Heaven was a place on earth at The Art of Elysium’s 8th Annual Heaven Gala in Santa Monica on Saturday night—or at least it was through the eyes of Marina Abramovic. The Serbian artist was honored with the 2015 Visionary award by the non-profit art organization and therefore helped conceive every element of the party (which was more like an experience that straight-forward event). Dozens of Hollywood’s hottest came out to support the cause and see Abramovic's work—in the pouring rain, mind you—including Kit Harrington, Joaquin Phoenix, Zach Braff, Usher, James Franco, Cara Delevigne, and more. Below is a recap of the events that occurred when Fashion News Director Eric Wilson and I went to check it out.
6:56 p.m. – It’s pouring rain in Los Angeles, and team InStyle pulls up to Hangar 8 in Santa Monica. We wait to go in right behind Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Elijah Wood, and Jena Malone. The red carpet is super soaked (check out Eric Wilson’s Instagram shot here), so the stars try to avoid puddles on their way inside. Remarkably, I spot zero wet gowns.
7:12 p.m. – The experience begins! You can’t enter cocktail hour without wearing a pair of Samsung headphones, so we each grab a pair and go inside. The headphones are supposed to represent a “show of silence,” the people handing them out tell us. In true groupthink-style, most attendees (like Amy Smart and Jena Malone, pictured below) put them on. Cocktail hour is surprisingly quiet. No need for awkward small talk!
7:23 p.m. – We go to get drinks but can’t order. Instead, we must point to the drinks and a menu of Grey Goose cocktails the bartender holds up. I get a fizzy concoction, but trade it in for a flute of Perrier-Jouet champagne.
7:41 p.m. – Silent cocktail hour only lasts for about 41 minutes as people begin to break the silence. “I realize it’s really hard for me to not talk,” Gillian Jacobs tells us. “I failed. I lasted about 15 minutes.”
7:59 p.m. – Marina Abramovic emerges on a small stage and addresses the crowd. “You broke the silence before I told you to,” she jokingly reprimands (pictured with Usher below).
8:03 p.m. – The party is divided into two groups, "light" and "dark," so if you got a white ticket, you went first. Black tickets had to wait for an hour to go in. “For me, heaven is a mix of light and darkness,” Abramovic explains of her inspiration. Our tickets say we’re in the first group. We do not want to break her rules again, so we rush inside.
8:10 p.m. – There are no seats, only beds! Each guest is assigned one, and we’re later told it’s because Abramovic thinks heaven is "being in bed." Costume National, one of the sponsors of the event, created a zip-up white and gray robe for each guest to wear so it turns into an all-out matching pajama party. “The dress robe unifies everybody in a kind of spirituality,” designer Ennio Capasa tells us. “It will sparkle under the light.” We're intrigued.
8:31 p.m. – After performances in film and art, Johnny Depp helps fiancée Amber Heard to the stage so she can accept her 2015 Spirit of Elysium Award, the highest honor of the organization. The actual statue is super heavy, so Depp takes it as she gives her speech on a stage that is spinning in slow motion. “This award means everything to me,” she says. “Thank you for the opportunity to have my life bathed in the warm glow that is art.” Depp is beaming at her as she makes her remarks.
8:46 p.m. – The fashion element begins, a fashion show by Costume National. Each model wears a wig that looks like Marina Abramovic—half are blond and half are dark brown hair, which represents her vision of mixing lightness and darkness.
8:56 p.m. – Moby performs! His three-song set is so soothing. We truly feel like we can fall asleep to his music. Now that's heaven.
9:15 p.m. – Our portion of the event is over, but as we make our way outside, we remember there is a whole other group waiting to experience what we just saw. In the cocktail area we spot Kit Harrington, Cara Delevingne, Minnie Driver, Kelly Osbourne, Laura Prepon, Topher Grace (That 70s Show reunion!) waiting for the main event. They are in for a heavenly treat!