The Brooklyn Museum’s Artist’s Ball Will Invoke Cockaigne, a Gluttonous Romp


It’s hard to pin down just one theme for the fifth annual Artist’s Ball, the sold out event hosted by the Brooklyn Museum happening tomorrow evening, a sparkly fundraising gala and fantastical immersive experience. This year, the ball coincides with the retirement of Arnold Lehman, who’s served as director of the museum for nearly two decades.

The Brooklyn Eagle got the inside scoop on preparations by participating artists; props include yarn-bombed chandeliers, giant papier-mâché delectables, and fantastically large yarn and papier-mâché animals. The ball will also celebrate the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat (the museum is currently exhibiting the late artist’s Unknown Notebooks), Kiki Smith (a German-American artist who the museum honored with the Women in the Arts Award in 2009), and contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Entertainment for guests includes cocktails, dinner, and a dance party, as well as performances by crochet-costumed dancers.

The museum has brought in several artists, collaborators, and institutions about town including FAILE, Swoon, and Pioneer Works, to help create immersive installations for ball guests to enjoy.

Judging by the decorative inspiration for the event–”Cockaigne,” or a medieval land of milk and honey and sexual liberation (cover your ears kids, but ye old depictions of Cockaigne include nuns keen on revealing their bottoms)–this ball could get nasty. In 1790, poet George Ellis transcribed a 13th century poem titled “The Land of Cockaigne,” describes a blissful state that makes Paradise—a place without booze and lewdness and one reserved for the few—look pretty damned lame. And unlike Paradise, Cockaigne offers bliss for all:

Though paradisal joys are sweet,
There’s nothing there but fruit to eat;
No bench, no chamber, and no hall,
No alcoholic drink at all.
Its inhabitants are few,
Elijah, Enoch—just the two;
They must find it boring there
Without more company to share.
But Cockaygne offers better fare,
And without worry, work, or care;
The food is good, the drink flows free
At lunchtime, suppertime, and tea.

If you ask us, the theme is definitely a playful jab at the New New York—even though in reality Cockaigne galas aren’t open to every peasant (or, no, wait—person) in Brooklyn. Tickets for the dinner are sold out, but if you wanna rub shoulders and could care less about dinner (open bar people, come on!), you can shell out $100 for the dance party (music brought to you by Williamsburg record store Fool’s Gold), which is actually kind of worth it depending on how much booze you’re capable of swilling.


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