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2009 June 26

Is the Met Ball Deflating?

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(NEW YORK) With the recent news of downsizing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art--169 employees, constituting 14 percent of the total staff, left the museum in a mixture of layoffs and voluntary retirement--the buzz about the fate of the Vogue-sponsored Costume Institute Gala continues to circulate. As previously reported, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who organized the affair during its growth period from mere charity gala to the unofficial "East Coast Oscars," left her post of special events director at Vogue last week. In her 11-year tenure at the magazine, much of which was spent working on this particular event, Wolkoff masterminded the tremendously strategic negotiations to secure the purchase of tables and tickets from the world's top fashion brands. Her replacement, Sylvana Soto-Ward, comes from the magazine's accessories department.

Like all glossy titles, Vogue has experienced an exceptionally difficult year. On Wednesday, the magazine announced that it has sold 956 pages so far in 2009, down 32% in year-to-year sales. Elle, the title's most robust competitor, banked 970 pages--a 22% decline, but the first time the magazine has outsold Vogue in advertising pages. (According to Forbes, the entire category is down 25%.) Still, said a spokesperson for the museum of the rumors about the gala, "This is completely untrue, and Vogue's role is unchanged."

According to two well-placed insiders, one very closely involved with the Museum, the 2010 Costume Institute Gala will be a much less splashy affair--a move the museum is said to welcome. The guest list will consist mosly of trustees and benefactors who purchase full-priced tickets instead of the designers, models and Hollywood types who once sat at their comped tables.

In fact, the Guggenheim has done something similar. Its Young Collectors Council's Artist's Ball, once an elaborate, celebrity-studded gala sponsored by the likes of YSL, Armani and Chloe, was retired in favor of a small, press-free cocktail event strictly for YCC members and friends.
ASHLEY BAKER




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