After Hours: A Hit at the Hirshhorn

Catch a glimpse of the Smithsonian’s unique party of modern art and live music

This past Friday night, instead of closing its doors, the Hirshhorn museum held its three-times-a-year After Hours party, transforming into a sophisticated dance party, with gallery tours, food and drink, and live music from the nine-piece psychedelic orchestra the Crystal Ark. Throngs of partygoers filled the museum and outdoor plaza, dancing to the music and enjoying the night.

"What's so unique about the marriage of the space and the artwork is that we occupy this wonderful round building, so we are able to have a continuous wall, with no corners and nothing obstructing your view," said curator Melissa Ho, who gave a gallery tour during the event. "So for the first time, we're able to show all 102 panels of Shadows, and it's a continuous panorama. You really get a sense of the monumentality of the work."

Ho feels there couldn't be a more appropriate exhibition to theme an After Hours party on than Shadows. "One of the things that's really lovely about After Hours happening during this exhibition is that the first time shadows was shown, there was a huge party," she said. "Andy Warhol, in his usual flippant way, said 'this is disco decor.'"

At the start of the night, multimedia projections by Bec Stupak and Honeygun Labs played around the central fountain, set to music by Nancy Whang, a former keyboardist for LCD Soundsystem and vocalist for The Juan MacLean. At ten, the Crystal Ark came on and performed a set of their distinctive blend of Funk Carioca, atabaque drumming, Tropicália and South American-style rave, driving the crowd into a frenzy.

"Partygoers loved the unusual blend of Smithsonian-quality modern art and live dance music. You get the art culture and you get the nightlife culture together," said Jeanna Lo. "Just looking around, it's beautiful here: the lights, the music, it's not what you expect from a museum. Everything's kind of unexpected."

"This gives people access to have an enlivened, very social, very hip, very now, very cool scene," said Danny Chapman. "And then they can go inside and have access to some of the most beautiful things that man has ever created."

Looking around the party, once can't help but imagine Warhol appreciating the setting in which one of his most significant works would appear in its entirety for the first time. When he debuted Shadows to the public, in the midst of his own colossal party, he told his admirers, "The review will be bad—my reviews always are. But the reviews of the party will be terrific."

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