MoMA Gets Suitably Whimsical and Macabre for Tim Burton Tribute

By Michael O'Connell November 19, 2009, 12:06 PM EST

Burton-esque hedging around MoMA's bar

Photo: Jessica Torossian for BizBash

Museum of Modern Art Film Benefit
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Now in its second year, the Museum of Modern Art hosted its annual film benefit Tuesday night. The gala raised $800,000 for MoMA's department of film, honored director Tim Burton, and kicked off an exhibition of his work with decor inspired by more than two decades worth of movies.

A crowd of 240—including event co-chairs Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, as well as Danny DeVito, Brooke Shields, and Gabourey Sidibe—joined the director for cocktails, a short presentation, and dinner, before the museum lobby opened for a less exclusive after-party.

The evening marked a bit of a departure from last year's inaugural benefit, which honored Baz Luhrmann. The museum's Tim Burton retrospective has been in the works for years, and timing the honor to its opening allowed event staff to be exceptionally playful in its execution.

“We didn't want to be culling from any specific film,” said MoMA assistant director of special events Liz Pizzo, who worked with special events manager Olivia Striffler to produce the benefit. “This was about conveying what Tim Burton represents and, like with all MoMA events, we tried to keep everything clean and contemporary.”

Pizzo and Striffler brought on production company SPEC Entertainment to bring the decor to fruition and pull off the many details of the night, which spanned nearly six hours and featured a heavily populated step-and-repeat, a cocktail hour, a presentation in one of MoMA's theaters, a dinner, a V.I.P. preview of the Burton exhibition, and an after-party for an additional 350 guests.  

Gluing the many facets together was the museum lobby, filled with hedges, topiary, oversize paper flowers, and dramatic white chairs and ottomans that wouldn't be out of place in any number of Burton's films, particularly Edward Scissorhands or the upcoming Alice in Wonderland.

“Having Tim Burton working on this exhibition over the last year was really impactful on this event,” said Pizzo, noting how hands-on Burton was. “Tying an exhibition to the film benefit might be a one-time thing, and that vibe will be hard to top. But that's what we'll have to do for next year.”

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