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Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck.
Photo: Lanna Apisukh

Bronson van Wyck Conjures an Undersea Wonderland for the Save Venice Ball

The party planner extraordinaire details the remarkable installations, tablescapes, and decor he created for the 50th anniversary event

The annual Save Venice Ball is always a highlight of the New York spring social season, as well-to-do from around the globe gather at Cipriani South Street in Lower Manhattan in an effort preserve the Floating City’s artistic heritage. This year was especially poignant as the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the night raised $2.1 million for the cause, which has funded the conservation of approximately 1,700 works of art and architecture since 1971.

Such a monumental occasion deserves an equally over-the-top fête, and party planner extraordinaire Bronson van Wyck did not disappoint, crafting an oceanic wonderland to complement the event’s theme, “Incantesimo al Mare” (Enchantment by the Sea).

Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

“Venice is a city of the water; it’s surrounded by it. Its history, culture, and importance comes from the sea. It was the greatest maritime power in the Mediterranean, and its ships brought the treasures of the East to Europe for centuries,” says van Wyck. “Save Venice was founded 50 years ago in response to the massive flooding that nearly destroyed the city. Now, the sea is still Venice’s lifeblood, but it’s also its greatest threat. I wanted to celebrate that connection to the sea, but that connection nevertheless contains a warning as well: we all have to work together to protect Venice.”

Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

To bring Venice to life, van Wyck installed a series of towering striped mooring poles throughout the ballroom, and draped the space with Venetian flags, hand-painted fabrics, and jewel-colored details. “The banners featured the crest of the founding families of Venice,” he says. “Since it’s the beginning of spring, we purposely didn’t plan the flowers in advance—we chose them the morning of the party, purely based on what was freshest and most vibrant in the flower market. We went bright with the colors, because we wanted the flowers to evoke a beautiful coral garden beneath the sea. We used the colors of Ukraine throughout because we wanted to celebrate the bravery of the heroic people there. Flickering projections of a watery surface above covered the ceiling: we literally felt like we were looking up from the bottom of a lagoon (until the dancing started at least!).”

Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

However, the space’s show-stopping installation was a massive selfie station in the shape of an oyster shell. “The giant oyster shell was of course a nod to Botticelli’s painting of the birth of Venus, the namesake of Venice,” van Wyck tells Galerie. “We carved it, and then had to paint it to get the right feeling of the inside of a shell.  It took layers and layers of blue, gray, brown, and pink paint to get the right patina.”

Performers at this year's Save Venice Ball. Photo: Lanna Apisukh

Hosted by event Chair and Board Vice President Lauren Santo Domingo, the night welcomed 500 guests, including Tschabalala Self, Laila Gohar, Gucci Westman, Princess Marie-Olympia of Greece, Anna Baryshnikov, and Alex Rodriguez, among others. And while there for a very important cause, each also enjoyed a night of fun. “Back to the Future was always on my mind,” says van Wyck of the classic film that featured an Enchantment Under the Sea prom. “But that’s one of the funnest parts of design: referencing something comfortable and familiar but then expressing it with sophistication, whimsy, and irony.”

Cover: Inside the Save Venice Ball, designed by Bronson van Wyck.
Photo: Lanna Apisukh

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