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Parties: A Glam Gala In GGP

Written by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

Amid shifting pandemic lockdowns, the celebration of the de Young Museum’s 125th anniversary definitely kept organizers — who issued numerous date changes over the last 18 months — “On the Edge.”

That unintentionally apt moniker was finally realized on November 5 as 300 deep-pocketed donors gathered in Wilsey Court in sartorial finery, raising a whopping $1.8 million in support of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s innovative community programming. (This new fundraising vehicle replaces the Mid-Winter Gala.)

Led by cochairs Allison Speer, Kate Harbin Clammer, Kathryn Lasater, Amy McKnight and Jessica Moment — with assists from the honorary chairwoman, FAMSF board chair emerita Dede Wilsey — the inaugural edition of this black-tie fete honored trailblazing artist Judy Chicago (introduced by her pal, Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan) and award-winning Oakland landscape architect WalterHood (introduced by Mayor London Breed). In 2005, Hood created the verdant gardens for the new de Young’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed copper-clad building.

“Sixteen years ago, I had a small practice in West Oakland; as an African American landscape architect, there’s not a lot of opportunities. These guys from Europe visited, walked around our studio and asked us to work at the de Young,” Hood recalled with a laugh. “I had no idea who Herzog & de Meuron was. But they liked our culture. And (former FAMSF Director) Harry Parker and Dede Wilsey welcomed us here. I never had a donor. I’d never presented a garden to someone. I never had the opportunity to do the work to make a world-class setting. The de Young was the first institution to reach out … Since that opportunity our firm has designed museums all over the world, making places for everyone.”

After savoring the three-course Taste Catering dinner served on the de Young’s outdoor terrace — sheathed for the event in a glamorous Bronson van Wyck-designed tent — guests boogied to a lively post-party produced by Danielle Madeira that starred DJ sets and Mission District-born musician Cecilia Peña-Govea. Among the tech titans, philanthropists, artists and fashionistas in attendance: Google CMO Lorraine Twohill; S.F. Opera board chairman John Gunn and his wife, Cynthia Fry Gunn; Tipping Point founder Daniel Lurie and his wife, Becca Prowda; Gucci president and CEO Marco Bizzarri; Juicy Couture cofounder Gela Nash and her husband, Duran Duran guitarist John Taylor; artist Rashaad Newsome; and Da Mayor Willie Brown, under whose tenure the new de Young was reborn.

“This gala celebrates the intersection of art, design, activism and innovation so unique to the Bay Area,” toasted FAMSF Director and CEO Tom Campbell, who early in his prepandemic tenure established both The de Young Open, which showcases local artists, and admission-free Saturdays.

“The murder of George Floyd catapulted our museum into an intensive period of learning and reflection on our country’s long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism,” Campbell continued. “In an age of social division, polarized politics and echo chamber news, museums provide a place of thoughtful dialogue between past and present, the familiar and unknown, between tradition and innovation. We are the forum in which people of all backgrounds can find our common humanity.”

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