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Art Ball 2023 Was Dallas’ Version of the Met Ball

The Signature Fundraiser for the Dallas Museum of Art Doubles as a High Fashion Showcase

BY // 05.24.23
photography Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA, Jonathan Zizzo

Art Ball, the signature spring fundraiser for the Dallas Museum of Art, is always eagerly anticipated — and afterward, wardrobe choices are dissected for a solid week. Held in April of 2023, this was the 61st incarnation of the event, which requires almost a year of planning. More than 60 personalities have been at the helm, including past chairs Shirley Pollock (1966), Jeanne Marie Clossey (1995), mother-daughter duo Peggy Sewell and Jacquelin Sewell (2008), Jennifer Karol and Catherine Rose (2011), and Brian Bolke (2022). This year’s co-chairs, Leigh Anne Clark and Bela Cooley, raised more than $1 million to further the museum’s commitment to presenting diverse exhibitions, providing innovative and engaging educational and public programs, and caring for the impressive collection of 25,000 objects.

The challenge for the chairs each year is how to leave their imprimatur on the event without changing up the secret sauce that makes the Art Ball such a gold standard and massive money-raiser. Cooley and Clark started with the theme: “We selected ‘Influence,’ as it has the capacity to change ideas, actions, or character,” Clark says. “Influence offers information, knowledge, persuasion, entertainment, interaction, and experience. It can be innovative and empowering. We all have the opportunity to influence. Whether using our fashion or our personal art collections or charitable resources, influence is always in fashion.”

Todd Fiscus of Todd Events created a magical space for the evening. Attendees were met at check-in by dramatic white columns covered in vinyl that simulated paint dripping in shades of plum, gold, black, and taupe — decor spun from the concept of a melting flower. The modern take on a fantastical Old World garden unfolded in a clear tent draped with black velvet and plum carpet. As guests swanned about, they also encountered blooming cherry trees surrounding intimate furniture groupings— perfect for a moment’s respite — with pink peonies atop the glass tables.

Dallas Art Ball 2023 Presented by Neiman Marcus (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)
Art Ball 2023 Presented by Neiman Marcus (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)

I overheard snippets of conversations that ranged from the most glamorous (Nancy Dedman sharing her thoughts on where she might travel to this summer — all extremely chic of course) to the practical (Neiman Marcus’ Mary McGreevy seeking expert wallpaper installers for her new home). And I was pleased to introduce Cornelia Guest to Jacquelin Sewell Atkinson and her artist-husband, William Atkinson, who were contemplating rescuing some animals for their farm. Miss Guest, after all, is the patron saint of all animals in need of forever homes.

Another highlight of the annual event is the selection of coveted items for the silent auction. The seven items this year included once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as visiting Brunello Cucinelli’s headquarters, Solomeo, in Italy; a New York Fashion Week insider package; and a studio tour of one of the most influential artists today, Mickalene Thomas. But perhaps the lot that was getting the most attention was an exquisite bracelet from Sue Gragg Precious Jewels. Gragg’s enormous fan base includes celebrities including Rihanna and Oprah.

And then there was this year’s dinner, created by Cassandra MosesArt 2 Catering, featuring divinely decadent house-made ravioli with ricotta cheese and butter-poached Nova Scotia halibut.

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  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
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  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
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  • Bering's Gift's April 2024

 

Jessica Nowitzki, Bela Cooley, Korey Williams, Dana Arnold dressed to the nines at the Dallas Art Ball 2023. (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)
Jessica Nowitzki, Bela Cooley, Korey Williams, Dana Arnold (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)

Fashion at Art Ball 2023

Of course, my absolute favorite part of the Art Ball each year is checking out the fashion (I consider it my Met Gala), and the 2023 incarnation did not disappoint. For the past few years, more and more members of the fashion world have been in attendance. At my table were representatives from Dior (Anne Cao), Gucci (Jamie Christensen and Rebecca Lyne), Valentino (Tyler Catlett and Michael Walker), and Brunello Cucinelli (Ramiro Garcia and Kelli Luevano). I heard that Chanel and Van Cleef had each purchased an entire table for their most valued clients. My dear friend Ann Hobson was seated at the latter, adorned in some of her favorite baubles from the iconic jewelry house. And quite a few designers flew in just for the occasion, including Christian Siriano, Naeem Khan, American footwear designer and CFDA member Paul Andrew, Bach Mai, and Prabal Gurung. Siriano had quite the client list that night, with Moll Anderson, Kelly Cheeseman, and Suzanne Droese wearing his creations.

Leigh Anne Clark in a black designer gown at the Dallas Art Ball 2023. ( (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)
Leigh Anne Clark (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)[

An equal number of girls also decided to pay homage to Gurung. Tina Craig,  who was on his arm for most of the night, wore a bubbly off-shoulder short bubble frock with a wild print in pinks and red, while Rochelle Gores rocked a sexy, curve-hugging blue dress. Other standout fashionistas included Kira Nasrat in Ralph Lauren, Kasey Lemkin in Carolina Herrera, Neiman Marcus president Ryan Ross in an Alexander McQueen rhinestone harness jacket, and finally Jennifer Eagle and Jacquelin Sewell Atkinson, both in Brandon Maxwell. And let’s not forget the co-chairs. Leigh Anne Clark did two outfit changes, starting with a black Carolina Herrera gathered strapless silk-chiffon drop-waist gown with diaphanous silk chiffon and embroidered tulle overskirt, then changing into a Valentino Couture crepe sleeveless mini dress with kaleidoscopic floral embroideries. Bela Cooley donned a dreamy spearmint-colored Monique Lhuillier dress with a removable train (for post-dinner dancing).

Ashley Longshore at the Dallas Art Ball 2023. ( (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)
Ashley Longshore (Photo by Bruno Snap The Picture, Kaitlin Saragusa, BFA)

The Seen at Art Ball 2023

But it wasn’t all just fashion celebrity sightings that night. A girl who always makes my best-dressed list, Jessica Nowitzki, had her NBA Hall of Famer husband, Dirk Nowitzki, in tow. (I like to think of him as Jessica’s husband first and sports star second.) In from New Orleans was the always over-the-top pop artist Ashley Longshore. Finally, my favorite witch, Corbin Chamberlin, was in attendance. The Sage & Salt founder has a cult-like following here in Dallas and frequently has pop-ups at The Conservatory. Speaking of that apothecary and fashion mecca, The Conservatory’s founder, Brian Bolke, was spotted working the room in a beyond-cool pink Moschino suit.

Others spotted that gorgeous evening were Agustín Arteaga, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art; Gowri Sharma, DMA president of the board of trustees; Jeff Ellerman, chairman of the DMA Board, with his wife Pam; Geoffroy van Raemdonck, Neiman Marcus CEO; Cindy and Howard Rachofsky; Lisa and Clay Cooley; Kelli and Gerald Ford; Deedie Rose; Catherine and Will Rose; Mark Moussa; Katherine and Eric Reeves; Emberli and David Pridham; and Georgina Hartland-Mackie.

How did the evening end? We danced until the clock was about to chime midnight. Then a select few of us — shall we say, the more well-known of the fashionable clique (primarily boys, except for the daring Missy Peck and Kelly Cheeseman) ended up at a dive bar on the wrong side of the tracks. In fact, well beyond said tracks. It was all quite mischievous, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

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