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Katy Perry, Steve Martin, Rachel Maddow join Hammer celebration

Originally posted by the Los Angeles Times
October 7th, 2012

A veritable A-list of artists, actors, fashion designers and business leaders streamed into the Hammer Museum in Westwood Saturday to celebrate artists Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman, raising a record $2 million for the museum’s exhibitions and programs.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and actor/author/musician Steve Martin delivered the night’s tributes. As if their talks weren’t entertaining enough, the finale came courtesy of Katy Perry, who has a busy week in store with performances planned at Sunday’s fundraiser for President Obama and at Thursday’s amfAR Inspiration Gala.

“Hello everyone,” Perry said, “I’m just going to have a little fun — that’s all — with you,” before launching into a dynamic five-song set beginning with “Part of Me” and ending with her hit “Firework.”

The impressive turnout included Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Susan and Leonard Nimoy, Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin Ferrell, Tom Ford and Richard Buckley, Dana Delany, John C. Reilly, Julie Bowen, Marg Helgenberger, “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star and artists Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, Catherine Opie, Doug Aitken and Mark Bradford.

“I am here mostly because of my birth,” said actor Armie Hammer, on taking the podium between the very tasty dinner courses. Hammer is great-grandson of museum founder Armand Hammer. Among his film roles: he played both Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network.” Hammer served as a gala co-chair, along with his wife Elizabeth Chambers, Hyatt hotel heir Tony Pritzker and Prtizker’s wife Jeanne.

“We love this museum,” Hanks said during the cocktail hour, making note of the film series, community programs and downright convenience.”It’s in the middle of town; you can hop in anytime and see the latest art; and you don’t have to get stuck in traffic to get here.”

Rita Wilson called the museum “a hidden gem in Westwood.” Wilson’s support extends to another nearby gem as well — on Monday, she’ll be singing selections from her new album, “AM/FM,” at a benefit concert for the Geffen Playhouse. “It’s all about Westwood this week,” she said.

Fashion icon Tom Ford said his partner Richard Buckley is active in the museum support group, the Hammer Circle. Buckley said he visits the museum often when in Los Angeles.

In her welcoming remarks, museum director Annie Philbin called the honorees “two of the most important and influential artists of their generation.”

She thanked both, as well as the speakers, describing Martin as “a great collector with a keen eye for modern art.” Philbin said she thought Maddow’s presence “a mere 31 days before the presidential election” to be “out of the question, but miraculously Rachel is here.”

“Actually I had no idea that the election was that soon,” Maddow said, before describing Kruger’s work, which incorporates comments in text on such subjects as religion, sexuality, power and other subjects.

“For my entire adult life Barbara Kruger has made art that has not just moved me, but that has changed my mind,” Maddow said.

Taking his turn, Steve Martin started with a joke, saying he felt honored to introduce Sherman, “not only because I so respect and admire her work but also because a gift basket is a gift basket.”

He then continued, by describing Sherman’s iconic photography, saying, “If I were Cindy Sherman I know I would be a much better actor. The audience would grasp my character from a single frame….

“They would understand entire plots from a sliver of film and extrapolate endings … These one-still movies with beginning, middle and end implied are better than many full-length features.”

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