By Wendy Wollenberg Posted April 29, 2008, 5:23 PM EDT
For the second-annual Bowler Hat Art Party, luxury lifestyle publication Factio Magazine eschewed its inaugural location (the artifact-filled Primitive) for a decidedly raw event space, the new En-Vent in the West Loop. For publisher Henrique Kerch and editor in chief Melissa Maynard, the entire purpose of the party is to show off Chicago's art talent during Artropolis, the high-profile international art exhibition that opened on Friday and runs through today at the Merchandise Mart.
“Our goal is to be the hottest event during Artropolis,” Kerch said. On Friday night, more than 500 guests attended the art party, which gets its inspiration from “The Man in the Bowler Hat,” the iconic surrealist painting by Rene Magritte.
Some guests did indeed don black plastic bowler hats during the evening, but the real focus was the artwork. Diverse Chicago artists such as J.C. Steinbrunner, Jack Perno, and Christine Scott hung paintings and photographs gallery-style on the venue's exposed-brick walls, while M5 Artists Collective projected a multimedia video installation on screens along the back of the space. To invoke the ethereal blue skies depicted in Magritte paintings, Kerch wrapped columns lining En-Vent's open space with blue plastic and aimed red lighting onto it.
Factio enlisted some star power (Chicago-based hosts Kelly Edwards and Ali Azhar from the HGTV series Design on a Dime served as the event's hosts), as well as several art-minded sponsors. Contemporary furniture company IQMatics set up low-slung couches and tables in lounging areas in the center of the space.
Catering came courtesy of Chicago restaurants Viand (which served lamb ribs) and Citizen Bar (which offered risotto cakes with gorgonzola cream and polenta poppers with mascarpone pomodoro), but the big hit of the evening was the Melting Pot's chocolate fountain, into which guests dipped pineapple chunks, strawberries, marshmallows, and Rice Krispies treats. Bartenders from Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group served rum cocktails created with Rubi Rey Rum (an event sponsor), as well as wine and beer.
Factio further showcased the sponsors, all of which aimed to align their brands with Chicago's art community, by including their logos on step-and-repeat signage from Signs Now. Gift bags included membership passes for MutualArt.com, along with other art-focused goodies. “It's really important for us to bring the brand alive for people who read the magazine,” Maynard said.