Museum of Contemporary Art Combats Midwinter Funk With George Clinton's Funk

By Jenny Berg February 9, 2012, 10:00 AM EST

Photo: James Prinz Photography, Chicago/ Courtesy of Nick Cave and the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's ArtEdge Gala
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“Midwinter Funk?” asked the cover of the invitation to the Museum of Contemporary Art's ArtEdge gala, which took place Saturday night. The invite opened to reveal photos of artist Nick Cave's Soundsuits dancing against electric hues of yellow, pink, and orange, and text encouraged patrons to “get out of your midwinter funk and celebrate ... with an evening of art, food, and funk.” Some 600 guests decided to do just that, and the gala raised more than $1 million.

With a performance from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic—and, of course, an appearance from the Soundsuits—the evening was designed to “celebrate the incredible programming of the Museum of Contemporary Art and all the important people who support us,” said Gina Crowley, director of special events and rentals. “We also wanted to create an event that would wow the guests and rightfully represent the creative and unique style and programming of the [museum].”

For the first time, the cocktail reception and after-dinner concert took place in a heated tent in the museum's Sculpture Garden. Inspired by Clinton's music and Oscar Tuazon's plastic-wrapped installation on display in the atrium, Bill Heffernan of HMR Design Group created an “electric plastic” look for the cocktail reception.

With support from Event Creative, Heffernan employed shiny plastic walls and a cellophane ceiling embedded with color-changing lights. The effect, he said, was like a “unique and dynamic light show” set in a “plastic ice box.” Wolfgang Puck Catering prepared appetizers with a loose “electric soul food” theme, and the famous chef himself mingled with guests as they tried his appetizers, which included lobster hush puppies and crab cakes with cornmeal crust and green tomato remoulade.

Dinner took place in the atrium, where clear, shrink-wrapped dining tables were embedded with LED lights that changed colors. Served on clear plates, the menu items were bathed in blue-and-pink lights throughout the meal, which made for “an electrified dining experience,” Heffernan said. Down the center of the tables were 50 illuminated frames that Heffernan referred to as “light planes.”

To signal the end of dinner, servers distributed spiked sweet tea, and the Soundsuits reappeared to usher guests back into the tent. By that time, “the plastic ice box from cocktails [had been] transformed into a hot technicolor dance place featuring George Clinton,” Heffernan said.

As the band played, passed treats included push-up coconut cream pie. Tiered dessert stands held Southern-inspired cakes, and an old-fashioned jerk soda station doled out root beer floats and other ice cream-based drinks. In the lounge areas, guests found bottles of Svedka vodka, shot glasses, and grab-and-go funk concert attire: sparkly gold and silver bow-ties.

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