Don Burke and NPR’s Ari Shapiro pose for a photo Saturday at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Spring Gala after-party celebrating the 1980s in Washington. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

For the artsy young people at Saturday night’s gala at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the 1980s were part of the distant past, and so the theme of the evening — the decade when leggings and Donald Trump first flourished (and now they’re ba-ack!) — was pure fantasy. For the older patrons and art lovers, things might have felt a little more familiar.

Whether the era was fondly remembered or learned about through vintage Madonna videos, guests of all ages gladly adopted the motif, which celebrated the museum’s current exhibit “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s” on one of its featured artists, Jeff Koons. The unusual mixing of new and old guard — they all hit the dance floor and stayed Washington Late — came courtesy of a thorough loosening-up after dinner by a band of … clowns? Stick with us here: The chocolate-delivering circus-style performers were part of an installation by artist Jennifer Rubell, whose participatory works often involve food, and in this case, in addition to handing over the sweets, the performers taught attendees dance moves or otherwise got them acting silly enough to ditch their inhibitions.


Nate Lewis dances with guests Saturday at the Hirshhorn’s Spring Gala after-party celebrating the 1980s in Washington. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

A guest interacts with a clown performer, part of Jennifer Rubell’s commissioned performance work Send in the Clowns (2018), on Saturday at the Hirshhorn’s Spring Gala after-party. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu and artist Jeff Koons mingle with guests at the Hirshhorn’s Spring Gala. The Gala honored Koons for his role in transforming contemporary art. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Guests at the after-party. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Isabel de la Cruz Ernst and a clown performer, part of Jennifer Rubell’s performance work Send in the Clowns, at the Spring Gala after-party. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Mera Rubell, center, dances with a balloon animal during the after-party. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Koons examines his work at the Hirshhorn. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Desserts at the after-party celebrating the 1980s included lunchbox treats. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)

Hirshhorn Board Chairman Daniel H. Sallick, left, Elizabeth Miller and Secretary of the Smithsonian David J. Skorton pose for a photo at the after-party. (Erin Schaff/Hirshhorn)