we went there (sort of)

Bidding from Bed with Sotheby’s

Mel Bochner, Amazing, 2020.

It’s no secret that 2020 has been the kindest to the rich and famous. Perhaps if the year could name a winner (aside from Jeff Bezos), it would be that seductively elusive population of introverted celebrities and reclusive billionaires for which 2020’s damper on social gatherings has been just an enormous relief. Those that once struggled to leave their homes without encountering a barrage of fans begging for selfies can now fashionably disguise themselves behind anti-microbial masks. Those weary of red carpets and multi-hour award shows can find a welcome reprieve in social distancing mandates. Even the relentless stream of charity events, all vying for a place on their calendars, has become increasingly manageable, it seems, with the fall of the posh society gala and the rise of the digital fundraiser. 

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (van Gogh Wheatfield with Cypresses), 2017.

On Monday night, Sotheby’s, in collaboration with the New York print studio and gallery Two Palms, hosted one such affair: Choice Works, an online benefit event and auction in support of Planned Parenthood. The event, a celebration of Two Palms’s 25th anniversary, also paid timely homage to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The auction featured never-before sold works by prominent artists, including Laurie Simmons, Marilyn Minter, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, and Ellen Gallagher, many of whom discussed their contributions in the pre-recorded compilation video that aired during the online event. Outspoken advocates for reproductive rights populated the evening program, emceed in part by artists Cecily Brown and Amy Sherald. Kristen Bell, Miranda July, and Alan Cumming, broadcasting from their homes, voiced their commitment to Planned Parenthood and urged viewers to vote in November. T-shirts, designed by Cindy Sherman in collaboration with Narciso Rodgriguez, were sold in conjunction with the festivities. It was the ideal antidote to “benefit fatigue,” as Evelyn Lasry, who co-owns Two Palms with her husband David Lasry, called it.

Ed Ruscha, So, 2016.

The evening culminated in an up-close recorded stream of Questlove of The Roots, DJ-ing in a shirt that read in bold lettering “NEIL F**kin’ DIAMOND.” “I hope everyone is out there dancing,” he whispered into the microphone over a set of disco and funk classics, while the live chat that ran along the sidebar of the browser window buzzed with commentary. “Sweet transition!” “Running to get another kombucha.” 

Rashid Johnson, Untitled, 2019.

With attendees’ last names hidden, for the most part, in the chat window, who’s really to say who made it to the party? One can only imagine Sotheby’s polished execs bopping along to Questlove’s beats in their Vitra-clad living rooms, or acquisitive collectors toasting “Viva Planned Parenthood!” with the purple-haired Judy Chicago, who raised a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to reproductive rights from her porch in the compilation video. As online bids began to trickle in, it was nevertheless clear that people were tuning in, making for a successful night for Planned Parenthood, and yet another reminder of “these unprecedented times.”

Katherine Bradford, Couple Beach for PP, 2020.

Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity Quilt, 1983.