How to plan your costume for the Surreal Salon Soiree

This Saturday, Jan. 21, the Baton Rouge Gallery comes alive once again for the 15th Annual Surreal Salon Soiree, an event known among global art circles as part-art exhibition, part-costume party.

Surrealist pieces in a variety of media are installed throughout the gallery every year in January, but what really makes the Soiree noteworthy is that attendees arrive in eye-popping attire that plays off the genre. About 80% of patrons come in costume, says BRG president and CEO Jason Andreasen.

“It’s definitely the kind of event where you’ll feel more uncomfortable if you don’t wear a costume than if you do,” Andreasen says.

Surreal Salon Soiree attendees will view mixed media pop-surrealist art, and most will do it while in costume.

But we’re not talking about store-bought stuff, Andreasen says.

Attendees generally draw from the lowbrow or pop-surrealist movement to create their costumes, which began in Los Angeles in the 1970s and was fueled by underground comics, music and other cultural phenomena.

Reflecting the genre’s sarcasm and spontaneity, Surreal Salon Soiree guests arrive in fantastical DIY creations often made with household odds and ends.

Look for an explosion of color at the Surreal Salon Soiree.

The result is an explosion of color and imagery. There are masks, headdresses and clothing adorned with everything from alien appendages to artificial flora and fauna. Many participants wear carefully crafted face paint. Some hold puppets. Others are puppets. And a growing number of event regulars draw ideas from the show itself, Surreal Salon 15, which opened on Jan. 3 and continues until Jan. 26, Andreasen says.

“One thing that’s been cool to see is that people come by the gallery before the event and look at the show,” Andreasen says. “They get inspired by something they see, and then go home and put a little elbow grease into it.”

Some attendees hold puppets, while others are puppets.

Now in its 15th year, the show and soiree have grown considerably, Andreasen says. Only Louisiana artists participated in the first event. Now, artists from around the world submit work.

This year’s show, held in partnership with the LSU School of Art and curated by Milan-based surrealist artist Marco Mazzoni, is comprised of work by 62 artists from 21 states and nine countries.

Viewing the 62 pieces of pop-surrealist art is a fundamental part of the experience.

Andreasen says that the costume component shouldn’t be intimidating, and that while some participants are artists themselves, the majority of the anticipated 600 guests are not.

Pop-surrealist art, which bends reality and can incorporate references to pop culture, lends itself to spur-of-the-moment costuming that will be received without judgment, Andreasen says.

This year, the Baton Rouge Gallery holds its 15th Surreal Salon Soiree.

“I’ve seen woodland creatures, video game characters, logos, all sorts of stuff,” Andreasen says. “It’s all over the map. But I expect glue guns will be getting a big workout this week.”

View art, listen to live music and take in zany costumes at this weekend’s Surreal Salon Soiree.

Even though the event is just a few days away, securing a costume shouldn’t be cause for worry, Andreasen says. In fact, in the frenzy of planning one year, Andreasean found himself without a costume the night before.

“My sister, who comes in town from Miami every year to take pictures, helped me come up with something at the last minute,” Andreasen says. “I got some cardboard and elastic and went as Max Headroom.”


Advance tickets to the Surreal Salon Soiree are $30 for members, and $40 for nonmembers, and can be purchased at the door for $10 more.

The event takes place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., and includes a bar, entertainment and live music from the Austin band, The Golden Dawn Arkestra. For more information, including  information about the free Surreal Salon 15 exhibition, visit batonrougegallery.org.