Tabula Rasa: The 26th Annual Watermill Center Benefit Offers 100 Artists a Blank Slate

Images by BFA



Possibly the pinnacle of the Hamptons summer social scene is the annual Watermill Center benefit at the end of each July. 1,000 guests meander through an enchanted, 10-acre forested space at sunset, and experience fantastical performance art based around some or other esoteric theme – which, this year was Tabula Rasa: a blank slate with no preconceived ideas or common goals, open to interpretation by the current 100 artists-in-residence, hailing from all over the globe.

As the best art is meant to provoke or, hopefully, expand our minds, some of this year’s installations symbolized new beginnings, such as Humberto Diaz’ It’s All in Your Head performance with saran wrapped artists. Yet another, The Purger, nodded to surrealism and sci-fi, a half giant fly and man becoming one.



Notable guests from the art, philanthropy, fashion and social worlds who came out to support this year included Isabella Rosselini, Nicole Miller, Polina Proshkina, Peter Marino, Bill Powers, Sally Hirshberger, Kelly Behun & Jay Sugarman, Nicolas Bos, Madison Cox, Anke & Jürgen Friedrich, Alexandra Munroe & Robert Rosenkranz, as well as Katharina Otto-Bernstein & Nathan Bernstein.

The evening was generously supported by its presenting sponsor, Van Cleef & Arpels and honored Katharine Rayner, philanthropist and early support of The Watermill, as well as Carrie Mae Weems, artist and recipient of the Center’s 2017 Inga Maren Otto Fellowship.



Over dinner, guests enjoyed an immersive installation and performance by Bianca Casady of CocoRosie and Ira Anufrieva. Helga Davis performed a touching rendition of “Perfect Day” as a tribute to the late Lou Reed. DJ Kitty Cash kept the artsy after party going ’til the wee hours, as always.

The Watermill Center was founded in 1992 by avant-garde visionary and theater director Robert Wilson, and acts as an interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities, situated on ten acres of Shinnecock ancestral territory on Long Island’s East End. With an emphasis on creativity and collaboration, the Center encourages experimental artistic practice and regularly convenes the brightest minds from across many disciplines to do, in Wilson’s words, “what no one else is doing.”

From what we could tell, the mission remains a success.


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