Culture

Brooke Shields and Naomi Watts Talk Astrology at the Tribeca Ball

Donna Karan, Julianne Moore, KAWS, and more turned up to honor artist Mickalene Thomas

“Poetic Astronomy” was the theme French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels assigned last night’s Tribeca Ball, the New York Academy of Art’s annual, star-studded fundraiser. As such, the suggested dress code was “celestial chic,” and attendees relished the chance to play up the theme. Entering the fete, held at the school’s historic 111 Franklin Street building, celebrities, paparazzi, and fashion and art world fixtures like Donna Karan, KAWS, Julianne Moore, Will Cotton, Van Cleef & Arpels president Alain Bernard, and more mingled with stilt walkers who, in ethereal, constellation-inspired costumes, looked like masquerading harlequins of the cosmos.

“Are you going to ask who I’m wearing?” asked benefit chair Naomi Watts. “Because I’ve forgotten,” she laughed. Several people seemed eager to fish for the forgotten label, but one trusty publicist was on point and relayed that it was Attico. Given the theme, the conversation turned to Watts’ star sign, which she did remember. “I’m into astrology until I’m not, you know? I’m a Libra, so I’m balanced, and unbalance bothers me. I also look at things from every angle,” she said, her eyes widening. “It’s exhausting.” Chair of the board, Eileen Guggenheim, couldn’t recall who she was wearing either. “It’s nobody big,” she said. “You can look.” The pastel green, sequin-covered evening dress was by Pascal Millet. “Oh, that sounds French,” she said. “I’m an Aries,” she continued. “We’re creative and courageous—an art school’s a great place for that, right?”

Upon her arrival, the evening’s honoree, Mickalene Thomas, was ushered toward the step-and-repeat just as Brooke Shields, wearing Sachin and Babi, exited. Shields actually matched a larger-than-life collage by Thomas that hung in the foyer, and stood beside it for another flurry of photos. “I love the Tribeca Ball, because it’s so purely about the art of the students,” she explained. “No matter what happens, it can never get bigger than that, and it can never be about anything other than them.” When asked for her star sign, she replied, “Both of us are Gemini.” She went on to perform both parts of a split personality-style argument. “You shut up!” she said looking one way, and then turned her iconic head the other. “No, you shut up!” Shields had braved the event with a crutch following recent surgery, and wasn’t so stable on her feet. With no cordon around honoree artist Thomas’ centerpiece collage that Shields complemented so well, and in need of a fixed thing on which to steady herself, her hand found the artwork first. “Oh no! I almost put my hand through it!” she exclaimed. The panic turned more playful. “Maybe they can charge more for it!”

That collage wasn’t up for auction, but Thomas’ work, displayed on the fifth floor, was. It raised $91,000 for the newly established Mickalene Thomas Scholarship. Thomas and her wife both wore Comme des Garçons for the affair, and the artist expressed her excitement over the scholarship in her honor. She also explained that she prefers Eastern astrology to Western. “I follow Chinese astrology,” she said. “I’m the Year of the Pig.” Someone mentioned that they were the Year of the Dog. “Oh, Pigs and Dogs get along, ironically. Some of my best friends are dogs,” she said, letting out a bright, full-bellied laugh. The cliché was lost on no one. Thomas’ work is noted for its sociological discourse—race, gender, and sexuality play major roles in all her art. “Pigs are spontaneous, outgoing, generous, flamboyant—I know I’m wearing all black, but it comes out in lots of ways,” she said, gesturing to the aforementioned collage. Informed of the Brooke Shields stumble, she said, “I hope it’s not damaged!” That was followed by another laugh. “Actually, I do have a piece of Brooke Shields’ hair. Brooke did a shoot and the hairstylist came to my studio afterwards, also to do a shoot. Brooke’s hair was still in the brush, so I have it stuck on my wall.” Perhaps more than just Brooke Shields’ fingerprints will be appearing as part of a Mickalene Thomas collage soon, and like the theme of the dazzling evening, that would definitely be poetic.

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