While a model in a dress designed by Virgil Abloh presided over pre-dinner cocktails in the museum’s glass-ceilinged rotunda, it was here that the many interpretations of the evening’s theme – “Grit to Glamour” – have been revealed. Dressed in every iteration of Americana, there were museum supporters from near and far, and for some, like James Walton, just across town. Her favorite ensemble for the evening? An American varsity jacket like apple pie with his last name embroidered on the back. For Natalie Steen, that took the form of a feathered vintage Art Deco find, and for Cameron Silver, a dazzling denim ensemble with a cowboy hat, a harbinger of things to come later in the evening.
Karlie Kloss, who co-hosted the evening alongside Derek Blasberg, Hank Willis Thomas and Tommy Hilfiger, looked a bit more formal in a shimmery Oscar de la Renta tailoring. “It really is a world-class exhibit, and such a beautiful setting with a lot of very interesting and curious people enjoying every bit of it,” Hilfiger told us, sporting a costume and a pair of new sneakers, all designed by him, of course. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I would love to come back and see more amazing artwork, and maybe go mountain biking. I just learned that Bentonville is the mountain biking capital of the world!”
Once a pair of dodgy red curtains were pulled open, guests were welcomed into a soaring room which, though it may be anchored by a mirror-polished heart sculpture by Jeff Koons suspended at its focal point, serves usually from the museum canteen. It had been completely redesigned with low velvet sofas, wild indigo, blackberries and violets, all native to Arkansas, and clusters of raw quartz rock crystals from a cave in the Ouachita Mountains placed everywhere. “I brought a disco ball to hang over there,” Arkansas-born event designer Bronson van Wyck joked, pointing to the center of the room. “I decided to leave it on the truck, because when life gives you Koons…”
Christy Turlington, Barbara Bush and Arianna Huffington, who then sat in a corner booth for the evening auction, where Seth Meyers made an unprompted appearance to sell four tickets for his late-night show. “Anyone in your group can ask me a question,” he said, sweetening the deal with laughter from the crowd. “Now pay attention to your questions. For example, if you say, “Is this a good time for me to ask a question?” Well then that’s your question! Don’t waste it. I’ll buy you a drink too.
In total, the night raised $2 million and ended when late-night revelers got their hands on a set of bright red sequined cowboy hats and headed to the dance floor. “I don’t have to convince you that fashion belongs in an art museum,” Olivia Walton said at the end of the evening. “It’s the dominant mode of creative expression for so many people, and it’s a reflection of our culture. It’s a first for us, but hopefully we’ll have more fashion shows because we’re trying to take this anti-elitist approach to what art is. It’s a big tent, and fashion has its place there too.