Bottega Veneta–Sponsored Gala in the Garden Was Star-Studded, Not Stuffy

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Photo: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Billy Farrell/BFA.com

While the word “gala” usually calls to mind floor-length gowns and expensive tuxedos, the annual Hammer Museum Gala in the Garden, sponsored by Bottega Veneta, is a different kind of affair. It’s star-studded but not stuffy, as evidenced by Will Ferrell in mint-green corduroys.

“This is one of those events where you kind of mix it up a little bit,” Ferrell told the Cut. “And my wife was wearing red pants, so I thought green. We’re right on the verge of the holiday season,” added the Elf star.

Guests gathered to celebrate artist Laurie Anderson and director Todd Haynes for their groundbreaking work in a variety of mediums, from Haynes’s films to Anderson’s performances and visual art. Gold lanterns hung high above the tables in the courtyard, illuminating guests like Emma Roberts, Patricia Arquette, and Laura Dern with an amber glow as they mixed, mingled, and snacked on tiny, triangle-shaped finger foods during cocktail hour, with catering by Suzanne Goin of Lucques.

In previous years, guests were able to check out the galleries, but with no art to peruse, guests instead flocked to the bar. That’s where we found January Jones in a black Bottega suit and brassiere top, nursing a beer with Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant and a female friend. “I’m not an aficionado, but I appreciate it,” Jones said. “I know I have good taste because whenever I like something, it’s a million dollars. It’s unfortunate.”

Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård smoked a cigarette in the corner, looking like he was trying to avoid small talk of any kind. The prolific writer said he was relieved to be the one honoring and not being honored tonight. “There’s always an element of embarrassment to be honored,” he told the Cut. “You feel always like you don’t deserve it, and it’s an odd thing. But when you’re honoring someone that you really like, it’s just a joy.”

But is there any way to ease the pain for the person being honored? “I can’t ease the pain,” deadpans the man who wrote a six-volume autobiography called My Struggle. Here’s hoping the discomfort will inspire new art.

On a nondescript wooden bench, besties Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson held court, letting the party come to them. Paulson briefly leaped up to give Emma Roberts a hug and a kiss on both cheeks, before quickly returning to her seat lest someone else steal her place. Leaning over the duo, Minnie Driver joked, “Back to the bus stop!” before continuing on with her date for the evening, with her mother.

It was an excellent “bus stop” to be stationed at. Soon the evening’s co-chairs, Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison, joined Peet and Paulson, and the foursome wouldn’t budge for the rest of the cocktail hour. So what does it mean to co-chair a gala?

“What does it mean?” Foster asked Hedison.

“We share the shame chair,” Hedison quipped.

“That’s pretty much it,” said Foster with a smile. “Honestly, it was mostly Annie [Philbin, museum director] stressing out and telling us her various stresses. And us telling her it was all going to be okay.”

Meanwhile, Selma Blair was trying to make her way through the crowd. “This is so strange. None of the galleries are open. I’m devastated,” she said, not looking too devastated. “I’m still pleased, but I don’t know what the deal is.” Blair always enjoys the dynamic of the evening, even if she couldn’t check out the museum’s collection last night.

“I think it’s always a much smarter group than what I am used to dealing with, considering I just hang out with my 5-year-old — who is also very smart,” she added with a laugh. “This is really a special museum. Since I’m not rich, I can’t support them in the way that I should, so I come to this. How’s that for honesty?”

“It’s time for dinner,” people in the know announced. The jazz quartet quieted down as the crowd pushed its way through the suddenly very narrow passages like salmon swimming upstream. Paulson, Peet, Foster, and Hedison calmly observed the madness until just a few stragglers were left scurrying past them. In mere minutes, the bus stop was empty. Dinner was served.