On the Town: The Henry’s Mercury Ball Shimmers and Shimmies

Posted on February 18, 2017, 12:34 pm
4 mins


Last Saturday night, the Henry Art Gallery‘s annual gala and fundraiser, The Mercury Ball, put a positive spin on the mercurial times in which we live.

The timing was also perfect from a trend perspective. Metallics are all the rage, as evident in the gowns worn at the BAFTA ceremony the following night. Guests donned metallic, silvery attire to match the theme. (We also saw a few hats inspired by the winged helmet of the Roman god.) Streamers dangled from hair, and shimmering dresses abounded. Some guests wore matching, silvery wigs to complement the look of the evening, while older patrons came with silver hair au naturel.

During the cocktail reception, the guests enjoyed live cello music and dancing by drag queen Betty Wetter. Four dapper stewards with faces obscured by silvery gauze accompanied Wetter, and later attended guests as the dance party began.

The Henry’s Mercury Ball 2017

All images courtesy of The Henry Art Gallery.

The Dinner

The Mercury Ball gala raised over a quarter of a million dollars for the museum’s year-round artistic programming and exhibits. ($267,925, to be precise.) Every little bit counts, as the NEA and NEH may be cut by the current Republican administration. (Mercurial times, indeed.)

Over the last year, the Henry has shown an array of works that are aesthetically and philosophically diverse, yet find common ground in their address of the body. In the main galleries, we have seen Franz Erhard Walther‘s installations, activated by physical actors, and Senga Nengudi‘s playful—yet eerie—soft sculptures pinned to the walls. Those galleries now host Chuck Close‘s explicitly figurative photography and portraiture, on view through April 2.

The Henry’s Director, Sylvia Wolf, worked with Terrie Sultan, Director, Parrish Art Museum, and independent curator Colin Westerbeck to curate and present the Close show. Wolf spoke during the gala about Close (a native of Monroe, WA) and the focused retrospective on display, which is the first that the artist has received in the region in some time.

The Dance Party

After dinner, it was time for everyone’s bodies to move on the dance floor. This is the third year that the Henry has allowed revelers to purchase tickets for the post-dinner dancing celebration. Projected visuals flickered on the walls while DJ duo Amateur Hour kept the music going until midnight. Guests stayed hydrated (and festive) with drinks from two open bars, and periodically used an infinity mirror photo booth to capture the moment.

Dana Van Nest, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Henry, remarked to me that she saw many new faces in the crowd this year. it was something I noticed, too, and it was encouraging. For those who have yet to attend a full fundraising function at The Henry or another arts organization in town, the dance party is a great entrée. I hope to see many new and familiar faces at next year’s party (and at functions throughout the year).


T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.