New York's Top Benefits 2006

April 5, 2006, 12:00 AM EDT

Young swells at the Frick.

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit
Its exclusivity and reputation as the “party of the year” restored by the 2005 bash, the theme of this year's benefit will be “British invasion,” courtesy of sponsor Burberry. Slated for May 1, the benefit draws a crowd of fashionable notaries. It-girl-of-the-moment Sienna Miller, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, and Burberry C.E.O. Rose Marie Bravo and designer Christopher Bailey will host. Vogue's Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Holly Lemkau Doran, and the Met's Nina Diefenbach and Ashley Potter will plan the massive, high-profile event. David Monn will return for the second  year in a row to provide decor.

2. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit
Big is the word for this event: big crowds, big celebs, and of course, very big money ($31.9 million raised in 2005). This year's June 14 gala will host 4,000 New Yorkers and others at the Javits Center. Laurie Fabiano, Robin Hood's director of communications, marketing, and events, will orchestrate the event, and Avi Adler and David Stark will build a decor installation worthy of a venue that size. Event Associates will handle ticketing, and Clear Channel will head up production—which will be spectacular, if history is any indication.

3. American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala
After watching a selection of ABT's repertory favorites at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 22, benefit guests will head to the tent in Damrosch Park for dinner and slightly-less-choreographed dancing of their own. ABT director of special events John Banta and associate director of special events Katie Diamond will team up with freelance event coordinator Jane Emerson and event designer Bill Tansey to produce the gala.

4. Whitney Museum of American Art Fall Gala
This October benefit is still going strong—it takes some cash, after all, to maintain a 76-year-old institution. Last year, up-and-coming designer Gill Hockett worked with artist Richard Tuttle on the decor, nearly banishing flowers from the building, opting instead to make spiraling neon centerpieces for the dining room and a stark red atmosphere for cocktails. Kimberly Goldsteen, the Whitney's director of special events, plans the glowing affair.

5. Frick Collection's Young Fellows Ball
The Frick's stylish benefit brings in socialites and patrons of the arts dressed in costumes related to an exhibit-inspired theme. Following last year's ”17th century chic” dress code that borrowed from the look of the Vermeers and Rembrandts on display, this year's party on March 9 had a “Tango and Tapas” theme inspired by the late-career works of Spanish artist Francisco Goya on exhibit. The Frick's head of special events, Colleen Tierney, oversaw the gala for the first time this year, taking over for former event manager Sarah Milestone. Galen Lee designed the decor, and Vera Wang sponsored. The annual gala was once as much as a month earlier—in early February—and has crept its way into March this year. “The member and press openings for the exhibition require us to use the same space that is used for the event,” says media relations and marketing manager Heidi Roseneau. “To move from one to another was not possible in the same week, as the ball's complex decor takes several days to set up.”

6. Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala
Five hundred swellegant opera lovers will converge on Lincoln Center on September 25 for the Met's opening night gala. The costumes seen onstage in the Met's first-night production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly may rival the attire sported by New York's cultural elite in the audience. By Robin handled last year's decor: red and pink rose centerpieces on lavender and pink tablecloths. Glorious Food catered. Wendy Westwood, the Met's director of special events, will plan the 2006 event.

7. Central Park Conservancy's Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon
Suits, not dresses, and hats, not super-coiffed hairstyles, will dominate this annual ladies-only luncheon that benefits the CPC, Central Park's caretaker. Slated for May 3, the luncheon will honor CPC Women's Committee past president Karen LeFrak. Lydia Thomas, director of the Women's Committee, oversees the 1,200-guest springtime luncheon with the assistance of coordinator Kendria Smith and design consultant Laura Hall.

8. Museum of Modern Art's Party in the Garden
The springtime event always draws New York's social elite. Last year MoMA director of special programming and events Nicholas Apps planned the affair—its first time in the garden after a three-year hiatus off-site during the museum's renovation—where Avi Adler decorated open tents with sunny yellow flowers and linens, and Glorious Food served corn off the cob, lobster thermidor, and.phparagus for dinner. The event will return to the garden this year on June 6.

9. Society Of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Awards for Excellence
Baby boomers are turning 60 this year, and so is the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The center's awards honor individuals from the world of medicine, business, and philanthropy. Last year's event at Sotheby's drew more than 300 guests, who dined on Great Performances' cuisine in a pretty pink dining room designed by Antony Todd. Sloan-Kettering special events manager Olivia Striffler works with Susan Bell Events to produce the affair, which will be held in May this year.

10. New York Public Library Library Lions Benefit
One November evening, Astor Hall and the Celeste Bartos Forum will buzz with the sound of 450 NYPL supporters for the library's biggest annual fund-raiser. At last year's event, guests were wowed by David Monn's breathtaking installation of thousands of autumn leaves covering the walls of the Bartos Forum from floor to 15-foot ceiling. NYPL director of special events Kathryn Laino planned the fund-raiser, which brought in more than $2 million.

11. New York Botanical Garden Conservatory Ball
This is no ordinary garden in the Bronx, and this annual event—June 1 this year—raises more than a million dollars to maintain the garden's stately grounds. Last year Robert Downs Clark created a romantic dining room with pink and white rose centerpieces and delicate chandeliers with small pink lampshades. Penny Arnold, director of special events development for the garden, worked with Buckley Hall Events to plan the affair. M Communications handled the audiovisual production, and Glorious Food catered.

12. Winter Antiques Show Opening Night Gala
The city's social set kicked off New York's winter social season on January 19 with the Winter Antiques Show opening night party at the Seventh Regiment Armory. Elle Decor sponsored, and proceeds went to the East Side House Settlement. Show coordinator Eula Johnson worked with Bill Tansey and Taste Caterers to produce the gala. Coach C.E.O. Reed Krakoff sponsored the January 26 Young Collector's Night, the show's partner event for the under-40 set.

13. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
In November, 1,400 dance lovers will witness the world premiere of a yet-to-be-determined work performed by the world-famous modern dance company. Last year's introduction of a new ballet choreographed by artistic director Judith Jamison was followed by dinner at the Sheraton in an Avi Adler-designed dining room, inspired by the performance's colorful costumes. Less athletic dancing was done to the Starlight Orchestra's music.

14. New York City Ballet Opening Night Benefit
Last year's “American Music Celebration” benefit hosted 700 guests, including Beverly Sills, Julia and David Koch, and Christy Turlington and Edward Burns. Glorious Food matched the theme with an all-American classic dessert: apple pie. Antony Todd's lush palm fronds set in a sea of white and turquoise accents filled the dining room. Kara Minogue, director of special events for the ballet, coordinated the event, which will be on November 21 this year.

15. Neue Galerie Gala
This five-year-old museum in a former Vanderbilt mansion has a four-year-old gala that has garnered lots of public and press attention in its short lifetime. Since Bloomberg sponsored the museum's first event in 2002, it's become considerably more fashion-focused, counting Asprey and Gucci among its more recent sponsors. “We gave Vogue the exclusive [press access] in 2004, and it exploded after [the magazine's coverage],” says the gallery's director of membership, Mirja Spooner, who has planned every gala but the first. The number of guests topped
out at 700 in 2004, and was limited last year to 550. “That was a much more comfortable number,” Spooner says. Last year the gala raised $250,000 for the gallery. The Neue's gala is typically held on the second Thursday of December, and it will tentatively be December 7 this year. At press time, Spooner said she
was “very close to confirming a fashion sponsor.”

16. New York City Opera's Opening Night Gala
Wine enthusiasts and opera buffs converged at the New York State Theater on March 7 for the opera's opening night of Most Happy Fella starring Paul Sorvino, and then partook in a Napa Valley-theme post-performance dinner, a nod to the opera's setting, Northern California. Sarah Denton, the opera company's director of special events, worked with event producer David Bowen and Catering by Restaurant Associates.

17. Municipal Art Society Gala
More than 400 preservationists, architecture fans, and society folk gather for the annual fall gala. Glorious Food fed honorees and guests last year in a lush, Robert Isabell-designed environment at the historic Seventh Regiment Armory. Vice president of development Jean Tatge plans the evening.

18. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation's Kids for Kids Benefit
On May 20, the vast Industria Superstudio morphs into the ultimate old-fashioned carnival for the Kids for Kids benefit. Parents and kids—2,000 of them in 2005—descend upon the studio for an afternoon of fairway games and story time hosted by celebrities—past years have included Brooke Shields, James Gandolfini, and Julianne Moore. Jayme Rubright, the foundation's special event marketing manager, will coordinate the event with Dalzell Productions.

19. Museum of the City of New York's Director's Council Party
Traditionally held in the summer, this annual party moved to February 13. Six hundred guests—many dressed in Oscar de la Renta in honor of the evening's fashion designer sponsor—nibbled on Callahan Catering's hors d'oeuvres while mingling within the museum's ornate rooms. Carly Gottsegen, the museum's director of special events, produced the event with fashion florist favorite Raul Avila and Posse Productions.

20. Breast Cancer Research Foundation Benefit
You can sing along, but not too loudly, with Tony Bennett at the Waldorf-Astoria on April 10—if you can snag a ticket to the popular BCRF benefit. Monroe Alechman of Origins will create the always-pink decor, and BCRF director of special events Anne MacGillivray expects 1,100 guests, hosted by Estée Lauder senior corporate vice president and BCRF founder Evelyn Lauder.

Posted 04.05.06

Photo: Alan Klein (Frick)

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