Artists put their best faces forward Saturday when masks they created were auctioned off at a benefit for the Newport Harbor Art Museum.
"Night of the Masque" was the theme of the buffet and art auction that drew more than 400 people to Emporio Armani at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. The $75-per-person gala netted about $75,000 for the Newport Beach museum.
Guests first gathered around the windows of Emporio Armani, where the 118 masks were on display. The masks were as individual as the artists themselves.
"This is a chance for artists to take a snapshot of their work and share it with us," said Jim Selna, the museum board's new president.
Artist Lynn Kubasek created a collage mask using pictures of body parts, some too private to mention.
"It's a naked face," she said. "I was stripping away the skin."
Rachel Lachowicz fashioned a mask out of a box filled with face powder, Charles Arnoldi used painted tongue depressors and Edward Ruscha covered a plastic mask with a collage of eyeballs.
"The masks are extremely diverse," said Mary Farris, event co-chairwoman. "We're thrilled with the results."
The museum first held a mask auction 10 years ago, and it was such a hit organizers decided to bring it back, Farris said. Masks were donated by leading contemporary artists, mostly from California. Artists received a plain mask form, which they could either decorate or create their own mask from scratch.
Giorgio Armani created a mask as understated as his clothing--a white face with beige coils in place of ears.
"It looks like his style," said Susan Porter, event co-chairwoman. "The masks are always eclectic. You never know what's going to come in." Christie's conducted a live auction of 17 of the masks. Viola Frey's frowning ceramic mask was the top draw; it sold to board member Charles Martin and his wife, Twyla, for $6,000.
While many in the artistic crowd tended to favor severe black clothing, one artist stood out: Eric Nanson wore a suit in primary colors that had him looking like the star of the movie "The Mask."
"I dressed like this before the movie," he said. Nanson sported a fire engine red jacket, electric blue shirt and screaming yellow pants--not exactly an Armani look. A furniture designer, he carved a cartoon-like mask out of wood with popping eyeballs and extended tongue.
The evening's festivities included a buffet prepared by Emporio Armani Express stocked with penne with tomato and basil, prosciutto formaggio sandwiches, skewered Roma tomatoes with mozzarella and other Italian specialties.
Proceeds will go to the museum's education and exhibition funds. Among the museum's pressing goals: "We'd like to have a timetable for renovating the old library next to the museum," Selna said. "It allows us to expand our program."
Other faces in the crowd were Michael Botwinick, museum director, and his wife, Harriet; Gifford Myers, Jerry and Roberta Dauderman, Laddie John Dill, Glenn and Jane Fowler, Linda Giannini, Norma Glover, Sam and Pamela Goldstein, Ray Johnson, Richard Jonas, Pat and Carl Neisser, Cornelius O'Leary, Tom and Mary Catherine Payne, Barbara Peckenpaugh, Herb and Sondra Samuels, Lola Romero Seymour, Jay and Linda Young, and Leonard and Madeline Zuckerman.