Martin Friedman and his wife Mickey at the Mad. Sq. Art. gala.

(photo © BFA)

Composer Philip Glass played the piano. David Hockney, Claes Oldenburg and Christo reminisced. And an international A-list of additional artists, museum directors, gallery honchos and Minnesota friends celebrated former Walker Art Center director Martin Friedman's long and influential career at a New York gala last week (Thursday, May 31).

Staged by the Madison Park Conservancy the event drew 300 people and raised more than $1 million for Mad. Sq. Art, a free public art program that places contemporary art in Madison Square Park near the Flatiron building in Manhattan. Friedman has been an advisor to Mad. Sq. for the past eight years.

"It was amazing," said Emily Galusha, former director of Minneapolis' Northern Clay Center who attended with her husband Don McNeil, General Mills' art curator.

Other speakers included Chuck Close (who credited Friedman for launching his career with the purchase of "Big Self-Portrait," the first painting he ever sold); Claes Oldenburg (who raved about the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden), Ursula von Rydingsvard (who made the party favors) and museum directors Adam Weinberg (Whitney Museum of American Art), Richard Koshalek (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) and Olga Viso, the Walker's current director. 

Other celebrities sighted include: architect Frank Gehry and artists John Baldessari, Lucas Samaras, Jackie Ferrara, Jene Highstein, Brian Hunt, Judith Shea, Joel Shapiro, Martin Puryear, Mel Chin, Lawrence Weiner and Steve Woodward.

Minnesotans and former Minnesotans on hand included Cameron Gainer, Stuart and Kate Nielson, Sue Weil, Dean Swanson, Erwin and Miriam Kelen, JoAnn Von Blon, Judy Dayton, Margaret and Angus Wurtele, Sally Lebedoff and Jon Oulman.