One week before the new downtown Whitney Museum opens to the public, Italian luxury brand Max Mara invited 4,000 artists, curator, designers, editors, benefactors and entertainers to experience the building and its inaugural exhibitions for the first time on Friday night.
The party was massive, covering every inch of the museum: There were five bars over seven floors and even the cold, windy outdoor spaces were popular, thanks to standing heaters and views of the sunset over the Hudson River. The eighth floor was the most crowded, where a VIP dinner for 80 — including Sarah Jessica Parker, Dakota Fanning and many artists — was held. Thronged throughout were a fair amount of kids with their parents and even some college students.
The dress code was "festive" and, as you might imagine, the attire ranged wildly and veered towards the casual. One young man wore Mickey Mouse ears and another a sequin gold tuxedo.
Designer Prabal Gurung was not one of those young men. "This is all old thrift store vintage," he said about his t-shirt and jacket. "It said 'festive' which for me is also comfortable." I found Gurung at the bar on the eighth floor with friends Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, who wore a Dior suit, and Barbara Bush, who paraded in a revealing white pantsuit by Gurung.
Nearby, Max Mara Creative Director Ian Griffiths mingled with guests. "Why wouldn’t you want to support something as lovely as the Whitney?" he said when I asked why Max Mara decided to underwrite the party. Griffiths collaborated with the museum's architect, Renzo Piano, and his firm to design a calfskin tote to celebrate the opening. The bag had its own party on Wednesday night. "To work with an architect of the stature of Renzo Piano and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop was the fulfillment of a lifetime's ambition," he said. "I don't think an opportunity will come around like that ever again."
As the eighth floor bar got more crowded, guests made their way out to the terrace for some fresh and frigid air. Solange Knowles stood out in a bright yellow yeti coat and green furry pumps, though she politely refused to pose for most pictures or to answer reporters' questions.
I spotted Knowles again later that night on the ground floor perched on the edge of the DJ stage with Zoe Kravitz, who was waiting for her turn with the music. St. Vincent was on deck until about 9:30 p.m. and clearly didn't mind that the ground floor was still sparse as people made their way through the galleries above. She put on 50 Cent's "In Da Club."
"I’m wearing a monkey hair jacket from the '20s that I bought at a thrift store in Salt Lake City, Utah," said Clark after her DJ duties were over. Max Mara provided the dress she wore underneath it. "I like the idea of having a uniform," she said when I asked her about her onstage style. "Like Einstein."
In one of the quieter galleries I spotted "Broad City" writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, who also plays Abbi's boss Trey on the show. "I’m wearing a Versus jacket," said Downs, opening his black bomber jacket to reveal a colorful print on the inside lining."It's wild inside, like me." Aniello said she helped pick out his "fashion" outfit and wore her olive green overalls because she lives in LA and it was easy to pack. "She has said to people when they ask what's she's wearing, 'I made it, it's made of WWII parachutes,'" explained Down. "But it's from A.P.C. which is really rude of her." Who knew Downs was so up on his European designers?
As the crowd started to thin out, Whitney Director Adam Weinberg stood by the revolving doors to personally say good night to all the guests, looking like a proud father. He and Renzo Piano shared a hug among the photographers as two members of the feminist collective, the Guerrilla Girls, stood by wearing their signature gorilla masks. It was a fitting end to a grand party that managed to feel both intimate and inclusive, not unlike the building it celebrated.