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Un Ballo in Maschera: Inside Save Venice’s Dazzling, Gilt Gala

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Last Friday night, the dance floor of the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom dazzled with a faux-mosaic treatment: trompe l’oeil tiles in turquoise, gold, and orange were arranged into vignettes featuring pairs of peacocks. The decor (spearheaded by Bronson van Wyck and Van Wyck & Van Wyck) did more than just entice people to throw shapes during Save Venice’s annual Un Ballo in Maschera; it was also a reminder of why everyone had gathered in the first place. The party’s pattern was inspired by the 12th-century Veneto-Byzantine apse mosaics in the Basilica of Santa Maria e San Donato on the island of Murano. Persevering these peacock-laden designs (the animal symbolizes immortality in Christianity), which are under threat due to structural damage in the basilica’s roof, is just one of the many undertakings of Save Venice—which raised an outstanding $1.2 million at Friday’s event.

Dressed in a gold headpiece and Byzantine-esque cloak woven with roundel motifs (Save Venice’s masquerade gala is a highly costumed one), Frederick Ilchman, the chairman of Save Venice, addressed the group after a lively cocktail hour. “This year’s theme comes from the magnificent mosaics in the Church of Santa Maria and San Donato, which Save Venice is conserving thanks to support from friends like you. As most of you know, Save Venice was founded in 1971 to preserve the artistic heritage of Venice and share it with the entire world.”

Save Venice’s annual gala has become the fundraiser at which to see and be seen; the fact that the dress codes call for Venetian-level splendor only adds to its appeal. Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Oscar de la Renta (the fashion sponsor of the night) were there, having dressed a large number of the glamorous guests. So too were designers LaQuan Smith, Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill, Marina Moscone, Marina Larroude, Brian Atwood, Bach Mai, and Lafayette 148’s Emily Smith. LaQuan Smith had outfitted Cindy Bruna in a dazzling red sequined gown with a cut-out that showcased her abs; Emily Smith dressed Maggie Gyllenhaal in a demure black and gold jacquard suit. Also in attendance were Ivy Getty and Tina Leung, Cara Buono, Lena Olin, Hannah Traore, and Chloe Wise. The co-chairs of the event included Eliza and Alex Bolen, Giulia Caltagirone, Todd Moscowitz, Shari and Ed Glazer, and many others.

Midway through the dinner, Kim and Garcia had the honor of anointing four lucky individuals with the prizes for most outstanding mask. Rebecca Vanyo was awarded the Lady’s Prize: a Bvlgari (the night’s title sponsor) necklace. DiMondo was picked for the Gentleman’s Prize, winning Bvlgari cufflinks. And Karin and Peter Leidel received the Couple’s Prize: a complimentary two-night stay at the Gritti Palace. On learning of the high-caliber rewards, everyone in the room who came sans mask likely made a mental note to turn up next year with something showstopping. (At least, that was the case for this writer.)

Soon after, seats were abandoned and the dance floor teemed with guests. It was one of those rare Manhattan events where the party had no trouble getting started. Perhaps the peacocks had something to do with it.

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Un Ballo in Maschera: Inside Save Venice’s Dazzling, Gilt Gala Reviewed by RP on April 24, 2023 Rating: 5

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