Photos: Technicolor MOCA gala celebrates Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist

“Everybody dances fearlessly & without judgement,” the invite promised. And it was right.

Welcome back to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual gala, which took place Saturday night for the first time since 2019 after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

Artists and celebrities, museum leaders and other art world figures — including Eva Longoria, Christina Hendricks, Gia Coppola, Keanu Reeves and artists Karon Davis, Lauren Halsey, Mary Weatherford, Alexandra Grant, Henry Taylor, Mark Grotjahn and Doug Aitken — mingled at a pre-dinner cocktail party on the outdoor plaza of the museum’s Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo.

Two partygoers lay on cushions inside Pipilotti Rist’s MOCA exhibit.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman in a colorful outfit and glasses pictured with a man in spectacles.

David C. Martin, left, with Pipilotti Rist, center.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A purse with a money symbol.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Two women point to a drink on a tray held by a server.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A man, a woman, and a photographer stand in an exhibit.

Pipilotti Rist gave a private tour of her art show to Chance the Rapper, the musical guest of the gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Noticeably missing? The standard tuxedo and black gown.

Instead, the evening — which marked the closing of the museum’s vivid, immersive, multimedia exhibition “Pipilotti Rist: Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor” on June 6 — was a kaleidoscopic blitz of fashion technicolor. The cheery orange pantsuits (yes, there were more than one), pink ruffled tuxedos (also multiples) and flowing fuchsia capes (okay, one) — even the yellow and pink-hued cocktails — seemed in conversation with the Swiss media artist’s glowing light installations and psychedelic video art. The invitation had encouraged colorful dress, after all.

But the evening’s bright color palette had additional significance. It festively marked the arrival of MOCA’s new director, Johanna Burton, the museum’s first-ever female leader. Not to mention a hopeful look forward at exhibitions and overall momentum to come, Burton said at the cocktail party.

“We’re celebrating the close of Pipi’s show and the impact of that show,” said Burton, who was wearing a rainbow-hued, sequined Gucci gown. “But also looking forward to the fall shows, which are all L.A.-based artists. This is a moment for us to reflect on the legacy of the institution and think about its future.”

A woman holds a drink.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A man, in profile, shows his blue and purple hairstyle to the camera.

Artist Greg Ito shows off his blue and purple ‘do.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Busting a move on the dancefloor.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman and a man pose for the camera.

Artist Alexandra Grant and actor Keanu Reeves take a break from mingling and smize for the camera.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman seated on a bench.

MOCA board member Dallas Price-Van Breda in the midst of an engaging conversation.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman shown in profile smiles for the camera.

Smiles were plentiful at the dinner.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman in a gold glove clutches a bag.

MOCA board chair Maria Seferian, clad in a gold glove and an orange and pink getup.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman sits between two men.

Christina Hendricks, center, and George Bianchini, right, chat with a guest seated at their dinner table.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Two women hug.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

The sounds of a sousaphone, among other brass instruments, rung out and signaled to guests that dinner was about to begin.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman pictured with her back towards the camera.

Keni Silva dressed up in neon green backless number.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

The gala’s sensory pleasures were audible as well. During dinner, Rist — wearing what looked to be loose, floral pajamas, purple lipstick and rose eyeglasses — addressed the crowd, encouraging guests to join her in a round of communal humming. The exercise was part of a new, interactive “happening” (as opposed to a performance) called “Humming Neighbors” — neighbors being the operative word.

“Tonight we are one family,” Rist told the crowd, “and this is our collective dining room.”

Around the room, attendees — bathed in the glow of multicolored LED tube lights serving as table centerpieces — lowered their heads or closed their eyes and a meditative chorus of varying-toned humming filled the space.

A man looks at the camera as a woman stands in profile.

Honor Titus, left, and Gia Coppola making the rounds at the pre-dinner cocktail party.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Two men in colorful outfits chat with people at a table.

Francisco George and William Escalera hold court at their gala table during dinner.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A man in a suit looks on.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Saving a treat for later, after dancing.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Two women hug.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Thinking while wearing a pink suit.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman with large blue earrings walks by.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A man smiles at the camera.

David C. Martin holds a glass of champagne, perhaps after a toast.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

The MOCA Gala is the museum’s biggest annual fundraiser, and this year raised more than $2.9 million, the museum said. Proceeds support exhibitions, educational initiatives and other programming.

After a post-dinner performance by musical guest Chance the Rapper, attendees flowed outside to the plaza for espresso martinis, a panoply of desserts and a Rist-designed dance party, to which members of the public had purchased tickets.

Rist downplayed her involvement in planning the dance party. She had only one caveat, she told us after dinner: “No hard rock. I told the DJ electronica and funk and soul.”

She surveyed the room through dark purple sunglasses.

“This is such a great crowd,” she said. “In the wildest city in the world. All supporting the arts. It can’t get any better.”

At which point the crowd danced until midnight under a cluster of sparkling disco balls. Fearlessly, for sure. Without judgement? Well, this is the art world, after all.

One thing is certain, though: it was a party to be remembered, a colorful picture of a museum fully reawakening and an art community reconnecting.

Two women look at each other.

Leah D, left, with Noella Bergener, deep in conversation… or a staring contest.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

The night's best selfie spot? Inside the Pipilotti Rist show.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

MOCA board member Deborah Irmas, left, grins with Christine Sun Kim in what appears to be the middle of a hilarious joke.

MOCA board member Deborah Irmas, left, grins with Christine Sun Kim in what appears to be the middle of a hilarious joke.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Three figures chatting amongst themselves.

MOCA board chair Maria Seferian, left, chats with Pipilotti Rist, center.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A man in glasses wearing a sparkling green shirt.

Cameron Silver looks out at the distance.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman crawls onstage.

Pipilotti Rist crawls onstage during her speech at the gala.

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

A woman with black eye glasses smiles and looks at the camera

(Michelle Groskopf / For The Times)

Kenneth Proto

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