“I’ve never seen so many celebrities together in one place in my life,” said an artist at the 2023 LACMA Art+Film Gala on Saturday night.
Just how star-studded was the 12th annual event? So celebrity-heavy that one world-famous star was overheard — in a true “stars are just like us” moment — saying, “I really want to go up and meet them.”
His friend egged him on, “Just go do it.”
“The thing is though, I always play it cool,” said the star, demurring. “I always play it cool.”
He could have been talking about any number of A-list talent among the few hundred guests seated inside the Gucci-sponsored gala. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, A$AP Rocky, Blackpink’s Rosé, Billie Eilish, Keanu Reeves, Andrew Garfield, Jessica Chastain and Pedro Pascal were just some of the names enjoying the evening, which raised $5 million in funds that will go to support LACMA’s film-focused curatorial programming as well as the museum’s broader mission.
Each year, the LACMA Art+Film Gala — co-chaired by DiCaprio and Eva Chow — celebrates a visual artist and a film director and brings together the worlds of cinema and fine art. This year’s honorees were David Fincher — whose latest film The Killer stars Michael Fassbender — and artist and activist Judy Baca, famed for her half-mile-long mural the Great Wall of Los Angeles, one of the longest artworks in the world.
After guests enjoyed a cocktail hour outside and VIPs stood for their requisite photos in front of Chris Burden’s Urban Light sculpture of L.A. streetlights — which served as the party’s red carpet — the party moved inside for a dinner by Mattia Agazzi, the Michelin-star chef of Beverly Hills’ Gucci Osteria, in collaboration with chef Joachim Splichal.
The Hollywood Reporter saw Jodie Turner-Smith catching up with Quinta Brunson, Odessa A’zion and Eilish. Salma Hayek and husband François-Henri Pinault — the owner of Gucci parent company Kering as well as the very new owner of CAA — sat with Jessica Chastain, who wore a metallic gown by Gucci. Paris Hilton and mom Kathy Hilton posed with Kardashian. Colman Domingo, the star of Rustin, sat chatting with David Oyelowo, the lead of the new Paramount+ series Lawmen: Bass Reeves. And new Gucci creative director Sabato De Sarno made the scene with everyone from Julia Garner and Elliot Page to Heidi Klum and Jodie Comer.
Conversations often centered on the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike and whether it is about to resolve, a subject broached by Fincher in his speech from the stage. “We must get these supremely talented people back to work. We have to very soon,” said the director, who was introduced by Pitt, who has starred in three of Fincher’s films.
Pitt joked about the exacting standards of Fincher when shooting. “Here’s some things you will hear on a David Fincher shoot: ‘Let’s shoot this now before we all lose interest in living.’ ‘OK, we have the out-of-focus version. Now let’s try one that’s in focus.’ ‘That was shit through no fault of my own.’ And a personal fave: ‘I want you guys to enjoy yourselves, but that’s what Saturdays and Sundays are for.’” The actor went on to praise the director, saying, “Working with him, you will know what excellence feels like. His films — they’ve always challenged our sense of safety. As he says, ‘If we’re not out there juggling chainsaws, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.’” He also touted Fincher for “the countless technical advancements he’s brought in our industry,” for helping advance the careers of numerous cinematographers and for all the career advice that he’s generously given to “aspiring young directors.” Added Pitt, referring to a popular Netflix feature, “He even created the ‘Skip Intro’ button you’ll probably use tonight.”
In his speech, Fincher recalled being a kid who wanted to be an artist — “draining fistfuls of my father’s big ballpoints, lost for days to tiny aesthetic endurance contests” — before giving up drawing. As for the profession he ultimately chose, “I suppose I’ve never looked at directing as artistic because it required so many actual artists just to get through a given day,” said Fincher. However, he’s since come around on that subject. “I’ve met more capital-A artists in Los Angeles than any other place I’ve ever lived or worked … The desert here has absorbed the sweat and tears of generations of cinematic artisans, people with innate understandings of their craft, effortless style, people capable of lyrical insights and in-depth solutions.”
In a seeming retort to Martin Scorsese’s recent comments on the moribund state of cinema, Fincher continued: “I’d also like to take this opportunity to insist that cinema is not dead. It’s not even close. Man has painted for more than 30,000 years, he has played with building blocks of cinema for just over 100. We are barely capable of keeping our heads upright or rolling over. We’re not even crawling. True cinema, the resonant play of ideas and behaviors against story structures, forged, implied or even ignored, wasn’t diminished by the advent of sound or color or streaming. It evolved and it’ll continue to do so, but we must push it prod it, test its tensile strength and never shy from questioning its effects and worthiness.”
Introducing visual artist honoree Baca was Eva Longoria, who praised the muralist for her practice dedicated to creating “community-based public art projects” and for leaving “her mark literally all over this city, from K-Town to Boyle Heights, from the San Fernando Valley to Echo Park, from the Venice boardwalk to the 110 freeway, Judy has worked together with communities across Los Angeles to transform the city’s bare walls into beautiful monuments to its people, past and present.” Longoria added that Baca “didn’t want to make art that would only be seen by people in galleries. As a matter of fact, we were outside and she was, ‘Can you believe I’m here at LACMA? The whole existence of my art was to fight against this.’ This is why she made so many murals on the street for people to enjoy, because you don’t have to be in an institution to be an artist. She understood the power of art and how art gives a voice to the disenfranchised and the potential of public spaces for making their stories heard. She wanted to make art in service of social change and social justice.”
Baca worked with more than 400 young people to create the Great Wall of Los Angeles, which tells the history of the city through images and stories of traditionally under-represented communities. She accepted her honor, saying, “There are hundreds, probably thousands of people with me on the stage tonight” and recalling “I painted over half of my life in the L.A. River with over 400 youth in the burning sun, listening to the disappeared river, hardened into concrete, tattooing the scar where the river once ran, telling the story of people disappeared.” Baca currently plans to expand the Great Wall of Los Angeles to a mile in length, thanks to a $5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and through next June at LACMA — as part of the exhibition Painting in the River of Angeles — is creating new sections of the artwork, which will eventually be transferred to the L.A. River to join the mural.
In remarks to kick off the evening, LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan welcomed guests and called out the progress being made on the new Peter Zumthor-designed museum building that’s under construction, saying that he is “happy to report tonight — we’re 70 percent finished.”
The evening was also a major L.A. moment for Gucci’s de Sarno, who joined the house this past January and showed his first collection in Milan in September. At the LACMA Art+Film Gala, the designer introduced his first eveningwear collection for the luxury label, called Gucci Ancora Notte. It was worn at the event by a slew of models including Mariacarla Boscono, Vittoria Ceretti, Kirsty Hume, Abbey Lee, Jiahui Zhang, Fadia Ghaab, Nyajuok, Violet Hume, Heather Strongarm, Agel Akol, Camilla Orner and Sam Case.
Also present for the evening were past art honorees Catherine Opie, Helen Pashgian and Ed Ruscha, museums leaders such as Ann Philbin of the Hammer, Katherine Fleming of the Getty, Jacqueline Stewart of the Academy Museum and the Sandra Jackson-Dumont of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art; and a host of artists including Glenn Ligon, Greg Ito, Awol Erizku, Mary Weatherford, Jonas Wood, Analia Saban, Charles Gaines, Chase Hall and Lauren Halsey.
After the dinner, guests proceeded back outside where Jennifer Lopez, who attended with Ben Affleck, introduced the night’s performer, Lenny Kravitz, who played an ear-blasting set.
The gala was also sponsored by Audi which brought stars to the event in electric vehicles and shuttled many to the Chateau Marmont, the site of an unofficial afterparty.