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NOW at Night: Bright Nights

Washingtonians turned out to celebrate contemporary art at the Corcoran on Friday

Matthew Donohue and Brenda Jacobsen, both members of the Corcoran Contemporaries, smile with Allen M. Lewin.

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With techno beats and the right lighting, the classic Greco-Roman architecture of the Corcoran Gallery of Art was transformed into a sleek, modern nightclub last Friday. Hosted by the Corcoran Contemporaries, the museum’s volunteer group, the event launched “Now at the Corcoran,” exhibitions of contemporary work with ties to Washington.

“This is a celebration of emerging and mid-career artists who people will get a chance to see and meet,” said David DeSantis, chair of the Corcoran Contemporaries. “It’s an exciting opportunity to learn about the creative process.”

Guests got a private viewing of the inaugural exhibition, Spencer Finch’s show “My Business, With the Cloud.” Finch’s work provided the inspiration for the evening. Geometric white leather couches and blue lighting lent a sophisticated, futuristic feeling to the space.

“This group who organized the gala really runs the gamut from enthusiasts to philanthropists to established collectors,” said Corcoran public-relations director Kristin Guiter. “We wanted to be innovative and set it apart from more traditional events and fundraisers at the Corcoran.”

One twist? A conveyer-belt bar, bringing drinks and hors d’oeuvres designed by Occasions Catering to waiting guests. Menu highlights included salmon crudo and a butternut-squash salad.

The event also honored abstract painter and native Washingtonian Chris Martin. His large-scale paintings will come to the gallery in June 2011 as the second installment of “Now at the Corcoran.”

“We want the artists to respond to the site,” said Sarah Newman, curator of contemporary art. “Martin’s paintings commissioned for the atrium will revitalize the place.”