American Federation of Arts to Honor Sarah Sze with Cultural Leadership Award at Fall Gala

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • September 25, 2012

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American Federation of Arts


The American Federation of Arts (AFA) will hold its 2012 Gala & Cultural Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, at the Metropolitan Club in New York. This year, the AFA will honor Sarah Sze, one of the most original artists working today, for her pioneering installations and the intriguing investigations of space, line, and memory that they represent. She will be introduced by Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and a Chief Curator at Large at the Museum of Modern Art.

The gala will also welcome, as a special guest, Detroit Institute of Arts Director, President, and CEO Graham W.J. Beal, to celebrate his recent success in securing the financial future of the DIA. Beal will be introduced by Martin Friedman, legendary former director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. “The AFA is proud to honor the enormously gifted artist Sarah Sze, whose riveting work is at once elegant, poetic, and playful,” stated AFA Director Pauline Willis. “She is a glowing example of the AFA’s tradition of honoring individuals who enrich the art world, and it is fitting that she will be joined at the podium by such fellow luminaries as Klaus Biesenbach, Graham Beal, and Martin Friedman.” AFA Vice President Stephanie LaNasa added, “We are so excited to be celebrating the unique accomplishments of our honoree and special guest, both of whom loom large in the world in which the AFA plays an important role in making the finest art exhibitions accessible to museums around the world. And we are very pleased to have Restoration Hardware support our efforts as our lead corporate sponsor.”

Celebrated for her dynamic installations and sculptures composed of everyday objects, Sarah Sze has created an exceptional body of work over the past fifteen years. Since graduating from Yale with a BA in 1991 and the School of Visual Arts in New York with an MFA in 1997, Sze has shown at major institutions around the world. In 2003, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Grant, and earlier this year she was chosen to represent the United States in the 2013 Venice Biennale. Her work can be found in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Walker Art Center, among other institutions. Sze has received critical acclaim for her public commissions and site-specific installations, including projects for the New York City High Line, the Carnegie International, and the São Paolo Biennial, and she will create the public art installation for the forthcoming 96th Street 2nd Avenue Subway station in New York. Sze lives and works in New York City.

Graham W.J. Beal has been the Director, President, and CEO of the Detroit Institute of Arts since 1999, and while there he has overseen two major capital campaigns, guided the reinstallation of the museum’s world-renowned collection, overseen the museum’s renovation and expansion, and established the General Motors Center for African American Art, one of the first curatorial departments dedicated solely to African American art at any major art museum. Under his leadership, the DIA has co-organized outstanding exhibitions such as Van Gogh: Face to Face. Beal recently spearheaded a bold plan that reversed what appeared to be a bleak future for the museum. Largely because of the state and city funding cutbacks of the past two decades, the museum was about to go into what Beal described as a “death spiral.” A campaign was waged to convince voters in the three counties from which most of the DIA’s visitors come to approve a modest property tax. This tax would give the museum financial security for the next ten years while it built up its operating endowment. In return, the museum offered expanded programs for schools and seniors and free admission for residents of the approving counties. The tax was approved, and as a result one of America’s great museums has not only been able to keep its doors open but is more financially stable than it has been in many years.

With lead corporate sponsorship provided by Restoration Hardware, the gala will be held at the elegant and historic Metropolitan Club, founded by J. P. Morgan in 1891 and located at One East 60th Street at Fifth Avenue in New York. Distinguished guests will include AFA trustees, patrons, artists, and other art world leaders. Cocktails will begin at 6:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 8 p.m., followed by dancing and cocktails at 10. Guests will receive a custom-edition Moleskine notebook specially designed for the event by Sarah Sze. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the AFA’s exhibitions and programming. Gala tickets can be purchased here. For further information, visit our website or contact Tiffany Carney at or call 212.988.7700 x247.

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