2011 October 28

WSJ. Says: In With The Innovators, Out With Boring Awards Dinners!

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Marc Jacobs, Deborah Needleman Marc Jacobs, Deborah Needleman
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(NEW YORK) Adding yet another annual awards event to the dizzying roster of events on the docket is a gutsy move, especially in the realm of glossy-anointed accolades, since any publication worth its page count hosts some sort of shindig for the woman/man/designer/gentleman-of-the-year (or month, so it seems at moments). WSJ. entered the fray last night with its first annual dinner at the MoMA for its first-ever Innovator of the Year Awards—and rest assured, the evening was a spirited success.  

The mag’s EIC and publisher duo, Deborah Needleman and Anthony Cenname, were in full-on hosting mode for the perfectly-scaled crowd, turned out to fete the slew of winners and the equally fascinating and high wattage presenters.  After a champagne toast accompanied by truffle vinegarette-dressed beet carpaccio crowned in pillows of goat cheese ravioli, Marina Abramovic (with Julian Schnabel on her arm) took the stage to accept an award on behalf of artist Ai Weiwei, followed by the architecture category, for which dashing Dane designer Bjarke Ingels of eponymously initialed Copenhagen-based design firm BIG accepted the honors from TED founder Richard Saul Wurman.

Other gueats toasting to the spanned the gamut from Jason Wu and Dita Blair, seated alongside Needleman, to (a slightly confused) Courtney Love avec Jason Binn.  "I was on my way to see a movie but I've just been kidnapped!" exclaimed Love as explanation for her presence as she shrugged off her coat for a coatcheck bloke.

While guests cut into the exquisitely plated surf-and-turf entrée cooked (and, it ought to be noted, impeccably served) by The Modern, it was time to acknowledge the powers of Chipotle, as founder Steve Ells received his award as food innovator of the year from, of all people, literati’s favorite vegetarian, Jonathan Safran Foer. Our vote? Ells and Foer as most ironic pairing of the year.

Speaking of irony, turns out presenter Marc Jacobs delights in the mundane. “I find dull things interesting, and interesting things dull; special things seem very everyday, and everyday things feel kind of special,” Jacobs explained of his own perversities and ironies, the adjectives he used to describe Grand’s work in WSJ. “Maybe there’s a bit of irony and perversity in that!” What wasn’t perverse or particularly ironic was Jacobs’ moment on the podium, which was tidy and punctually just around a minute in length, starting with a definition of the word “innovator” to a room filled with them, to longtime collaborator Katie Grand, fashion category winner. “With Katie around, this world is visually a more magical place to live in,” Jacobs summed up for the applauding masses.

Nabbing the design category accolade from Moss store founder Murray Moss was Joris Laarman, who designed the sleek skyscraper-esque awards for, well, himself and all of the evening’s winners, which also included Spacex CEO Elon Musk for the technology category—who was comically thanked by presenter and artist Tom Sachs. “Not only do your rockets go to space, but they allow my girlfriend to shop online more easily, Elon!” said Sachs. A bonus prize for the winners (and presenters), in addition to Laarman’s vertiginous awards? Making the cut for The Wall Street Journal’s iconic stipple-drawn headcuts, featured in the elegant (and quite informative!) programs for the evening.

As coffee and rectangles of milk chocolate dacquoise blanketed the tables, the unexpected comedian of the evening’s proceedings emerged: Carl Icahn, accepting the philanthropy category award on behalf of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for their big-ticket donation org for billionaires, The Giving Pledge. The businessman and Pledge member regaled with his hilariously told, not-so-in-a-nutshell life story, eliciting peals (that quickly became howls) of laughter from the crowd.

After heading upstairs for a secluded stroll through the de Koonig retrospective around 9:30, guests flounced out of the MoMA into a brisk, post-rainstorm Midtown chill with a gray felt envelope-swathed follow-up to the resoundingly successful soiree: the November “Innovators” issue of WSJ., two days before the masses.

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