IT'S A LONG way from Paris, France, to Portland, Ore., but on Feb. 1., Bruce Goldberg & Co. bridged that span with savoir-faire. For the opening of the “Stuff of Dreams” exhibit, on loan from the Musee des Arts Decoratifs to the Portland Art Museum, the Portland-based company created a surreal scene to delight the senses of 450 VIP guests.
Company president Bruce Goldberg says he found inspiration for the event, titled “Le Ball Masque,” in the Stuff of Dreams exhibit catalog. Not wanting simply to mimic the collection of decorative ceramics, glass and furniture dating from the Middle Ages to the present, he blended iconic French elements into the design scheme.
In an upper level event space with a scale Goldberg describes as “daunting,” his company installed 25-foot-tall Palladian-style French doors. “They were the meat and potatoes of the room in terms of filling space,” he says. Other whimsical elements that added to the room's dreamscape look included a massive chandelier draped with 4-foot-tall forks and 2-foot-wide pearlescent balls, a stage-mounted spiral staircase leading to nowhere and playfully wigged “Marie Antoinette” mannequins perched on oversize prop cake slices.
With everything in shades of white, the decor was “a beautiful backdrop that could be whatever we wanted,” Goldberg says. Portland-based Hollywood Lights provided washes of solid color reminiscent of the “monochromatic palette” of dreams, he adds.
The result was “beyond whimsical,” says Portland Art Museum director of special events Jeri Hamilton. “It was magical.”
The event may have had a dreamy feel, but the 65-member production and catering staff Goldberg provided had to be awake, alert and ready for action.
In the kitchen, the event planner says, tensions ran high when dinner was delayed by 45 minutes. “Guests who were having hors d'oeuvre were having a wonderful time,” he explains. “From a catering standpoint, that can be sort of a nightmare. We couldn't get them upstairs!” Ultimately, Goldberg's reception staff, with help from museum director of development Lucy Buchanan, convinced guests to ascend to the second level, where they were treated to a meal fit for a roi: molded chiffonade salad with Pernod-spiked horseradish dressing, roasted Chilean sea bass and herb-potato galette.
Meanwhile, back downstairs, there was no rest for the reception staff. While major museum donors feasted in Goldberg's decorative-arts dream world, the serving crew had to replenish hors d'oeuvre buffets and bars for a second shift of revelers — participants in the museum's hip, professional Young at Art membership group, who had been invited for a celebration of their own.
According to Goldberg, one way to get more out of prop-heavy events like the $175,000 Le Ball Masque is to fabricate or purchase items that lend themselves to reuse.
“I think the mistake people make is buying a piece that's so specific to a particular decor style or era, it doesn't afford them the ability to remake it in different ways,” he says. Instead, he suggests, event professionals should use imagination to revamp staple pieces. He recommends elements such as “a classically shaped fiberglass urn that doesn't go too much in one direction.” Using different paint techniques, the urn “can go from contemporary in white lacquer to something that looks Etruscan by using a special finish.”
Goldberg, who worked in Los Angles for 16 years before heading to Oregon, admits that this approach is tougher in a smaller city where “my Rolodex is the guest list at many events.” While he says he inventories “decorative items that can get a new life by applying paint, fabric, etc.,” he confesses, “I often go out of my way to bury items from one event to the next because I don't want the temptation to use them again.”
On the upside of working in a smaller event network, Goldberg says he doesn't have to worry constantly about one-upping other event companies. “Here you're really competing with yourself,” he explains. “It's really your clients that you're out to do something new for.”
Bruce Goldberg & Co. 8620 N. Lombard, Portland, OR 97203; 503/240-7178; www.bgcevents.com
See page 61 for a list of event resources. See this story on the Web at www.specialevents.com.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Molded Chiffonade Salad with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Pernod-Horseradish Dressing
Roasted Chilean Sea Bass Provençal Style
Herb-Potato Galette with Saffron Cream
Bittersweet Chocolate Genoise with Candied Orange Ganache and Seasonal Fruits