Published: October 16, 2018
NEW YORK CITY – Against the lively Art Deco backdrop of the renovated Ziegfeld Ballroom, the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) on October 2 honored three supporters of its mission to promote folk art and Americana at its annual benefit gala. The gala is the museum’s primary source of funding for its educational programs.
Approximately 300 guests mingled, noshed and reconnected with one another in an evening to honor collectors Elyse and Lawrence B. Benenson, who has been a trustee of AFAM since 2008; Raf Simons, chief creative officer of Calvin Klein Inc, who was being honored for his work with American quilts at Calvin Klein; and the Wunsch Americana Foundation (WAF), founded in 1946 by the late Martin Wunsch and today overseen by Martin’s son Peter and his grandsons Eric and Noah Wunsch.
Presiding over the festive affair was AFAM’s new director, Jason Busch, and Monty Blanchard, president, board of trustees. Busch was dapperly accessorized with a bespoke redwood bow tie, and Blanchard sported an Indian pattern scarf, which later in the evening was auctioned off his back for a tidy sum of $2,000.
Busch, 44, took over as director at AFAM in September, replacing Anne-Imelda Radice, who stepped down in March after nearly six years with the museum. He is an avid American folk art champion, telling the New York Times recently that it “can help to democratize art and celebrate art from individuals who didn’t have formal training.”
He comes to the museum from his position as director of the Jason Jacques Gallery in Manhattan. In addition, he has been deputy director of the Saint Louis Art Museum and is a former division director for decorative arts at Sotheby’s.
Lawrence Benenson, a significant contributor to the museum’s endowment campaign, delivered remarks. He and his wife Elyse, who made scholarly contribution to AFAM’s 2017 exhibition “Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic,” are noted social and cultural charitarians in New York.
Simons, a native Belgian, who previously was with Dior and joined Calvin Klein in 2016, has led the helm of the brand’s creative vision, bringing his cinematic outsider’s take on Americana, notably adding the American quilt to the visual language for Calvin Klein in the realms of collections, advertising campaigns and design projects. In his remarks, Simons said that having come to Calvin Klein two years ago, he is impressed with how “tradition, craft and collaboration come together. It’s like a family.”
Accepting the award on behalf of the Wunsch Americana Foundation were Noah and Eric Wunsch, grandsons of its founder. The foundation is based in New York City, where the Wunsches manage lending, sharing and gifting relationships throughout the United States with institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, among others. In 2012, the foundation established the Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts to present annually to individuals, institutions and causes that embrace collegial efforts to support the field of American decorative arts.
Honorees at past galas of the American Folk Art Museum include Elizabeth and Irwin Warren (2017); Jill Soltau and JoAnn Fabrics (2017); Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College (2017); the Ford Foundation (2016); artist Thornton Dial (posthumously, 2016); Lucy and Mike Danziger (2016); Jerry Lauren (2015); the Leir Charitable Foundations (2015); Laura Parsons (2015); Joyce B. Cowin (2014); the Henry Luce Foundation (2014); Richard Walker (2014); Lucy Sykes Rellie (2013); Dr Valerie Steele (2013); and more.
The American Folk Art Museum is 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Street). For additional information, 212-595-9533 or www.folkartmuseum.org.
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