How to Throw a Party Like a Famous Artist


With New Year’s Eve festivities approaching, you might be wanting to go a little farther than noise makers and confetti. In that case, we’ve got some arty party ideas. Don’t panic! Whether it’s a little get together at your place or something fancy somewhere huge, you can always just shamelessly replicate one of Dalí’s storied shin-dings or take creative influence from a particularly jubilant Aubrey Beardsley rendering. Here’s a little brainstorm of famous artist parties to get you started.

Salvador Dalí’s Surrealist Soiree

Salvador Dalí threw this Night in a Surrealist Forest party at the Bali Room of the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, California as a fundraiser for European artists displaced by the war. There he is, flanked by giant “flaps” in the image of his face, serving Mrs. Dalí who is wearing a unicorn’s head and feeding a baby lion with a bottle, while Bob Hope is perplexed because something odd is happening with a woman’s shoe. OK. Deep breaths… Load up on papier-mâché for props, hold the live animals and just go crazy!

Difficulty: 4 to 10, depending on the complexity of said props.

You, the Andy Warhol Superstar: Ornate Version

Just copying a Factory party wouldn’t be enough, so we’re offering two suggestions for your New Year’s Eve theme. Observe this “psychedelic party scene” from 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, a dramatized, fictionalized spin on Andy Warhol’s festive fetes, complete with real superstar cameos, intricate sets with nooks for sloppy hook ups, experimental projections, and all kinds of stylized, blasting stimuli.

Difficulty: 9, 8 or didn’t you see where it says “ornate”? Well, you could always just say, eh, whatever, throw some foil up on your walls, brush up that Velvet Underground playlist and voila — Difficulty: 2.

You, the Andy Warhol Superstar: Minimal Version

Just the superstars, minus the lights, props, films, and any semblance of sobriety or coherence. That Penny Arcade gal, vamping it up in the beginning of this random 1970 SoHo party clip? She’s still around. Hint hint.

Difficulty: Well, that really depends on what your regular access to lots and lots and lots of drugs would be, but other than that, 1… unless someone passes out too hard.

Marina Abramović’s Cannibalistic Gala

Grandmama of performance art Marina Abramović’s grand MoCA Gala didn’t go over well with some people — she landed on our Naughty List for charging up to $10,000 a head so celebrities could dine while an underpaid performer’s head stuck out stoically though a hole in the table. Yet, if you have the means to have topless male models carry in a marzipan cake in the image of your own naked body so you can dramatically cut it with a chainsaw while Debbie Harry serenades your guests… well… what the hell, right?

Difficulty: 10. Even if you can charge hefty admission: 10. We’re guessing about 1% of you could pull it off without feeling awkward about it.

Picasso’s Fun Banquet for Jerks

In 1908, a young Pablo Picasso saw a painting by the aging Henri Rousseau being sold for a few francs on the street. He rescued the painting and threw a sort of serious, but possibly mocking party for it in his studio in Le Bateau-Lavoir. The “Rousseau Banquet” was complete with burlesque, buffoonery, poets brawling, a flatulent local celebrity donkey, jubilant nonsense of all sorts, an emergency rice meal cooked by Picasso’s roommate because Picasso screwed up the catering, and a warm, mysterious orange glow of Chinese lanterns that dripped wax on several of the guests.

Difficulty: 6. It sounds like it was a lot more festive than this John Bensted painting and you might have trouble procuring a donkey. Also, you have to talk about Cubism a lot.

Obscure Jean Cocteau Party

French artist, filmmaker, novelist, dramatist and playwright Jean Cocteau had a thing for mirrors. They’re in his films. They were at his parties. Got Factory fatigue? Let’s do it up, obscurely! There’s one get together at Cocteau’s studio where painter Pablo Picasso (of course) and other storied guests were painting on sheets of glass as Cocteau filmed it from the other side. Here’s some thematic inspiration.

Difficulty: 3 or 8, depending how likely your guests are to get bored of making art.

Art Nouveau Extravaganza

This really depends on how far you want to run with this Art Nouveau theme. You don’t necessarily have to go big and deck it out like an Aubrey Beardsley-stylized turn of the century soiree or attempt to encompass an entire international art movement, but… you could make some really nice invite cards and saucy costumes.

Difficulty: 5, or more, or less, depending on the amount of toplessness and lace.

An Otto Dix Shindig

The best part about throwing an Otto Dix party is that it could easily be combined with a Cabaret-themed party or, if you want to please your film nerd friends, a Rainer Werner Fassbinder party since aesthetic comparisons are often drawn. And how great do those sassy period costumes look IRL? Huh? Huh?

Difficulty: 8, but it might just be worth it. Costumes vintage lingerie, beads, feathers, tubs of blue eyeshadow, and tuxes need to be procured by your guests. You also need a very specific playlist and no, you can’t use the Cabaret soundtrack, that’s cheating.

A Manet Picnic, Remixed

If you’ve noticed that a lot of women partying it up in these famous works of art are scantily clad, we know. That’s kind of a sexist art trend. It’s not really our fault. So, since we’re accidentally found ourselves suggesting so many “naughty” costumes and the production value of these things has gotten way out of hand, here’s something minimalist: A nude picnic in the style of Édouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe — mix, match and reverse gender in various degree of nudity as you like and… just call it an Édouard Manet party. Who’s going to argue?

Difficulty: 1. Cold winter state residents, stop moaning. Obviously, finding a warm enough, secluded enough park/forest/outdoorsy location would be difficult, so just do it in your living room.