By Mary Dellas
Tonight the New York Academy of Art will kick off spring gala season at its 23rd annual Tribeca Ball, honoring the acclaimed artist Mickalene Thomas. The evening will feature a one-night-only all-women exhibition devoted to explorations of female sexuality.
Sponsored by Van Cleef and Arpels, each year the Tribeca Ball’s co-chairs invite notable names in art, fashion, and the media to the Academy for a star-studded celebration of a single artist. This evening, event co-chairs Naomi Watts, Mary-Kate Olsen, Gabby Karan de Felice, Jane Holzer, and Stephanie Ingrassia will honor Thomas with Julianne Moore, Donna Karan, Kehinde Wiley, Mark Ruffalo, and more celebrity names on the guest list.
Titled “Electric Palace,” the exhibition features work by Thomas and ten other women artists, including Zanele Muholi, Catherine Howe, and Hilary Harkness. Each artist examines different aspects of female sexuality. The show centers on two of Thomas’s collages, one of which is pictured above. Both feature African-American women gazing from her canvas. “The theme of female sexuality was inspired by Mickalene Thomas,” the exhibition’s curator, Renee Bovenzi, told the Cut. “Her works seduce the viewer to enter a complex and emotional relationship with the subject.”
Thomas is best known for her rhinestone-embellished paintings, portraits, and collages of African-American women, and she also produces videos and installations. She often explores beauty and sexuality through a historical and pop-cultural lens. Her work appears in the permanent collections of every major contemporary art museum, from MoMA to the Guggenheim and Brooklyn museums. Funds raised from tonight’s Tribeca Ball will go toward both the Academy and a new Mickalene Thomas Artist Scholarship, which will provide financial aid to students at the New York Academy of Art. See a preview of works in “Electric Palace” below.