We were, perhaps, a little naive, held out hopes a little too high. But can you blame us? We were promised a glittering, highlight-of-the-year fête, whimsically conceived and executed with flair.
What we got instead felt, more or less, like the Guvernment, only twenty years older and several tax brackets richer.
Welcome to Massive Party, the AGO’s major annual fundraiser. Held this past Thursday, Massive Party lived up to its name, construed literally: it spread across three levels of the gallery, and according to AGO estimates the crowd neared 1,800. Sadly, that was about the only sense in which the moniker fit.
Each year’s party has a theme; this year’s was “Speakeasy.” Because it is the AGO’s biggest bash, they put a good bit of energy into planning (and hyping) the party. And because it is the AGO, we were expecting that they’d pull it off. After all, if anyone has the resources, creativity, and venue to throw a truly impressive shindig, it should be them. But instead we got the thinnest of veneers—a silent-film-style projection here, a moonshine reference there—over what was essentially an amped-up club night.
The party was sponsored by Smirnoff, which meant no period cocktails (those would have required gin, whiskey, or rum). Fine. We recognize that sponsorship is essential to such endeavours. But did they really need to serve us something called an antifreeze, which looked like mouthwash and reminded us of that punch we used to make in high school (one inch from every bottle)? And while we love us some MJ, “Billie Jean” doesn’t really have that covert, den-of-iniquity air about it. (We’re told that the hors d’oeuvres were virtually the same as last year’s, too, which didn’t surprise us in the slightest, since springrolls weren’t featured prominently on the menus of Prohibition-era restaurants.)
We’re not advocating some kind of strict, boring literalism—themes should inspire, not dictate. But this speakeasy felt like an afterthought, a finishing swipe of lipstick rather than a source of inspiration, and party-goers seemed more attached to the idea than did the hosts.
Then again, maybe we’re being too picky. Gatsby wasn’t satisfied by his parties, either.
Photos by Nancy Paiva/Torontoist.