EL MUSEO – The Rhythm is Gonna Get You.
On Thursday evening, I took the 1 Train from Morningside Heights down to Times Square crossed over on the S Train to Grand Central to walk across the street to Cipriani 42nd Street to backup ManhattanSociety.com ‘Ace’ photographer Gregory Partanio, my brother, affectionately referred to as “the Prince” by members of our family, not for his regal nature but for the artiste’s human touch in times of crisis.
Upon my arrival just moments before the festivities were to begin, Cipriani 42nd Street already looked more like the scene outside a major Hollywood premier than a local charity event in recessionary times. On this night El Museo del Barrio, New York City’s only Latino museum dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art, was holding its 2012 gala celebration. El Museo Del Barrio’s 19th Annual Gala in the year of 2012 was planned to honor fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez, philanthropist Yaz Hernandez and Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. and its founder Facundo Bacardi.
In recent years under the leadership of Yaz Hernandez tickets to this event have become as coveted as any, not just among New York City’s fashion and socially philanthropic insiders, but also among notable members of the wider Latin community who travel to New York City from Miami, South America and Europe. Traveling to New York City to support El Museo to attend this gala has become a social prerequisite. The gala is as widely covered in local, national and international fashion and philanthropic press as any other major happening in our beloved metropolis. The event has been routinely been sold out, weeks if not months prior to the event.
Within moments of teeing up my camera (the one my brother instructed me how to use) the doors were flooded with a multitude of luminaries from the world’s of fashion, publishing, entertainment, business, the arts and politics. Descending upon ‘ a sea of red’ as aptly noted by a reporter for Vogue, were photographers and journalists and bloggers from local, national and international media outlets. They all coalesced around the bold, beautiful and fashionably styled who clearly came to party. Before too long Cipriani 42nd Street was as glamorously packed as I have ever seen it. Giuseppe Cipriani were he in attendance only on nights of this gathering would likely already be searching for an event space twice the size and might also wonder what economic downturn were people talking about.
This spectacular event was chaired by Nina Garcia, Alex González(of AR New York) and Sarah G. Wolfe and honorary chair Estrellita Brodsky (See also: NY Times -The Philanthropist, A Budding Ambassador for Latin American Art). Narciso Rodriguez, the celebrated fashion visionary was presented with an award for artistic achievement to honor his career and longtime patronage of the organization. Presenting the award to Mr. Rodriguez was Emmy Award winning actress – Julianna Margulies who was donned in one of his extraordinary gowns.
A Cuban descendent and proud member of the Latin American community, Rodriguez’s work frequently draws inspiration from Latino art and culture. A three-time CFDA award winner, Narciso Rodriguez is considered one of the “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America.”
The annual fundraiser, now in its 19th year, also paid tribute to philanthropist and El Museo trustee Yaz Hernández. Hernandez was similarly rated by the New York Post as one of the “top 25 top Latino movers and shakers.” Fashion legend, Carolina Herrera bestowed Yaz Hernández with a trustee leadership award for her generosity, exemplary years of service and influential work on the museum’s Executive Committee. In accepting the award, the effervescent Hernandez lit up the room:
“Tonight is my lucky night because I have the woman who is the icon of my life presenting me with an award,” said Hernandez, adding, “It’s my lucky night, but it’s also your lucky night because I forgot my speech at home, so since I don’t remember what I’m supposed to say, it’s going to be a real short one! Humble is not for me, but gratitude, yes. I am really grateful. “
Ruben Toledo and Isabel Toledo, Manhattan’s artistic and dynamic Latin duo, presented Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. with the 2012 Corporate Excellence in Arts Award. Robert Furniss Roe, President Bacardi North America accepted the award for Bacardi. After dinner a surprise birthday cake was brought out to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary of its founding in Santiago de Cuba.
A highpoint on the Manhattan Society spring charity circuit, El Museo del Barrio’s 2012 Gala once again drew luminaries from the worlds of entertainment, society, politics, the arts, business and fashion. Designers in attendance included bold names such as designers Carolina Herrera, Maria Cornejo, Derek Lam, Christian Cota, Carlos Campos, Bibhu Mohapatra, and Angel Sanchez. Other fashion notables included Editor-in-Chief of W Magazine – Stefano Tonchi, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, Valerie Boster, Bookings Editor of Vogue, Karla Martinez, Fashion Market and Accessories Director, W Magazine, sensation Cindy Sherman along with fashion royalty heirs Fe Fendi and Paola Fendi and international man of mystery, Richard Turley, not Bloomberg Businessweek’s creative director,but the stylish social wizard who seems to be literally six degrees of everyone you ought to know in town or as David Patrick Columbia has referred to him as “the Manhattanite to the Manhattanites”; though he is from Oklahoma and lives in the Bronx. They were joined by members of the second generation of the Goya family, Joseph A. Unanue, Carmen Ana Casal de Unanue, and Andy Unanue. Other notable long time supporters included:the Ford Foundation, Barbara Tober (Chairman Emerita of Museum of Arts and Design) and Donald Tober, Cindy Sherman, Estrellita Brodsky and Dan Brodsky, Adriana Cisneros, Agnes Gund, Sharon and Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr., Amelia Olungessi, Barry Friedberg and Charlotte Moss, Harold Koda, Amanda Hearst, Elizabeth and Reynold Levy.
The El Museo Gala is one of the more unique charitable events in the city. Whether it is because of its international flavor, flamboyance or the energy of the attendees who come to our metropolis from Europe, Latin America, Miami and the Caribbean, I do not know. Maybe all those factors contribute to it. All I know is that covering this event is a rush. It gets into your head, makes the blood rush and over stimulates one’s nerves and social sensors. You reach for a Bacardi & Coke like a cyclist reaches for Gatorade and find yourself dancing in between taking shots of some of the most beautiful and fabulously dressed people you will ever see in New York City, in one room at the same time. The rhythm is gonna get you! But then again why would it not? Emilio Estefan who led Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine to international success, has been a regular attendee and this is not just some red carpet experience. The VIP’s linger, mix and mingle more so than many events in our beloved metropolis. Before you know it, the event is over and you find yourself in recovery for a couple of days wondering how you will ever have time to edit and post photos, much less, write a story about the festivities.
How did El Museo’s Gala become the hottest ticket on New York City’s spring charity circuit?
THE SITUATION – YAZ Hernandez
Over the last decade, Yaz Hernandez, the Puerto Rican born socialite, former fashion industry executive, internet entrepreneur and investor has devoted herself tirelessly to raising funds for and the profile of the Museum Mile Latin cultural institution known simply as El Museo. As I joke, which Museo? El Museo. It is perhaps one of the many reasons that the New York Post has listed her as one of New York’s “top 25 Latino movers and shakers.” Mrs. Hernandez is also a trustee for the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) College in New York City and President of the Couture Council’s board for The Museum at FIT. Sin embargo, para muchas personas en esta ciudad, ella es simplemente Yaz. Ja ja, esto es la verdad!
The socially influential Park Avenue Philanthropist is married to Valentín Hernández, Citigroup Managing Director, Financial Institutions for Latin America. The wife, mother and philanthropist, is, however, more than a list of adjectives or her referenced accomplishments. If you ask anyone who has come to truly know Mrs. Hernandez personally and has been a beneficiary of her grace, charm and wisdom on a range of matters both personal and professional, Yaz is an extremely shrewd, business savvy woman with an infectious smile and humanistic spirit. For that reason, she is a confidante and trusted friend to many in this town. Even in New York City or should I say especially in New York City, the crème rises to the top. The woman simply known and referred to affectionately as ‘YAZ’ has navigated this city’s social terrain without compromising her morals, integrity or stepping on anyone’s shoes on the ladder up, although Yaz was likely not even aware that there was any ladder to climb. Maybe she just charmed the pants off the ladder and it slid down for her. Who knows? But frankly, more often than not, Yaz was too busy extolling the creative talents and virtues of others, many of whom often wanted a piece of her time, counsel and guidance, to concern her self with social mishagas.
Yaz is is an artist’s and an artistic institution’s best friend because for whatever it is, it is simply never about her; it’s about you and the inspiration of your creative spirit and as always working towards sustaining and advancing El Museo and Latin American artists. And I am quite confident that I am far from the only one who feels this way. To know Yaz is to be an extension of her family. To be in the company of her and her partner, a veritable renaissance man himself is to be in the company of folks who make you feel like you are better than you are frankly. I know, because another person who similarly had that impact on me in this town was President Bill Clinton, aka William Jefferson Clinton. Yaz has the gift.
**Note: While the videos referenced herein may seem somewhat out of context, it is in the spirit of Mrs. Hernandez positive energy flow and the overall spirit of El Museo’s annual gala that remind me that when in the company of Yaz and her collaborative spirit, dancing is what comes to mind and in my case that might be to some Cumbia Colombiana.