Thousands of Pounds of Foliage Evoke the Garden of Eden at Whitney Gala

The Whitney gala got some help from Donatella Versace for this year's decor, which included lots of greenery and some pink flourishes.

By Courtney Thompson October 23, 2009, 3:04 PM EDT

The Whitney Museum's gala dinner

Photo: Alice and Chris for BizBash

Whitney Museum of American Art's Gala and Studio Party
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One of the season's fanciest galas returned on Monday night, this time with a new designer and an earthier look than in years past. For the first time, the team at Van Wyck & Van Wyckwho helmed the Whitney Museum of American Art's Art Party last springtook charge of the decor for the museum's fall gala, transforming the third-floor gallery's blank 200-foot wall into a meadow of ferns, mosses, grasses, and leaves.

“Shakespeare used the idea of a 'Green World' in A Midsummer Night's Dream, an alternate world of fantasy and magic, a primal and elemental and antediluvian place,“ said Bronson van Wyck, who co-produced the party with his colleague Lauren Koppel and Whitney director of special events Gina Rogak. “Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe juxtaposes the 'civilization' of industrial society with our yearning for universal meaning and our search for it in the natural and the primordial. At the end of the day, we'd all love to get back to the Garden of Eden, right? This party was a return to Eden.”

To create his Eden, van Wyck drilled supports into the wall and ceiling to bear the installation's several-thousand-pound weight. Gaps in the garden revealed silver, gold, bronze, pink, and platinum mirrors that reflected the room's dinner party atmosphere. Pink and purple Venetian chandliers hung over the tables, complementing the dense pinka specific color request per event chair Donatella Versacecenterpieces on each table.

After a surprise performance by Jennifer Hudson, the dinner's 500 guests made their way down to the Lower Gallery to join a younger social set at the annual Studio Party, where DJ Berrie spun alongside a surprise DJ-in-the-making, Gossip Girl actress Taylor Momsen. Decor downstairs was more subdued, with lots of pink, purple, and blue lighting (to complement the many blue dresses in Versace's latest runway show) that bounced off giant sheets of gauzy scrim that hung from the atrium ceiling.

In the tented courtyard, van Wyck created a basket-weave ceiling out of pink and purple fabrics, and covered one wall in canvas that guests could draw on. The idea was inspired by Versace and the museum's “Art Unites” program, which provided canvas and art supplies to 500 seriously ill children over the summer. The artwork created was then fashioned into one-of-a-kind Versace canvas tote bagstwo of which were on display at the partywith the proceeds benefiting the Starlight Children's Foundation and the One Foundation.

Big name guests in attendance included Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Candice Bergen, Leonard Lauder, Jonathan Tisch, Shakira, Gerard Butler, and Lindsay Lohan.

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