The non-profit's spring gala on Monday evening championed collective empowerment and radical perspectives.

MUSE, Aperture’s Spring 2019 gala, brought together the nonprofit organization’s talented and diverse community in warm celebration of the night’s honorees: Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont, and The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Hosted in Union West’s expansive venue in Chelsea, the evening brought together leaders in the arts including Roe Ethridge, Ethan James Green, Zachary Tye Richardson, Shiona Turini, Antwaun Sargent.

Guests arrived to cocktails by Gem + Bolt, music djayed by Alima Lee, a makeup booth sponsored by the gender non-binary brand Fluide, and a silent auction featuring prints donated by Bob Gruen, Shen Wei, and Kathy Ryan among others. After guests took their seats, the dinner began with a video welcome from gala co-chair Tilda Swinton, recorded when she attended the Orlando exhibition. Swinton thanked Aperture and the night’s honorees for their tireless work to expand the definitions of what groundbreaking photography can look like, and to foreground perspectives often ignored by less progressive institutions. Works by Mapplethorpe, Thomas, Seydou Keïta, Ellsworth Kelly, and more sold in a lively auction presented by Christie’s during the dinner.

Left: Mickalene Thomas, Untitled #2 (Orlando Series), 2019, for Aperture Courtesy the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York. Right: Deborah Harry, 1978 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Foundation president Michael Stout spoke on behalf of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, reaffirming the decades-long bond between the Mapplethorpe Foundation and Aperture. Thomas and Chevremont accepted their honors, following moving introductions from Richardson and Turini. “In this city, it can feel like we’re taking a lot,” Richarson said. “‘What can you give me? How can you benefit me in some way?’ And when I first met [Thomas and Chevremont], it was quite the opposite of that. It was more so, ‘What can we give you, how can we support you, how can we love you?’”

In her speech, Thomas again emphasized the collaborative, communal work integral to the mission of Aperture and especially to her practice. “I think the magic about what you see up here is a collective force,” Thomas said. “What you see in my photographs is because of all of these [people on stage] and that’s the exciting part.”