The museum benefit: Excerpt from Art women: A field guide (2009)

After years of sociological research, our correspondent from Artforum’s New York City has put together a little guide to train aspiring women to make the most out of today’s art world. The following is an excerpt from her forthcoming book.

The highlight of the season for the Art Woman isn’t the Renoir show, it’s the benefit gala. Do these chic shebangs actually bring in money for the museum? Who cares as long as you get to wear a brand-new dress?

Here’s how to get the most out of your evening:

WHAT YOUR DONATION WILL GET YOU

  • USD$25,000 or more. Your name is listed on the “Honored Donors” wall panel
  • $5000. You’ll be taken on a VIP tour of the exhibit by the Museum Director
  • $1000. You’ll receive an exhibition catalogue and a second helping of chocolate strawberries
  • $500. Why are you being such a cheapskate? Don’t you care about art?
  • Comp’d. You’re 1) so gorgeous the organizers are using you as party decor, or 2) friendly with a staffer who has a key to the Service Entrance

CROWD-SUSSING

Advice to the beginning Art Woman: Know what kind of party to anticipate. An austere Donald Judd retrospective will attract one kind of crowd. Quite another will turn up for "The Art of Dog Portraiture".

THOSE GALA THEMES: WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

In a word: The Event Planner. Best friends with a well-established Art Woman on the museum board, the Event Planner wields a stuffed-to-the-gills Blackberry, commands a staff of much-abused interns, and resents her husband, who has been lazing around the apartment since his brokerage firm collapsed. Table-scaping and bargain-driving are second nature to her.

BIG CITY BENEFIT VS. SMALL CITY BENEFIT

Polly Frost Art women Museum benefit

YOUR CLOTHES

Rule of thumb: your attire should cost no less than triple the amount you donated to the benefit. What, you say you can’t afford that? Don’t you know the true Art Woman should be close enough to a famous designer to get the loan of a gown? And be able to borrow a sapphire necklace from the local jewelry store? Remember: your biggest contribution to the evening is your entrance!

WHERE ARE THE MEN?

Board Members’ Husbands.....Huddled in a corner telling golf jokes
Local Artists.................................Zeroing in on the party’s prettiest women
City’s Gay Boys...........................Dressed beautifully, gossiping, and talking knowledgeably about art

YOUR NIGHT: A TIME-MOTION BREAKDOWN

Art women museum benefit Polly Frost

Polly Frost is an author, journalist and playwright. Her humor has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Scene4.

Read more: Polly Frost