The Perfect Hang: 5 Art-World Superstars on How to Throw a Holiday Party for the Ages

Planning a holiday shindig? Here are some tips to get you started.

We're here to help you put together an epic holiday party. Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images.
We're here to help you put together an epic holiday party. Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images.

The holidays are fast approaching, and if you’re anything like us, you’re looking forward to throwing an excellent party. But with so many things to consider, where does one begin?

We spoke to five of our favorite curators, dealers, movers, and shakers to get their tips on how to conjure fun, wow your guests, and put on a soirée to remember.

 

Sarah Hoover
Sales director and artist liaison, Gagosian

Sarah Hoover. Courtesy BFA.

Sarah Hoover. Courtesy BFA.

Sarah’s Tip: Invite interesting people.

“No one moved to rat-infested New York City to hang out with boring people. Invite all the weirdest people you know, and use the party as an excuse to indulge in all the things you love most—people, food, and drinks included. For example, I love cake, so this year for my birthday, I had seven cakes. Live it up or don’t do it at all!

If you’re worried about a dull party, hand everyone a card with two questions or statements on it, and insist they find a stranger to discuss. ‘Describe your perfect meal, and who you’re eating it with.’ Or, ‘What’s the best piece of art you’ve ever seen, and why?’ Even your conversationally challenged friends will be chatty for a few minutes.

A mix of high and low is also essential. To me, that means tons of high-end alcohol paired with jello shots, and caviar with potato chips. Unless cooking brings you serious joy, order everything in. Think of all the restaurants and dishes that make you happiest, call the Monday before your party, and order enough for your guests. Pick it up in sweatpants, and serve it with pretty napkins. You can order them monogrammed on Etsy.

When it comes to the playlist, just go with a best-of-Beyonce mix on Spotify—you have to have background music. Make sure you have mistletoe somewhere in case people are looking for an excuse—and most essentially—start drinking before your guests arrive. You’ll care less and have more fun. A relaxed, happy host is the best host.”

 

Kenny Schachter
Founder and curator, Rove Projects

Kenny Schachter. Photo © Leon Chew.

Kenny Schachter. Photo © Leon Chew.

Kenny’s Tip: Designer-focused seating will make guests uncomfortable enough to ensure they won’t overstay their welcome.

“I have a great new dining room set in my New York apartment that Martino Gamper designed for me, but it looks best vacant so that I can fully absorb and appreciate the objects. Kind of like my classic car, which I housed in my former London office rather than on the road. My ideal holiday party is one in which no one shows up… except for my kids. I’ve held parties for the likes of Zaha Hadid and Vito Acconci after exhibitions I curated, and I recently held a dinner for 100 guests for Pace Gallery as a favor to artist Keith Coventry. I actually spent [the whole time] hiding in my bedroom.”

 

Cybele Maylone
Executive director, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Cybele Maylone. Photo: Georgia Nerheim.

Cybele Maylone. Photo: Georgia Nerheim.

Cybele’s Tip: Plan a holiday party around a festive drink that can be made in advance.

“Something seasonal like mulled wine or a cocktail with bourbon is always great. Holiday parties in my childhood were a little bit fancy, so I break out all of the beautiful handmade cocktail glasses I have from my time working at UrbanGlass, along with the glasses that artists Jessica Stockholder and Roy McMakin made for the Aldrich, which we sell in our store. The record Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald was also popular in my household and remains a favorite. Then it’s just about having an interesting group of people and making sure they mix and mingle!”

 

Dragos Olea
Curator, Apparatus 22 and Kilomase Bucharest

Dragos Olea. Courtesy of Dragos Olea.

Dragos Olea. Courtesy of Dragos Olea.

Dragos’s Tip: At-home holiday fetes call for unexpected party tricks.

“It’s always great to see friends and try out new recipes for them. I’m more of an assistant to my sister Erika when it comes to cooking, but my current obsession is with aspic [a savory jelly]. I’ve been learning some new tricks from Japanese chefs and researching images from the 1970s and ‘80s, when it was the pinnacle of creativity for this niche ingredient.

I also enjoy making funny paper-bag masks for my guests (thank you, Saul Steinberg). Lately, I’ve been inspired by an artist friend, Irina Bujor, and her exploration of laughter. Sometimes I’ll ask my guests to prepare jokes and anecdotes for a ‘laughter session.’ Working can be so stressful, so laughing is the perfect way to lift the mood of the party.

I’m inspired by the ‘Positive Tension’ party that I’ve been hosting for the last few years with Apparatus 22. Students, curators, artists, and art historians gather to listen to music, eat and drink, and the parties can last up to nine hours. It’s a celebration of irreverence, analysis, ethics, and more, and it turns the exchange of some 130 questions about working in the arts into a marathon of critical thinking.”

 

Lisa Le Feuvre
Executive director, Holt–Smithson Foundation

Lisa Le Feuvre. Photo: Clayton Porter.

Lisa Le Feuvre. Photo: Clayton Porter.

Lisa’s Tip: Throw as many parties as possible.

“You can never have too many parties. They are the perfect cure for any ill. Always set a place for unexpected guests. Encourage dancing. Make sure your doorbell works. Remember, the awkward first half-hour goes by quickly. Make enough food so even the greediest guest does not go hungry, and make sure thirsty guests are satiated. Invite people you want to spend time with. And squeeze in a disco nap the afternoon before so you can outlast the guests who linger.”


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