Two x Two for AIDS and Art: Five million dollars in virtually 48 hours? Here's how.

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More art, less AIDS: How to raise big money for two beneficiaries in virtually two nights

by CHRISTINA GEYER

photographs by BRUNO, GEORGE FIALA, MEI-CHUN JAU, COOPER NEILL, KEVIN TACHMAN, JONATHAN ZIZZO

If you happened to drive along Preston Road during the first week of October, you likely caught sight of a crane boom, reaching perhaps four stories high, from beyond the wall that fronts the famous residence of art collectors Cindy and Howard Rachofsky. No, the couple wasn’t replacing the roof of their 10,000-square-foot white box. The crane was employed to help assemble a monumental amount of steel into interconnected triangles, the result being a gigantic dome on the Rachofsky House front lawn. The futuristic half-orb, by the Polish company Freedomes, was then tightly sheathed in white polyester fabric. It looked rather like a gigantic golf ball, half-buried in the clipped jade grass of the most artful putting green on the planet. Its purpose, though, had nothing to do with holes-in-one: It was there to accommodate the hundreds of art collectors, gallerists, artists and socialites who would attend the black-tie gala during Two x Two for AIDS and Art, the annual auction founded by the Rachofskys, held to benefit the AIDS-research initiative of amfAR and the contemporary-art acquisition program of the Dallas Museum of Art.

It was a milestone 15th year for the event, so a garden-variety party tent just wouldn’t do. In fact, ordinary anything was avoided, beginning with First Look, the sneak-peek event held two nights prior. Historically a more casual evening than the gala, the circus-themed night packed plenty of kitsch — carnival games, a fortune teller, servers wearing clown noses — among the sophisticated art and fashion offered via silent auction and for instant purchase. The star attraction? A trampoline, which prompted even the most aloof patrons to toss off their shoes and bounce like schoolchildren toward the night sky. (Even Howard Rachofsky and this year’s honored artist, Luc Tuymans, took a leap, going airborne together.) The candy-colored lights projected onto the domed tent were in direct opposition to the pared-down decadence that was to come on Saturday. The gala’s theme was, simply, black and white, and a majority of guests dressed accordingly. (Not fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who wore a canary-yellow dress of her own doing.)

The energy was palpable: Dom Pérignon Champagne flowed endlessly. Actor Alan Cumming made an outlandish appearance via video, to thank Two x Two’s long list of donors and sponsors by way of saucy jabs. (Nary an entity or person was spared, from First Look sponsor Michele Watches to the event’s designer, Todd Fiscus.) Gladys Knight, nearly 70, gave a raucous performance. It was all backed by an indulgent five-course meal that started with caviar and quail eggs and ended with brandy Alexanders.

But of all the OMG moments, nothing rivaled the live auction. The charismatic Jamie Niven, Sotheby’s chairman of North and South America, coerced certain of the nearly 500 attendees to raise their paddles in a big way, pulling in more than $1 million for the seven works offered in the live auction alone — including Tuymans’ riveting Mr. Sagawa, which sold for its estimated $700,000. The next day, word came: After tallying the numbers from the nearly 200 lots — art, fashion, furniture, trips — more than $5 million was raised, a Two x Two record, putting the event’s 15-year take at more than $45 million. What will the next 15 years bring? Only the magic golf ball knows.

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