Gala: Beaux Arts Ball



The inaugural Beaux Arts Ball will take place February 2, 2019, at the Cabildo, a New Orleans landmark site. The Beaux Arts Ball will serve as the Gala opening of the futureNOLA Exhibition.

The gala, coinciding with the opening of the futureNOLA exhibit, will be an unique and unrivaled evening within our creative, diverse and multi-disciplinary community. Rooted in ephemeral mysticism and embracing the arts, architecture, and culture of our beloved city, the Beaux Arts Ball will feature a myriad of site specific installations, entertainers, and avant-garde elaborate costumes amongst the anticipated 400–600 attendees. In addition to the spectacles at the Louisiana Landmark location, the New Orleans Architecture Foundation’s Partner in Excellence award, exhibit recognitions, and Beaux Arts Medals will also be awarded.


The first Ball des Quat’Z’Arts (or Four Arts Ball in French) was organized in 1892 by a group of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Artists of nearby Montmarte and Montparnasse. At a time when the country was shaken by the recent attacks of the Third Republic, the Beaux Arts Ball served as a stark contrast. It was a celebration of life, the arts, architecture, music, creativity, and humanity.

The ball was an outstanding success and soon became a studied and notorious event in all its artistic sense. Months were spent at the hands of clever organizers in the creation of spectacles, elaborate costuming, and allegorical floats for the praised annual ball embarking upon ‘imagination beyond the scope of tamed human minds.’

The second ball held at the Moulin Rouge in February of 1893 was an exploration of high style in all forms, an elaborate ‘fairy-land’ filled with artistic spectacles and creative workmanship of all varieties of the arts.

“...Inside the vestibule of the Moulin was erected a tribune (a long bar), behind which sat the massiers of the different studios of Paris, all in striking costumes. It was their task not only to identify the holders of tickets, but also to pass on the suitability of the costumes (for) admittance. The costumes must all have conspicuous merit and be thoroughly artistic. Nothing black, no dominoes, none in civilian dress, may pass. Many and loud were the protestations that rang through the vestibule as one after another was turned back and firmly conducted to the door!

Once past the implacable tribunes, we entered a dazzling fairy-land, a dream of rich color and reckless abandon. From gorgeous kings and queens to wild savages, all were there; courtiers in silk, gladiators and nymphs, all were there; and the air was heavy with the perfume of roses. Shouts, laughter, the silvery clinking of glasses, a whirling mass of life and color, a bewildering kaleidoscope, a maze of tangled visions in the soft yellow haze that filled the vast hall. There was no thought of the hardness and sordidness of life, no dream of the morrow. It was a wonderful witchery that sat upon every soul there.”
(“Bohemian Paris of To-Day”, 1899, by W. C. Morrow)

As more young Americans went to study abroad due to the lack of formal educational facilities for the arts & architecture at the tail of the 19th century, a number of alumni from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris (led by Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to be trained at the school in Paris and founder of the AIA in 1857) formed the Beaux Arts Society in America to perpetuate the principles from their training overseas. The group began to hold informal training classes at the old Lafayette Hotel in New York City and soon came to award Beaux-Arts Medals ... to emerging architects and designers who achieved excellence in the arts and competitions.

In 1907, the group held its first Beaux Arts Ball to raise funds for the Society of Beaux Arts, and soon the annual ball became the most important social event in New York society.

At the Beaux Arts Ball of January 1931, crowds marveled as a number of architects, including William Van Alen, the architect of the Chrysler building, came costumed as their famously designed projects. Held in the main ballroom of the Hotel Astor, the New York Times covered the event as something “modernistic, futuristic, cubistic, altruistic, mystic, architistic and feministic” and whose purpose was to “recognize the dawning of a new age of architecture and the arts.”


Musician Playing during Nighttime Carnival Parade. St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, 2013. Photograph by Scott Heath. Used with permission.