Our first Dusty Rose: Julia Brown
Julia Brown is a fundraiser and event planner for museums and cultural centers. Until last month, she ran the Guggenheim Museum’s phenomenally successful First Fridays event, which transforms the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure into a monthly party space. This month she’s moving to London to work her magic with the Battersea Arts Center. Before she left, Dusty Rose caught up with Julia about contemporary art, dealing with DJs and New York’s hidden cocoa parlors.
First Fridays at the Guggenheim is now a fixture of life in New York. Why do you think it worked so well?
There is so much choice in New York, about everything. But First Fridays is still a unique experience. It’s rare to be able to socialize in an iconic, landmark building. That just makes a person feel special, to be able to drink and dance in this dramatic, Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda. It’s a temple-like building, and it makes you feel exclusive and cool.
Were you the first people to do it?
Yeah – we were the first major U.S. museum to host a late-night event like this where people could come and socialize, dance and drink and see art until 1 am as an alternative to going to a bar. It has become a popular model now with the Whitney, MoMA, and the Ruben Museum doing similar late night social events for young people. The Getty in LA also saw what we were doing and copied the format, although their event is outside and does not go as late. I hear even the Tucson Museum of Fine Art is on the bandwagon.
Some of the biggest DJs in the world play First Fridays. Do they know what they’re getting into?
Yeah, no. They don’t. When you’re in this room surrounded by priceless art, and you see Matthew Dear smashing a laptop over his bandmate’s head at the end of a set, you kind of realize that.
And some don’t get that the Guggenheim is essentially a non-profit, so we can’t splash out on riders like a nightclub. XXXChange – Spank Rock’s producer - wanted five cases of lager, two bottles of Moet and a bag of scratch lottery tickets. We didn’t give him anything, but his people said he understood ‘the constraints of the venue’. I think he was just seeing what he could get away with. Which I think is pretty funny.
But sometimes we don’t always know what we’re getting into. We booked Diplo in 2006. The Museum’s capacity is 1,500. We filled up instantly, and had 3,000 angry techno fans outside screaming to get in. I was physically holding back the crowd at some points. Then the neighbors complained about the 3,000 angry techno fans milling around their street, and I got a public disorder summons from the NYPD for my trouble.
I’m sure you won’t miss our lovely Police Department. Have you had some good last days in New York?
Absolutely. It was totally appropriate. I tried to take a last look around MoMa, and the International Center of Photography. But I’d been having such a great time eating and drinking all day with friends, they were closed by the time I got off my ass yesterday. Very New York: you aim for culture, but you hit bars.
Is there a non-touristy experience in the city you’d recommend for a Dusty Rose fan?
The Neue Gallery café on 86th and 5th Avenue. They have incredible Austrian cakes and wines, and they’ll serve you hot cocoa on a silver platter while you enjoy the view over Central Park. The trick is to get a booth and stay there all afternoon with the sun streaming in. It’s a great little place that not too many people think of.
And look out for Ryan McGinley photographs when he next exhibits. Last year he had an exhibition at Team Gallery called “I Know Where the Summer Goes”. Naked people running through landscapes and fireworks. They are such playful, beautiful images. If I could own any artwork, it would be a McGinley print. Hands down.
If we’re talking about photography, your shoot for Dusty Rose was fantastic. Did you have a favorite piece from the session?
Choosing one is hard. The zebra jumpsuit and trench-coat outfit was incredible. I felt like a bloody superstar in that. And the denim cut-offs and waistcoat look was so simple but totally great. It had that Williamsburg, androgynous little boy/girl thing going on. And you can feel cool wearing that all day, anywhere; lounging in the park or going to an opening or whatever. Plus you guys are just so great at styling and pairing. When I order from you in the UK, I’ll buy outfits, not pieces, because you put things together perfectly.
So you’re moving back to England, where you’re from. What can Dusty Roses in London expect at the Battersea Arts Center in the next few months?
Well, I have some ideas, but I’ll keep those cards close to my chest for now. Watch this space, is all I’ll say. And this month the BAC is still showing Don John, which is a threatrical take on Mozart’s Don Giovanni set in punk ‘70s Britain. So go see that before it closes.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get back to England?
Get down the pub for a gin and bitter lemon. And I love a good packet of Maltezers, so I’ll buy some of those next. I should probably start looking for a place to live first. But bollocks to that. Life’s about priorities, isn’t it?