The dinner party began with a lively discussion about war and peace. The focus, however, was on neither the Middle East nor Tolstoy. Guests were simply talking about their masks. "This is an allegory of war," said installation artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz, holding up an elaborate cardboard-and-gold-paint creation in which Mars seemed to be devouring a dove. "I'm an artist. I have to make a political statement." He held up another mask, this one painted sky-blue and studded with ornate gold buttons and the proverbial lion lying down with the lamb. "Who wants to be peace?" he asked.
The occasion was the Mask Gala hosted by F&W Editor in Chief Dana Cowin and Susan Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund, a nonprofit organization in New York City that helps both prominent and emerging artists exhibit their work in public spaces. The group's philosophy is that art shouldn't be confined to museums and galleries—and a mask party, Cowin thought, seemed like a fun way to celebrate the cause.
The tone of the event, from mysterious theme to color scheme, was set by the invitation. F&W's Lauren Fister commissioned fuchsia Thai-silk boxes lined in chocolate-brown silk to hold extraordinary fuchsia-and-orange-glazed white chocolate masks created by chocolate artist Jacques Torres. Attached to the box lid was a paper invitation Fister designed that slipped into a shimmery sleeve with cutouts that resembled the eyes of a mask. The dress code? "Mask chic."