By Courtney Thompson Posted June 22, 2009, 4:07 PM EDT
Known for reeling in socialites, celebrities, models, and artists, the Whitney Museum of American Art did so once again during Wednesday's Art Party at Skylight, amid a much airier environment. Unlike the 2008 incarnation of the event, which paid tribute to longtime sponsor Max Azria's Hervé Léger bandage dresses with dark swaths of tightly wound fabric, this year's party had a lightness to it, evident in glowing bars and communal tables and leafy centerpieces.
“We were planning [this event] in February and March, it was a heavy time. Life in New York was heavy,” said Bronson van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck, who co-produced the party with his colleague Lauren Koppel and Whitney senior manager of special events Sarah Milestone. “We wanted a party that, like art, could be a breath of fresh air. There was a sharpness to last year's event, and this was meant to be the opposite of that. We wanted to mark the beginning of summer.”
Another inspiration: a 1931 quote from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, which appeared on the invitation and emblazoned on a wall at the party: “It is especially in times like these that we need to look to the spiritual. In art we find it.”
To channel the “fresh air” he was looking for, van Wyck brought in lots of palm trees and hired Bentley Meeker to light the venue in rotating hues of yellow, green, pink, orange, and purple. Haze—a lighter form of fog—seeped throughout the massive rooms, picking up the beams of light and the Mark Fox films projected above the two bars on either end of the corridor.
The highlight of the gallery section of the party (besides the art, that is) was an illuminated 18-foot-long communal table made from jade acrylic, accented by Ghost stools. According to van Wyck, when planning a party void of dinner, communal tables are key to fostering interaction. “You've got to create spaces and moments that induce people to interact with each other.”
At the opposite end of the venue, a nearly 11-foot-long neon sign reading “Party” flashed “Art” and “Party,” thus reminding guests they were there for the art as well as to party. Helping them achieve the latter was DJ Kid America, who kept everyone dancing by mixing the likes of Lady Gaga and MGMT with Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Buddy Holly.
The most buzzed-about guest of the night was The Hangover star Bradley Cooper, though actor Gerard Butler garnered his share of clamoring fans as well. Other notable attendees included the evening's sponsors Max and Lubov Azria, Camilla Belle, Ali Larter, David Cross, Alexis Bledel, Gretchen Mol, Lydia Hearst, Tinsley Mortimer, Lake Bell, Melissa George, Selita Ebanks, and ranks of lesser-known models.