Bettina's Take: The Big Bang, The 19th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit


Photo: Patrick McMullan
Lisa Anastos and Robert Wilson.

The Watermill Center benefit is arguably the most highly anticipated—and most fun—benefit of the summer season.

This year's party, themed The Big Bang, didn't disappoint. Guests who braved the pouring rain and wind were greeted at the entrance by a huge version of Paul Thek's Big Bang Painting, cut apart and turned into gates. The forest installations had to be modified due to the downpours, but there were plenty of other entertaining performance artists around, including a woman who was rolling around in a circular mud pile (Did she catch pneumonia? Let's hope not), half naked women painted in red and blue with Amy Winehouse hair and makeup doing a line dance, a giant butt-plug (so said somebody who recognizes these things), and what seemed like teenage kids dressed as makeshift trees, standing inside the tent near the silent auction items.

"Are you for sale?", I asked, but received no answer. These kids could be Beefeaters some day, or at the very least get permanent jobs as Mickey and Goofy at Disneyworld, I thought, impressed by their absolute silence.

The Big Bang theme continued with a moving vehicle that inflated a balloon (or was it a condom? I didn't catch it in time to see) until it burst with a loud "bang".

The silent auction was stellar as always, with works by Peter Dayton, Sandro Chia, Michael Dweck, Shirin Neshat and Terry Richardson, among others.

There was an exhibition of Mike Kelley's work in the main building.

Watermill Center founder Robert Wilson was understandably proud of the fabulous atmosphere in the great center he has built. I've known Bob since I was a child—my mother was one of his first champions and patrons—so it is a great pleasure for me to see how much he has achieved, and keeps on achieving.

Photo: Patrick McMullan

An atmosphere shot of the Big Bang-inspired festivities.

So why The Big Bang?

"Years ago, when I met Paul Thek, we became friends," said Wilson."One night he came to my studio and gave me a painting called The Big Bang. It was around the time I did Einstein on the Beach, in 1976, with Cecile Zilkha. This painting and Einstein on the Beach were pinnacle moments in my career and very memorable events. So I made this night for Mike Kelley who said that Paul Thek was the most influential artist on the work he did. This is The Big Bang—that's why we have rain and lightning tonight. There's a wonderful Brazilian artist here who wears a dress made of magnets. You can stand and throw magnets at her. When there is so much metal on her that she can no longer stand up,she falls down. That's called The Big Bang."

After a nice, long browse at the great art, guests moved through the rain to the dinner tent. Jay McInerney was the master of ceremonies. He did a great job enrapturing Anne Hearst McInerney, Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Nicole Miller, Bob Colacello, Cindy Sherman, Tom Sachs, Peter Brandt Jr, and Harry Brandt. The evening raised over $1.5 million.

Congratulations, dear Bob.