By Carol Buckley Posted April 9, 2008, 11:28 AM EDT
The Phillips Collection’s event planner, Allison Signorelli, faced a double dilemma in coordinating the museum’s annual spring gala, which took place on Friday. She needed to wrest the spotlight from the gallery’s collection and refocus guests’ attention on her decor, while finding a look that bridged the museum’s dramatically different wings—one a warren of modernist white spaces and the other historic in dark wood and ornamental plaster.
Similar in concept to the Corcoran Ball, the Phillips gala opened its 11 galleries to some 350 guests, giving them a chance to dine amongst the masterpieces. Last year, the event took a cue from an exhibition on film, opting for black-and-white motifs. For this year's gala, dubbed the Boaters’ Ball, Renoir’s famed canvas “Luncheon of the Boating Party” (the centerpiece of the Phillips collection) acted as the muse for the menu and gifts.
When it came to the evening's decor, Signorelli opted to complement the museum's art rather than compete with it. “For each room, we chose a color from a painting and made that the theme,” she said. The event transformed each room into a study of a different hue, with linens from Perfect Settings and Table Manners featuring colors such as the gold in Richard Diebenkorn’s “Interior With View of the Ocean” and the coral found in Matisse’s “Studio, Quai St. Michel.” “We didn’t want to necessarily choose the obvious color from a painting,” said Signorelli. “We wanted to bring out some of the more surprising colors.”
Floral designer Jack Lucky worked to unify each space with three-foot-tall centerpieces guided by the rooms' palettes and aesthetics. More modern spaces featured arching cherry blossoms, while towering and tightly packed roses and ranunculus offered a more classic look in the main gallery. Signorelli chose gilded chargers, silverware, and stemware for each room, and low, flameless candles—used to protect the artwork—for the tables.
Dinner from Occasions Caterers was equally bright with lobster salad and French-pressed spring pea soup followed by veal loin with spinach and mushrooms, a polenta timbale with leeks and artichokes, and spring vegetables with a tarragon-champagne beurre composée.
For the second part of the evening, guests walked to the historic Anderson House for dessert and music—everything from Motown to pop—by Glenn Pearson Productions. After tasting miniature crème brulée in tiny teacups and selections from the gelato bar, guests headed out with gifts that included a miniature picnic basket filled with chocolate truffles.