Photo: The Phillips Collection's Contemporaries Bash Facebook page

Phillips Collection Takes Over Dock5 with Berlin-Inspired Contemporaries Bash

With all of the cultural institutions that call DC home, this town is one full of people who know how to throw a party. And the Phillips Collection is no exception. The museum’s Contemporaries Bash is quickly becoming one of the most well-attended annual gala events in the District.

On Friday, May 19, for the third year running, the Phillips will transform Union Market’s Dock5 into a contemporary DC patron of the arts’ dream, complete with cocktail-clad locals mingling among art installations, an outdoor biergarten from Denizens Brewing, Co., music and, of course, photo booths – all aimed specifically at celebrating and attracting young DC area philanthropists. The theme of this year’s bash, Berlin Underground, draws inspiration from both the namesake city’s overall vibe and its art scene.

“With the Phillips’ recent acquisitions of German artists, and in honor of the museum’s longstanding relationship with the German Embassy, it made sense that the 2017 Contemporaries Bash draw inspiration from Berlin’s pulsing underground nightlife,” says Maria Belen Vizcaino, the Phillips Collection’s Associate Director of Gala and Special Events. “We decided to bring the German capital’s decadent club scene to Dock5.”

Past years’ themes drew similar connections. 2016’s Dreaming of Doha was a “celebration of artistic exchange and cultural diplomacy between the state of Qatar and the United States,” and Tokyo Nights capped the museum’s month-long celebration of Japanese spring in 2015.

Berlin Underground comes with a price tag of $125-$175, but that’s still far cheaper than a plane ticket from DCA to TXL (Berlin Tegel Airport), and the proceeds go toward critical funding for the Phillips’ arts education programming. According to Rogelio Plasencia, the museum’s Director of Membership, DC’s young collectors seem eager to participate and pay it forward.

“We are so fortunate to have a large and engaged young audience through our Phillips After 5 events on the first Thursday of every month, and through our contemporaries membership,” Plasencia says. “We’ve noticed that these members are motivated by opportunities to learn about art, meet artists and museum staff, and build a community that is passionate about supporting this museum. The contemporaries [program] also has a growing steering committee of collaborators and ambassadors, and we see them as leaders now and into the future.”

In addition to supporting the museum’s educational opportunities, attendees of this year’s bash will have the opportunity to meet German artist Philipp Artus, who traveled from Berlin to give a talk about his work at the Phillips this past week. Artus will be present at Berlin Underground, where a special installation of his work will be featured.

So, what’s the goal of this particular fête? Of people getting gussied up and mentally transported to a magical night in a makeshift Berlin? Plasencia says it’s about more than simply the money.

“We want people to feel energized about art, the Phillips, and the community of supporters they are making. We want them to feel that they are a part of something really unique and know that feeling is something they can always find at the Phillips Collection.”

The Phillips Collection’s Berlin Underground Contemporaries Bash takes place Friday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m. at Union Market’s Dock5. Tickets and more information available here.

Dock5: 1309 Fifth St. NE, DC;


Courtney Sexton

Courtney Sexton is a New Jersey native who grew up between the Delaware River and the sandy Pine Barrens. She has called D.C. home for long enough to now be considered a “local”. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the co-founder of D.C. literary reading series and writing community, The Inner Loop. She listens to a lot of music and sometimes even tries to make it. She writes a good deal about places and human relationships to them, constantly exploring the intersections of nature and culture. Her dog, Rembrandt, features prominently in her life and work.