‘Like stepping into a disco ball’: NGV Gala transports La Trobe student Madi to the mean streets of 1980s New York

La Trobe’s partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria means students get exclusive opportunities to interact with world-class exhibitions – and world-class industry experts.

Take MyLaTrobe competition winner Madi, for example: she won two tickets to the recent NGV Gala celebrating the blockbuster new exhibition, Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines.

Here, she takes us behind the scenes of the glam 80s party that had all of Melbourne talking.

The NGV Gala is Melbourne’s answer to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Met Gala. The annual event pairs art with fashion for one night, raising money for the gallery’s Fashion and Textiles Collection.

The Gala is the celebratory opening of the National Gallery of Victoria’s summer art exhibition, which sets the theme for the event.

Photo courtesy of the National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne

On 30 November, the NGV opened up its doors to celebrate its newest exhibition: Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines. A world exclusive, this is the first time that the work of Haring and Basquiat has been displayed side-by-side in this way.

Haring and Basquiat are considered amongst the most influential artists of the 1980s with a legacy that continues to influence pop culture today. Therefore the theme of the NGV Gala was Glam 80s, combining the best from the decade (disco balls and sequins) whilst avoiding the worst: perms and shoulder pads!

Arriving at the Gala we were greeted with a fluorescent pink carpet filled with a crowd dressed to perfection. Fashions ranged from classic black tie to tulle ball gowns and sequined suit jackets, all eliciting debate about who was best dressed.

The NGV’s iconic waterwall entrance featured a reimagined Keith Haring mural that was first painted there by the artist himself in 1984.

Stepping into the gala felt like stepping into a disco ball: the floor of the main entrance foyer was dotted with giant disco balls reflecting light in every direction. To the left, you found the entrance to the Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines exhibition, where guests were allowed to roam before it opened the next day.

Straight ahead the great hall was decked out with a champagne bar and the performance stage where DJ Ge-Ology was getting the crowd pumped. To the right, in the garden restaurant, legendary Melbourne drag queen Art Simone held court.

The exhibition, the reason for the whole gala, takes you through the short but important careers and lives of the two artists, depicting the intersections between their two lives and the social circles they were a part of (we see you, Madonna and Andy Warhol!) The exhibition is broken up by a polaroid wall from renowned photographer, Maripol’s personal collection, featuring the two artists and their social circles in New York in the ’80s.

Photo courtesy of the National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne.

As if the night wasn’t already on-theme enough, the headline act was Salt N Pepa. The hip-hop group that started their careers in New York in the 1980s and who are famous for their songs Push It, Whatta Man and None of Your Business. No-one could get enough of their exclusive Australian gig, filling up the great hall and dancing to the group’s greatest hits for their entire performance. 

It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to be able to attend the NGV Gala, thanks to the NGV and MyLaTrobe.

Attending one of Melbourne’s most iconic social events was an incredible and unforgettable experience.