed on the outdoor plaza. Inside, the dining tables and stage were covered in sparkling botanicals, LED lights, aquatic projections, and a kaleidoscope of other psychedelic objects and materials.

Guests at the star-studded event, which raised $3 million for the museum, included director Ava DuVernay, actors David Alan Grier and Keanu Reeves, collector and Oprah Winfrey Network president Tina Perry-Whitney, musician Kim Gordon, and collectors Janine and Lyndon Barrois. Also in attendance were artists Paul McCarthy, Alexandra Grant, Henry Taylor, Miranda July, Charles Gaines, Sterling Ruby, Catherine Opie, Andrea Bowers, Jonas WoodJennifer Guidi, Paul Pfeiffer, and Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio (the latter two have exhibitions on view at MOCA). Models sporting sparkling jewels by Bulgari, the event’s sponsor, circulated around the venue.  

Board chair Maria Seferian kicked off the evening followed by remarks from board president Carolyn Powers and Hervé Perrot, president of Bulgari North America. A raffle offered up items including Bulgari jewelry, a vacation package, and a studio visit and limited-edition artwork by Max Hooper Schneider. Dinner concluded with a performance by St. Vincent. 

“The museum really has kind of functioned as like a laboratory, in this specific instance,” Hooper Schneider told CULTURED. “It's like letting someone come into my house, cook whatever they want, and use whatever detergent they want, you know what I mean? Whatever incense they want, and like, just be open to it.”

The evening marked the third gala since Johanna Burton’s appointment as MOCA’s director in 2021. At the podium, she offered a preview of a packed slate of upcoming projects, including solo exhibitions by Josh Kline and Ana Segovia, an exhibition highlighting artists working in photorealism, and a site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson for the art and science-themed Pacific Standard Time initiative. Burton said that the Kline show, among others, would be supported in part by MOCA’s environmental council, the first program of its kind promoting energy efficiency and clean energy projects for the visual arts in the U.S.

For the third time, MOCA also held a gala after-party, allowing for increased fundraising opportunities and a broader audience to engage with the festivities. DJs Kilo Kish and Kitty Ca$h played as guests danced around the meteor crate and enjoyed late-night access to the galleries. “The gala is really fun and fancy and special and magical—but then we do have a big after-party, where we open things up more widely,” Burton explained. “In both cases, we have a huge amount of artists from the community involved … It's both a total gift and an incentive to continue to find ways to open up.”