Sydney’s $137k party fail | Innovation Tech
THE Met gala — a lavish ball attended by A-listers in New York — is one of the biggest events on fashion’s social calendar.
Tickets cost a whopping $US30,000 ($AU40,000), and last year almost $12 million was raised for Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute thanks to attendees including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Gisele Bündchen and Madonna.
Almost 16,000km away in Sydney, the Powerhouse Museum decided to try and emulate the success of the “East Coast Oscars” by throwing a fashion fundraiser of their own in February this year.
The soiree, which was supposed to raise money to preserve pieces of Australia’s fashion history to add to the museum’s collection, was attended by models, designers and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
But as the ABC has reported, the MAAS Ball (named after the Powerhouse Museum’s new name, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) turned out to be a costly fashion fail.
Documents obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information laws reveal it lost nearly $140,000 and taxpayers footed the bill.
THE FINANCIAL BREAKDOWN
According to the event’s budget, the cash expenditure for the party was $388,391. Revenue from sponsorship and ticket sales brought in $173,181, leaving a shortfall of $215,210.
The ABC reports that the museum, which is publicly funded, covered this shortfall from its own budget.
All up 264 guests attended, which included only 121 paid tickets, 92 complimentary tickets and 51 sponsor tickets.
Guests on the night donated a total of $1150 — three gifts of $50 each and one for $1000. Combined with a portion of ticket sales, the total amount raised was $78,500.
The Powerhouse Museum ended up with $78,500 in fundraising, but had to spend nearly triple that to get it, ultimately using $137,000 from the public purse.
WHAT EVENT ORGANISERS SPENT MONEY ON
According to the ABC report costs included:
* $30,000 for branding
* $25,000 for table centrepieces and printing
* $17,000 paid to “ambassadors and talent”
* In addition to the cash expenses, the party had approximately $200,000 worth of sponsorship consisting of international airfares, hotel rooms, vodka, wine and French champagne, bringing the total value of the party to nearly $600,000.
* Event organisers flew four people to Sydney return from Dusseldorf, Paris and New York and 10 guests were accommodated in hotels for up to five nights each.
* A further $10,000 was spent transporting visitors from interstate and paying for their transport around Sydney.
NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party MP Robert Borsak is chairing an Upper House inquiry into the NSW Government’s management of museums and art galleries.
He told the ABC “there’s something shonky going on here, something very, very smelly.”
“A party for 121 people at the Powerhouse with probably as many hangers-on costing $388,000? Unbelievable. And they seem to have raised only about $78,000 in direct donations. How can you spend $388,000 for a party on one night?”
The cost to tax payers was not the only controversy surrounding the ball.
In the week following the event, The Daily Telegraph reported that Powerhouse Museum staff were apparently drunk and slurping French champagne “in the presence of white powder” at the “debauched” party.
Arts Minister Don Harwin demanded answers from museum CEO Dolla Merrillees early in March 2018 after allegations were raised in Parliament that prominent employees were involved in a “wild” afterparty.
Mr Borsak told Parliament he had been informed that on the night of the event, senior security personnel attended the upstairs executive offices at the museum to investigate a noise complaint.
“Security staff observed several prominent museum staff intoxicated, drinking Moët and Chandon in the presence of a white powder,” Mr Borsak said.
He asked Mr Harwin if he would refer the incident to the police and whether members of the museum’s senior executive team were among those present.
Mr Harwin took the question on notice, and his office later told The Daily Telegraph he had no knowledge of the alleged incident.
“The Minister has requested a full report into the incident from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences director and chief executive officer,” his office said in a statement.
Mr Borsak said he was concerned about reports of illicit drug use and wanted to ensure the security guards involved were not targeted for “blowing the whistle on this debauchery”, adding: “Taxpayers want value for money when they fund arts projects, not the sort of self-centred largesse that’s alleged here.”
The museum code of conduct states staff “must not be under the influence or in possession of … a substance that is illegal to possess … and must not work while under the influence of alcohol”.
THE MUSEUM’S RESPONSE
An official statement sent to news.com.au from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences says “MAAS invested $215,209.50 into the Ball from the Development and External Affairs team’s annual budget which is used for events, promotional and communication activities.
“Sponsorship for the event was $135,000 and the non-donation component of ticket sales totalled $38,181.82.
“The event raised $78,500 of seed funding for the Australian Fashion Fund which is dedicated to funding initiatives to support and grow the Australian fashion sector.”
“The Ball was successful in achieving its objectives by introducing the Centre for Fashion to key stakeholders, building relationships with key corporate, industry and cultural partners, raising funding for the Australian Fashion Fund, increasing MAAS’ fashion collection and enhancing the reputation of MAAS as the leading public centre for fashion in Australia.”