Performa 09’s opening dinner — think Viking feast meets soup kitchen with champagne — crowded 700 people into the former Dia Foundation space in Chelsea on Friday. Jennifer Rubell (daughter of contemporary-art collectors Don and Mera Rubell, niece of Studio 54–founder Steve) organized the fête in line with the bacchanalia breakfasts she holds every year for Art Basel Miami Beach. The three-floor event had a loosely biblical theme: The top floor was an icy white heaven (heaven apparently has piles of unshelled peanuts) and hell was two floors down, complete with felled apple trees and dessert. In the middle, Earth, hundreds of Daisy May BBQ ribs sat under a dripping honeycomb suspended from the ceiling.
Nearby, Mario Batali held court at the corner of one banquet table, surrounded by flashing iPhones. “My name’s on the invitation, but I really didn’t do anything,” said the chef, who did not take credit for activities like making your own drinks in a freight elevator full of liquor bottles, and lifting lids off dozens of pots to find your food. (Servers were either told to give no instructions, or ours were particularly clueless as to where things like forks could be found.)
Chocolatier Jacques Torres, however, was busy: He made seven replicas of Jeff Koons’s famous bunny sculpture and guests cracked them with hammers, covering the floor in chocolate shards. Guest Alan Cumming donned industrial yellow gloves to dip cookies in bins of confectioners’ sugar and handed out a few to the crowd. Batali marveled at the chaos surrounding him: “Look at the energy!”