Normally when I dress for an evening of drinks and Techno music, my uniform consists of a black T-shirt and my dancing sneakers. Last night was different. Techno has gone uptown, way uptown.
With Dior’s help, the Guggenheim in New York held a fundraising gala pre-party on Wednesday night featuring a retrospective of Christopher Wool’s artwork with music provided by Techno veteran Richie Hawtin and his younger brother Matthew. Magnetic Mag sent its most critical reporter, yours truly.
Donned in my coveted Dior jacket with my shoes polished to a mirror shine, I arrived at nine o’clock sharp. Throngs of people waiting to make their way inside crowded the sidewalk. A swipe of an ipad and a black wrist band later, I was in.
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A large dark column planted in the center of the museum rotunda floor was surrounded by a rumbling of guests dressed in black sipping from champagne flutes. Matthew Hawtin was stationed at the far end of a massive temporary DJ booth where he was busily painting the room with the heavy brushstrokes of an ambient soundscape as minimal as the decor. The scene appeared and sounded just as I had imagined it. Think Gattaca.
I was curious to know just how these people were going to react to hearing some real Detroit Techno in such a demure environment.
With a complementary drink in hand, I made my way up the spiral ramp to catch a glimpse of Wool’s work. My press credentials had given me full access, inclusive of the VIP areas pregnant with museum patrons lounging in Barcelona chairs being served hors d'oeuvres by an army of young attractive waiters. I spotted a number of trending actors and musicians before bumping into Pierre Rougier of PR Consulting. His excitement was palpable as he anticipated music that his client, Dior, helped procure for the event. Mr. Rougier informed me that Dior’s creative director, Raf Simons, is a big fan of the Plastikman and personally convinced the artist to headline, and with new material created specifically for the event no less.
At 11pm when there was no more room to stand and the ramp guardrails were brimming over, Richie entered the booth wearing one of his signature sleeveless black T-shirts. To my surprise, the standing room was magnetically drawn closer to the DJ booth and the energy of the room became charged in anticipation of the main event. This was a scene more typical of a rock concert than a museum soiree. The lights dimmed and with the touch of a button the massive black column at the center of the room became electrified with color. Where there is Techno, there are visuals.
For the next three quarters of an hour, a slow pulse of reverberated sound swelled into one of the long teasing build-ups that Richie’s sets are known for. With his primary focus on a touch screen sandwiched between a pair of intimidating looking midi controllers, it appeared that Hawtin was responsible for turning the LED covered column into a modern day Tesla experiment, complete with bifurcating wave forms and retina burning color spikes. The set climaxed in a flurry of squawking melodies and heavy bass kicks that was about at Techno as Techno gets. At this point, ravers would be lost in a dancing frenzy. However, despite the NASA-like equipment setup, and the countless speakers strategically placed throughout the museum, the acoustically stubborn architecture insured the muddiest of sound. I doubt that Frank Lloyd Wright anticipated the museum doubling as an EDM arena.
I witnessed a few fist pumps, and a handful of dancers, but in general the mood was reserved. After the sound died down applause followed, Techno bowed, and the lights went up. Overall, the music was well received and the turnout was a clear indication of the events success.
When I spoke with one of The Guggenheim’s event organizers, she informed me that staging the event required a larger than normal staff and a number of paintings had to be removed prior to the festivities at the request of their owners from fear of damage. For some, I suppose Techno is synonymous with epileptic painting destroying dance moves. That being said, whether Techno will continue on a path to becoming synonymous with high art is unclear, but I appreciated the juxtaposition.
Between posing for fan photos, I was able to briefly chat with Richie about his thoughts on the evening’s festivities. He explained that bringing Techno to the Guggenheim allows it to reach a much wider audience, and was happy to contribute. When I pressed him on the validity of the music being showcased at such a high society event, his response was as serious as it was tongue in cheek.
“Techno is an art; shouldn’t it be in an art house?”