Entering the vast Cipriani 42nd Street on Wednesday night, it was clear you weren’t at your run-of-the-mill society to-do. The popular events space was practically unrecognizable, transformed with deep red and blue lighting, fossil-like structures dangling from the ceiling and tables dotted with huge plywood candelabras flickering like fiery trees (designed by the Brooklyn-based artist Ray Smith, they were later auctioned off).
The occasion was the El Museo Gala, which raises funds for the upper Fifth Avenue museum devoted to Latin American art and culture. The guests proved as intriguing as the decor, with women sporting feathers, sequins and in one case, a belly baring bandana top over a floor length turquoise skirt.
Designers like Carlos Campo mixed with South American models and even Miss Universe 2013, Gabriela Isler, who hails from Venezuela, and a panoply of dialects trumped English at most tables.
Gala chair and Cuban-American performer Cucu Diamantes kicked off the speeches, beginning with remarks from El Museo del Barrio’s board of trustees chair Tony Bechara and its recently appointed executive director Jorge Daniel Veneciano. Then Maria Eugenia Maury and Dr. William A. Haseltine were presented with the Joseph A. Unanue trustee leadership award, for their work with AIDS and HIV. Shoe designer Alejandro Inglemo received the artistic achievement award.
Then Diamantes, joined by Yerba Buena, took over the mike, emptying the tables onto the dance floor. Inglemo, however, wasn’t sticking around for too long despite his honor. “I’m going home so I can wake up tomorrow and go to the gym,” he said. “My party days are long over.”