Gallery from the party above, plus tons more photos of Madonna & others below.
A few hours ago, I was lucky enough to attend the launch party for Madonna's secretprojectrevolution, a 17-minute short film made in conjunction with Steven Klein that's meant to address discrimination and injustice in the world.
I arrived around 9 for the event, then had to kill time until 10 before the doors opened. The e-mail containting the invite had stressed promptness, warning we may not get in if we arrived past 10:45. But too early was no good either. How would everyone get into the Gagosian Gallery between 10 and 10: 45? Turns out the guest list was just that small, maybe 250 people.
Inside, the room was spare. A wall-length image by Klein of Madonna and her MDNA troupe was a focal point, as was a giant image of Madonna's eye from the film. But what really got my attention (not counting the fact that Madonna's ex Sean Penn was strolling around) was a taped-off area before a blank wall where I assumed Madonna would (1) project her movie and maybe (2) perform in some way, or at least speak. So my friend Curtis and I parked front and center while most everyone else mixed and mingled and accepted booze from waiters in gas masks.
While we waited, artist Scooter LaForge told us he'd heard Madonna would sing a new song. We were so beside ourselves with this gossip we almost missed it: Madonna was suddenly at our feet—literally. Looking stunning in a tight black trench and with a strawberry-blonde coif, Madonna was on her knees inches away from us, smoothing out a white cloth. She spoke to those of us before her about the cloth's exact placement, "You guys are the front row. Don't let anyone fuck this up." The stern warnings about no photography had already been globally ignored, so I grabbed a quick shot of the directrix at work, but we did keep that cloth in place. It was surreal to see her attending to this detail and then walking amongst her invitees.
Very soon after, Madonna entered the taped-off area and began a 12-minute speech explaining her motivations for making secretprojectrevolution, a work she called the most important thing she's ever done outside of having her children. Saying she didn't want to sound like a narcissist, Madonna nonetheless asserted, "Right now, I just wanna hear me." The whole place was totally silent while she pled her case and explained how the film was meant to kick off a social-media project in which people would submit their ideas of freedom.
"When I say I wanna start a revolution, that is exactly what I mean. I mean I want to start a movement of people, of artists, who are not worried about winning popularity contests, who are not worried about approval, who are not worried about whether their ass looks good—although it is importnat to have a good-looking ass..."
It was nice that her speech had space for humor, something Slant had said this new project was lacking. But Madonna wasn't laughing when she explained that her use of gun imagery was metaphorical—it's pretty obvious when you watch the film, something her ardent critics probably won't bother to do.
Just before the film began, we listened to a long snippet of a James Baldwin interview. Keep in mind we had been been told to sit down by Madonna, so my view was of people like Zac Posen and Zachary Quinto and Donna Karan sitting on their asses on the cold gallery floor.
The film itself was far more interesting as projected with perfect sound and perfect visuals within the controlled gallery setting. I still find it to be far from the most important thing I think she's ever done, but it is nonetheless a work of great passion that is just about the opposite of her commercial endeavors in and out of music. It's incredible that she is making time for something like this 30 years in to her career. If anything, the entire evening—minus the gold grills and other accoutrements of superwealth—felt like a throwback to Madonna's early-'80s Downtown days. I found myself wondering what Haring, Basquiat, Warhol and so many others from that era, from her own personal past, would think of this event had they not been outlasted by Madonna's desire to shake things up.
After the film, a series of dance routines unfurled, starring Madonna's MDNA performers. The pieces were beautifully danced (especially by Chaz Buzan and Marvin Gofin. Really spectacular to see up close. (Speaking of which, Chuck Close was perched off to the left.)
Finally, Madonna, who had been seated on the floor several people deep into the audience, was dragged back onto the stage by two "cops." She then performed an exquisite cover of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" in perfect voice. (The song appears on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, and as I recall, Madonna named that film her favorite the year it was released.) Madonna is taking chances as a filmmaker and sincerely believes she can start a love revolution that will change the world, but for me, it all comes back to the music, and hearing her perform this plaintive ballad a few feet away from me really touched me.
At the end, a black-clad figure dancing around Madonna was revealed to be her son Rocco, then they and the entire company took their bows as the room dissolved into full-on dance-party mode. Except for the fact that Madonna was standing in our midst, so most of the partygoers mobbed her as she purposefully made her rounds, greeting art-world VIPs and other glitterati.
Madonna's affectionate interaction with Sean Penn blew me away; it was a scene I couldn't have envisioned back when I was reading rumors about her being "trussed up like a turkey" by the man who became her first ex-husband.
Lindsay Lohan, a pal of Klein's, was there, reluctantly doing pic-withs for those intrepid enough to ask. I re-introduced myself to her (I worked with her during her teen years!), saying, "I was the editor of Popstar!" She looked shocked and groaned, "...oh, God!"
A somewhat scantily-clad Perez Hilton was on hand to receive a bubbly welcome from both Lohan and Ciccone. Anderson Cooper and his beau Benjamin Maisani basked in Madonna's aura, dragging Marc Consuelos over to say hello.
Anderson looked overwhelmed and under Madonna's spell; love him when he's in fangirl mode like the rest of us.
For a long while, dancers showed off in a circle, attracting Madonna's attention and allowing her to embed herself in the crowd, somewhat away from the near-constant flashes.
As she zig-zagged unpredictably around the room, I was able to tell her I found the night to be amazing (it was) while grasping her arm, and to later congratulate her—"Thank you," she said, looking straight ahead. I think most of the Madonna superfans present were able to touch or get close to their idol. Her availability was unprecedented.
"This is like being inside her Sex party," one friend said. Well, there were chains hanging in the doorway.
As the night drew to a close, Madonna hid in a small room near the door, a path was cleared, a security guy belatedly demanded "no photos!" and blocked cameras with his giant hand, and she was spirited out into her car.
I'll try to post more details as they come back to me, which may happen after I've slept. Revolution can be exhausting.