Barrett Art Center works with college interns to further their interests in visual art, education, art history, and archives and preservation. Summer 2019 intern Hailey McLaughlin, Wells College,'23 conducted primary research in the archives and art collection. Starting with one pen and ink drawing from our collection of over 1,000 works on paper by Thomas Weeks Barrett, Jr., she compiled this article.
The Beaux Arts Ball was held annually in New York City to raise money for scholarships for young architects. Usually, the Beaux Arts Ball had a theme pertaining to a specific historical time period. The 1931 Beaux Arts Ball was special because for the first time, the theme was focused on the future. The title of the 1931 Ball was “Fête Moderne- A Fantasie in Flame and Silver.”
Architects showed up dressed as their own building designs and made up the skyline of New York City. Chester Aldrich dressed as the Union Club, William F. Lamb came as the Empire State Building, Leonard Schultze came as a Waldorf-Astoria tower, Ely Jacques Kahn came as the Squibb building, Ralph Walker came as a Wall Street tower, and Joseph Freedlander came as the Museum of the City of New York. Most came with the same generic tunic made to look like windowed skyscrapers with the shape of each building worn as helmets. William Van Alen stole the show dressed as his Chrysler Building. Van Alen actually used elements from his building such as inlays of wood from the building’s elevators.
Tom Barrett entered a contest for the cover design of the 1931 Beaux Arts Ball program. His entry depicts a person dressed as a building with smoking towers in the background. Most of the program is in black and white with a few squares of red. It is mostly made up of straight lines. It is very modern-looking and simplistic compared to the winning program by James E. McDonald. His program showed dancers gathered around a band in the middle of the city.
Hailey McLaughlin, Wells College,'23
For a modern iteration on the trend, check out this Comic Con attendee in costume as the Javits Center, where the event is held, in 2017.