Giant Balloons Form Living Ceiling at Museum Gala

By Jim Shi April 12, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT

Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

New Museum Spring Gala
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At Wednesday night's New Museum spring gala honoring artist Christian Marclay, guests arriving at New York's Cipriani Wall Street were met with a larger-than-life live installation of white PVC balloons that set the tone for the duration of the event, a four-month project in the making.

Snarkitecture co-founder Daniel Arsham, who also operates his own eponymous design studio, explained that, for the firm's first project with the museum, its instinct was to take something existing and transform that as opposed to reinventing the wheel. “You're used to seeing balloons at a party, but if you can alter that and cause it to do something different … this performative architecture is what we're interested in,” Arsham said.

Based on the proposal presented by Snarkitecture, which typically works in a limited palette between black and white, the museum decided to adopt that scheme as the night's theme. “Since their installation incorporated a very simple, minimalist design, we thought the color scheme of black and white would be a really good complement for the event,” said Mariana Salem, the museum's senior special events manager. “Not to mention, the juxtaposition of the Cipriani venue with black and white would give the overall event a great look.”

At the dinner tables, florist Renny & Reed incorporated the spherical design of the balloons into the centerpieces, adding a kick of color via bright parrot tulips. Florals also extended to the entryway and step-and-repeat, where four feet tall standing glass vases filled with pink and white cherry blossoms and dogwood, wrapped in curly willow, were displayed adjacent to Swarovski crystal light towers.

With any event that involves the human touch, there is room to err. For the precise movements of the balloons, the challenge came down to timing. “We had just enough time to finalize the alignment of the inflatables with the room set up, which only left us with two to three hours to rehearse the inflatable formations with the 50 performers,” Salem said. “Once the event started, we had to keep a watchful eye on time to make sure that the run of show was in sync to the performance formations throughout the evening.”

The 90-minute live art installation paused briefly during dinner and the on-stage performances by Shelley Hirsch and the Pimps of Joytime. In total, the 580-guest event raised $1.6 million.

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