A sold out affair, 1,600 guests took over three floors of the Gehry-designed gallery for this year’s AGO Massive Party, the gallery’s annual fundraising event. It’s always tough to compete with past themes, so this year the AGO Massive committee had a piece of art host the gala. The AGO’s prized portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati, by Augustus John, was the woman of the hour. So, if you enjoyed the party, you ought to wink at her.  

In her lifetime, Marchesa was known for her lavish eccentricities: collecting exotic animals from across the world, painting her servants gold, and taking midnight strolls in the buff with only her furs and her necklaces of live snakes to keep her company. This old fashioned opulence was front-and-centre at the gala, with swanky music and decadent décor.

Upon arrival, we were greeted in classic gala style by a red carpet, fancy cocktails, and enough tasty hors d’oeuvres to make me forget that I’d had a Cup-a-Soup for dinner. DJs got the party started while tony guests trickled in. The artistic director for the night was none other than Bruno Billio, notorious book stacker and artist-in-residence at the Gladstone Hotel, who was looking more dapper than usual with his shiny walking stick. Photographer George Whiteside chatted with the Drake’s Jeff Stober, while Gillian Tweedie, wearing a special piece from Pink Cobra’s hot-off-the-press Fall 2011 collection, gave directions to her clandestine watering hole Goodnight.

Mid-way through the evening, my own personal artist/date Derek Mainella was asked by a woman, sporting a teddy bear boa constrictor, if he was dressed as an artist. “I am an artist…in real life.” Apparently, the non-artists got the theme and the artists didn’t really know how to dress like artists. WEAR A TEDDY BEAR SNAKE, okay?

But no matter how much fun revelers had escaping into the excitement, there was no doubt that the night belonged to a Miss:Tara Aghdashloo. Cast to star as the Marchesa, Aghdashloo’s likeness was projected in slideshows throughout the gallery like a gorgeous beacon. She later caused quite the stir when she made an appearance at the party surrounded by her powdered-wigged entourage.

In the words of the original Marchesa, “I want to be a living work of art.” The AGO’s Massive Party was a night when we all got to try it on for size.