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Black Tie International:
AFA 2015 Gala & Cultural Leadership Awards

On Thursday, October 29, the American Federation of Arts (AFA) held its 2015 Gala & Cultural Leadership Awards, honoring renowned Miami-based art patrons and collectors Carlos & Rosa de la Cruz; contemporary American artist Wade Guyton; and recently retired longtime director of the Brooklyn Museum Arnold Lehman. Parallel to the AFA’s dedication to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of art, this year’s honorees are true advocates of accessibility and innovation, and active participants in the contemporary art world. The annual benefit gala has become one of the AFA’s most anticipated events of the year, gathering approximately 180 attendees, composed of AFA trustees, supporters, artists, and art world leaders, to celebrate the achievements of these extraordinary individuals.  

The proceeds of the evening benefit the distinguished research, programs, and exhibitions that are toured to museums around the globe by the AFA. In the past year, the AFA toured five exhibitions to fourteen museums, reaching audiences of close to one million people across North America. In concert with the Nanjing Museum, the AFA organized a major international forum in China that brought a delegation of over twenty museum directors to meet with their Sino counterparts, paving the way for international exchange of exhibitions. In fall 2014, the AFA assumed administration of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, one of the first artist-endowed foundations in America that biannually awards grants to emerging artistic talent. The 2015 AFA ArtViews program focused on the evolution of the digital landscape in museums and benefitted from partnerships with the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Arts & Business Council of New York.
Event Details
The evening began with a lively cocktail hour in the Great Hall before guests moved into the West Lounge for a seated dinner and the presentation of the Cultural Leadership Awards. AFA Director Pauline Willis kicked off the awards ceremony by thanking the attendees and other generous individuals for their important contributions in support of the AFA and its mission, and introduced the individuals being honored for their extraordinary achievements in philanthropy, leadership, and artistry.

The awards were presented by an esteemed group of individuals who have also displayed significant contributions to the arts: Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art; and Elizabeth A. Sackler, Board Chair of the Brooklyn Museum and President of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, respectively. Former AAMD President and Director of the Seattle Art Museum, Kimerly Rorschach, surprised all in attendance with a moving speech in honor of Mr. Lehman on behalf of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

The honorees spoke of their commitment to the AFA's mission. Arnold Lehman described how, over his two decades serving on the Board of the AFA, “he's developed a fervent admiration for what the AFA does, which has grown stronger with each passing season.” 

Carlos de la Cruz said, "I think nowadays it is easier to raise funds for buildings than it is for the purchase of collections, and a lot of institutions, smaller ones especially, are really faced with not having a permanent collection. And so the model of the American Federation of Arts, to bring collections, especially to medium sized and rural institutions, is really something that can do a lot for America. I congratulate Pauline and the board of the AFA for the work they are doing.” 

Décor from Matthew Robbins Designs transformed the Upper East Side Metropolitan Club into a Miami-style oasis with ferns, palm fronds, and luscious tropical flowers. Live music from Latin Jazz ensemble, La Banda Ramirez, played throughout the evening. After dinner, guests enjoyed dancing and cocktails in the main bar.  

AFA Director Pauline Willis and gala co-chairs Steph & Jody La Nasa, NancyJane & Jeffrey Loewy, Martha MacMillan, and Betsy Pinover Schiff hosted distinguished guests including:Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz (honorees, de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space); Arnold & Pam Lehman (honoree, Phillips); Wade Guyton (artist); Friedrich Petzel (Petzel Gallery);Samantha Tsao (Petzel Gallery); Sabiha Al Khemir (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha); Ruth Appelhof (Guild Hall of East Hampton); Michael & Candace Carmel Barasch (patrons); Betsy and Robert Barbanell (patrons); Elizabeth Belfer (patron); Izabela Depzcyk (ARTnews);Alexandra & David Drucker (patrons); Marty & Rebecca Eisenberg (patrons); Mari & Alberto de la Cruz (patrons); Ashleigh Fernandez (Goldman Sachs); Leslie & Tom Freudenheim(patrons); Lee White Galvis & Sergio Galvis (patrons); David Georgiades (Phillips); Jean-Michel Placent (Phillips); Chester Gillis (Georgetown University); Tim Griffin (The Kitchen);Anthony Hirschel; Margot & Robert Linton (patrons); Martha MacMillan (patron); Claire Marmion (The Haven Art Group); Clare McKeon (patron); Sarah & Alec Machiels (patrons);Merrill and Chris Mahan (patrons); Meryl & Robert Meltzer (patrons); Lindsay Pollock & Andrew Zarnett (Art in America); Kimerly Rorschach (Seattle Art Museum); Scott Rothkopf(Whitney Museum of American Art); Nancy Spector (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum); Elizabeth A. Sackler (Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation); Ibett Yanez (de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space); Jennifer Wright (Christie’s).

ARTnews served as the Gala’s media sponsor.       

Benefit Committee
Ruth Appelhof & Gary Adamek, Elizabeth Belfer, Jonathan Binstock, Stephanie & Frederick Clark, Suzanne Delehanty, Ghislain d'Humières, Alexandra & David Drucker, Ashleigh Fernandez, Brian Ferriso, Leslie & Tom Freudenheim, Miller Gaffney, Lee White Galvis & Sergio Galvis, Kathleen J. Graytok, Agnes Gund, Anthony Hirschel, Ann & Gilbert H. Kinney, Melyora de Koning, Margot & Robert Linton, Sarah & Alec Machiels, Merrill & Chris Mahan, Claire Marmion, Amory & Sean McAndrew, Clare McKeon, Meryl & Robert Meltzer, Petzel Gallery, Madeleine Plonsker, Kimerly Rorschach, Martha A. & Robert S. Rubin, Capera Ryan, Victoria Triplett, Jennifer Wright 
The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs. Current and upcoming AFA exhibitions include Pastures Green & Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape; Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection; Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture; When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection; Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection; A Joyful Revelation: The Fauve Paintings of Georges Braque; Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist; Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa; Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection; Women Artists in Paris 1850–1900 (working title); and Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars, 1918–39. For more information about the AFA, visit

Gerard Mc Keon and Joyce Brooks.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/

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