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New York's Top Benefits 2008

The Met's Costume Institute benefit
The Met's Costume Institute benefit
Photo: Joe Fornabaio
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit
“Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” will be the theme of this year’s most anticipated night for fashion and social types, presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vogue on May 5. The gala will celebrate the Met’s superhero fashion exhibit, with honorary chair Giorgio Armani joining co-chairs George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Anna Wintour. The Met’s Nina Diefenboch, Ashley Potter, and Kristin McDonald will return to plan the event along with Vogue’s Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff.2. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit
One of the city’s biggest charities throws an always-impressive annual party, with a mix of celebrity appeal and Wall Street money that helped rake in a record-breaking $71 million in 2007. In March, the event will return to the Javits Center with a performance from Shakira. David Stark will once again handle design, with Glorious Food catering and Live Nation in charge of production, all overseen by Laurie Fabiano, the Robin Hood Foundation’s director of marketing, communications, and events.

3. American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala
The annual celebration of the world-class company will bring dancers en pointe to perform in front of 4,000 guests on May 19 at the Metropolitan Opera House. The performance will be followed by a black-tie dinner dance in the Tent at Lincoln Center. Event planner Jane Emerson will coordinate the event, working with Restaurant Associates and Bill Tansey Design.

4. Whitney Museum of American Art Fall Gala
Gray and green set the tone at the October 2007 gala, where the walls and decor reflected the “Shades of Gray” theme on behalf of the evening’s honored artist, Chuck Close. The gala raised $2.4 million for the Whitney. Geoff Howell handled design and production, with the museum’s new director of special events, Gina Rogak, coordinating the event. Both will return in 2008.

5. Frick Collection’s Young Fellows Ball
The Frick's annual bash, held in support of the museum’s education program, is one of the most consistently talked about parties of the year. In 2007, the equestrian theme of the “Hunt Ball” took inspiration from the special exhibition “George Stubbs, 1724–1806: A Celebration.” DJ Pat “Caramel” Regne spun records in the lavender-lit music room, which was elegantly outfitted to resemble an English country-house sitting room. On March 13 this year, the Frick Mansion will host “Un Ballo in Maschera”—a masked ball—with the tone set by Parmigianino’s Italian Renaissance portrait “Antea,” on loan from Naples.

6. The Metropolitan Opera’s Opening-Night Gala
The 2008 opera season will commence with a gala on September 22 at the Met’s Mercedes T. Bass Grand Tier. Restaurant Associates will cater, David Monn will handle production, and Deutsche Bank will sponsor for the seventh consecutive year. More than 2,000 guests packed the opera house for the 2007 gala, which drew more boldface names than usual, including Jane Fonda, Mary-Louise Parker, Walter Cronkite, and Placido Domingo.

7. The Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden
The much-talked-about annual garden soiree brings together museum trustees, honorees, and V.I.P.s from the worlds of art, fashion, film, and finance. The June 10 party begins with cocktails in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, continuing into the wee hours with a lively tented after-party for more than 1,000 guests. Co-chairs Marie-Josée Kravis, Agnes Gund, and Jo Carole Lauder will oversee the 2008 event.

8. New York Public Library Lions Benefit
Entering the lion’s gate as honorees in 2007, director Martin Scorsese, playwright Tom Stoppard, historian John Hope Franklin, and author Jhumpa Lahiri gathered in Astor Hall on November 5 for the 10th annual General Book Fund fund-raiser. For the first time, the benefit also included an after-dinner dance party. The sold-out event was dressed by the returning David Monn and overseen by NYPL director of special events Kathryn Laino.

9. Central Park Conservancy’s Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon
An estimated 1,200 women will gather under the tent in the Conservatory Garden for this elegant philanthropic society luncheon, which raises money for the conservation of Central Park and honors past presidents of the Women’s Committee. This year’s event, scheduled for May 7, will pay tribute to Nancy Paduano. Abigail Kirsch will cater the luncheon.

10. Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Awards for Excellence
These marquee awards honor the most dedicated individuals in the fields of corporate leadership, medicine, and philanthropy. The 11th annual awards take place in May, with 300 guests expected to attend the elegant black-tie dinner dance. Jennifer Schancupp, special events manager at the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, is responsible for planning.

11. The New York Botanical Garden’s Conservancy Ball
The roses should be in full bloom for the June 5 black-tie ball, when 600 guests arrive at the Conservatory Tent. Gregory Jahaly, director of special events, will tend to the garden that night, Glorious Food will return to cater, and Robert Clark will design a floral theme.

12. Winter Antiques Show Opening-Night Gala
Opening night for this premier antiques show was January 17, when 2,500 top dealers, collectors, and experts in American, English, European, and Asian fine and decorative arts arrived at the Seventh Regiment Armory for the 54th annual bash to benefit the East Side House Settlement. Bank of America hosted the event along with Town & Country editor in chief Pamela Fiori. Tansey Designers handled decor, Taste Caterers provided hors d’oeuvres, and executive director Catherine Sweeney Singer oversaw the evening.

13. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Gala
On December 3, 2007, at the Sheraton, 1,300 guests attended the celebration of the 2008 season opening of the internationally acclaimed dance company. The annual gala raised $2.7 million toward the creation of new programs and scholarships. A performance was held at City Center prior to the gala, which was again designed by David Watkins and produced by Quay Whitlock.

14. New York City Ballet Opening-Night Benefit

In 2007, the opening night of the New York City Ballet featured a one-time-only performance with celebrated excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, and George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, proving once again why the benefit is one of the most anticipated cultural events of the fall season. Following the dance, guests were led to the promenade of the New York State Theater for an elegant black-tie supper ball. Antony Todd handled decor, and Glorious Food catered. The 2008 opening is set for November 25.

15. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s Kids for Kids Benefit

The charitable children’s organization focused on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS infection raised nearly $1.3 million at its 2007 benefit. Around 2,000 guests will attend the September 20, 2008, event, to be held at the Seventh Regiment Armory. “Where else will Mario Batali serve you gelato while Jeff Koons paints with your little girl?” asks Jayme Rubright, the organization’s managing director of innovative philanthropy, who will oversee the event. Fifty restaurants will provide samplings of their cuisine, and Dalzell Productions will handle the decor.

16. Breast Cancer Research Foundation Benefit

This benefit brings more than 1,000 guests to the Waldorf-Astoria each spring. In 2007, the event raised $5.2 million for the foundation, run by Evelyn H. Lauder. At the April 8, 2008, event, Elton John will once again perform at what is being dubbed the “hottest pink party ever.” Bruce Licursi will handle production, and Monroe Alleckman will design.

17. Neue Galerie Gala

New York’s art lovers turn out in droves for this elegant annual benefit held at the German and Austrian art gallery. On December 11 last year, 500 guests attended the Gucci-sponsored event and viewed the special exhibition “Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections.” In 2008, chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of CafĂ© Sabarsky will return to cater, and Phyllis La Riccia will oversee the event.

18. New York City Opera’s Opening-Night Gala
On March 8, an expected 600 guests will fill the New York State Theater to watch the premiere of Henry Purcell’s King Arthur, featuring the Mark Morris Dance Group with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi. Cocktails on the grand promenade will begin the evening, and a black-tie dinner and dancing will conclude it. Sarah Denton, director of special events at the New York City Opera, will produce the event. David Stark Design will handle decor, and Restaurant Associates will cater.

19. Municipal Art Society Gala

The performance-packed December 2007 party took place at the Seventh Regiment Armory, which was recently restored by two of the event’s honorees, Elihu Rose and Wade Thompson, who received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis medal. More than 400 guests were in attendance. Robert Isabell was in charge of decor, Hudson Yards Catering handled food, and Bradley Associates returned to produce the event. The vendors are expected back for the 2008 benefit.

20. Museum of the City of New York’s Director’s Council Winter Ball

With a 20‑year-plus history, the Winter Ball has become a highlight of the New York social calendar. Guests enjoy cocktails, dinner, and dancing throughout the museum’s landmark Georgian-style mansion. In February, the museum hosted about 600 guests at the Christian Dior-sponsored benefit, which raised more than $425,000 for the museum. Jerry Gallagher, director of special events for the museum, oversaw planning, and Abigail Kirsch catered.