The event: The Art of Elysium’s 8th annual Heaven Gala on Saturday wasn’t an “event,” organization founder Jennifer Howell told Hollywood A-listers, up-and-comers and other VIPs who attended.
“This is an experience,” Howell said, as the group lounged on pairs of beds wearing dappled gray robes supplied by Costume National, while taking in artist Marina Abramovic’s idea of paradise on earth -- a state of consciousness where light and dark meet -- inside Hangar 8 at the Santa Monica Airport.
The experience: Samsung passed out noise-canceling headphones at the entry, so that guests could enjoy a “Silent Party” -- at least for the first half-hour, after which they lapsed into their usual cocktail chatter, despite a few friendly admonishments. (Given the night’s glamour, the celebrated turnout and an unexpected rainstorm conversations proved hard to resist.)
Inside the hangar, guests viewed four installations, starting with a film, as two people sat unmoving at a table, before performing as a couple in love and a couple separating. Next came a 3D art video depicting human evolution and conflict, looking like the apocalypse.
In one of the night’s special highlights, Costume National’s creative director Ennio Capasa presented a fashion show with models parading out in a special sneak preview of the designer’s pre-fall 2015 collection. As if all that wasn’t enough extravagance for one night, Moby provided the musical entertainment.
The tribute: Before festivities ended, Howell honored actress Amber Heard with the “Spirit of Elysium” Award, a trophy so heavy that Howell called upon Heard’s fiancé Johnny Depp to retrieve the commemorative treasure. The award was bestowed upon Heard for her work on behalf of the charity - which brings the arts into the lives of seriously ill children. Heard talked of her joy in “dancing around the hospital, cross-eyed, in clown shoes and bunny ears,” calling her hospital experiences life changing.
“There’s nothing like the impact of watching the difference that we make in the hospital, watching the difference in a kid’s face,” Heard said. “To be able to see what’s really important in life, to be able to have that moment when you free yourself of all that other stuff in our lives and see what really matters… it’s the most important gift that anyone’s ever given to me.”
The crowd: Among others on hand were James Franco, Elijah Wood, Usher, Tobey Maguire, Jena Malone, Joaquin Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Zach Braff, Minnie Driver, James Marsden, Kelly Osbourne, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kit Harington, Amy Smart, Abigail Spencer, Angie Harmon, Camila Alves, Paz Vega, Cara Delevingne, Alicia Witt, Camilla Belle, Dita Von Teese, Shanola Hampton, Mark Mothersbaugh, Ashley Hinshaw, Dawn Olivieri, Rhona Mitra, Jaime King, Ahna O’Reilly and Relativity Media’s chief executive Ryan Kavanaugh.
The numbers: Tickets for the gala, attended by 400 guests, sold for $5,000 each, $7,500 for two or $25,000 for 10. Although final results have yet to be tabulated, organizers estimated proceeds from ticket sales and the night’s additional pledges at well over $1 million.
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