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NEW YORK Call it “punk party pink.” Monday night's Costume Institute gala, which celebrated the exhibition “Punk: Chaos to Couture” and brought the spirit of CBGB to the Upper East Side for a night, relied almost exclusively on the use of pink in everything from the flowers and lights to the spray paint and dinner chair zipper backs. ”[Curator] Andrew Bolton told me pink was the color of punk,” Anna Wintour, who embraced the hue in her floral sequin embroidered Chanel couture gown, declared at the event.
Vogue director of special events Sylvana Ward Durrett oversaw the planning of the benefit, which raised $11.3 million, working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's in-house staff, including vice president for development and membership Nina Diefenbach, deputy chief development officer for events Kristin MacDonald, and deputy chief special events officer Bronwyn Keenan. Some 800 guests, including Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Kardashian, and Gerard Butler, arrived at the museum for an inaugural viewing of the exhibition. Their ascension up the red carpet was live-streamed for the second time and carried on the Web sites of the museum, Moda Operandi, Samsung, and Vogue.
The aesthetics of vintage punk mixed with the elegance of haute couture inspired the night's design, which was created by Nick Knight, Sam Gainsbury, and Gideon Ponte with Raul Avila, who has produced the benefit decor since 2007. To immerse himself in the world of punk, Avila and his team of 150 started with the idea of punk from the 1970s and 1980s in London and New York City. “It was a little bit difficult,” he said of getting into the mindset of that era. “Punk was very much black and white with graffiti, razors, and safety pins, but I needed to make it more couture. It was a challenging theme to realize this year, but it came out well.”
Production for the gala started one week in advance, while break down started at midnight Tuesday morning and was completed by 9 p.m. that evening.
Upon entering the museum, guests found that a giant chandelier made from hundreds of aluminum “razor blades” was conspicuously hung above the information desk, itself completely covered with pink roses rising five feet in height. “The night was all about pink,” Avila reinforced. Further in, the main staircase was flanked by walls of roses arranged to look like the American and British flags, and models dressed as punks served as ushers.
Dinner took place in the Charles Engelhard Court in the American Wing under a canopy of bare lightbulbs. Catered by Glorious Foods, the meal consisted of a cauliflower with caviar and mango appetizer and an entrée of loin of lamb with herbs and a mint mustard sauce served with artichoke stuffed with Maryland crab, along with baby spring vegetables and a potato and cucumber salad—all accompanied by a Paul Goerg Premier Cru Brut Rosé, Louis Latour Montagny Premier Cru La Grande Roche 2010, and a Château Tauzinat L’Hermitage Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2009.
Following dinner, guests entered into the Temple of Dendur via a tunnel of light for the night's entertainment and dessert portion. As miniature desserts embellished with punk-inspired icing (cigarettes, rainbow spikes, and red anarchy symbols) were served with coffee and Jell-O shots, Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Kanye West performed on a custom Plexiglas stage. West was introduced via a projected video montage of snarling dogs seemingly plucked straight from a T-shirt by Givenchy, which sponsored the night's entertainment.
According to Avila, it's difficult to compare this year's theme with past productions celebrating Alexander McQueen and Prada/Schiaparelli. “It really depends on getting the elements together; they're all amazing experiences and we work for a year to put it all together,” he said. “Each one is harder than the one before. Rest assured, I get very little sleep.”