Tuesday, April 17, 2007

From the Showhouse to the Met

Holding out for more rain. Corner of 54th and Madison. 7:15 PM.
Last night in New York. The 35th annual Kips Bay (2007) Decorator Showhouse held its black tie preview showing last night at this year’s showhouse at 14 East 82nd Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues). After the champagne reception at the house, the guests boarded buses which drove them down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Club for the gala dinner. Jane Emerson who organizes many of the top charity dinners (and luncheons) in New York told me that this was Kips Bays biggest dinner.

On my way to the Met, I stopped off with the Digital to have a look at some of the guests and some of the contributors.

The showhouse opens to the public next Tuesday April 24 running through May 22nd, Monday through Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, and Tuesday and Thursday evening until 8 pm. Sunday: noon to 5 pm. Admission is $30 which includes a Journal and a Source book. The showhouse also features a Show House shop where you can find your own wonderful treasures, porcelains and crystals to antiques and one of a kind custom furnishings. Proceeds all go to the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.
Lisa Anastos, Randall Beale, Linda Stocknoff, and Carl Lana
Harriet Weintraub, Eric Cohler, Barbara Cirvka, and John Schumacher
Jonathan and Somers Farkas
Tom Cashin and Jay Johnson
Frank Webb and Matthew White
John Rosselli
Bunny Williams and friend
Freddie Guest and Peter Gregory
Carol Egan and Wayne Nathan
Chris Mason
Chris Mesmore and Patricia Healing
Keith Langham and Leighton Candler
James Rixner
Jamee Gregory and Barbara Bancroft
Tom Cashin, Beth DeWoody, and Stephen Jacoby
Jamie Drake
Victoria Imperioli
Susan Gutfruend and Mario Buatta
Iris Cantor invited me to a dinner at the Met last night to celebrate the upcoming opening of the new Greek and Roman Galleries. Black tie. Social events at the Met have an ambience and an ardor that border on the papal. After all, it is the Met, arguably the most fabulous museum on the planet. One feels that way just visiting during exhibition hours. Everyone is transformed.

The dinners, when strictly museum affairs, bring out the crème de la crème of the museum/art world, as well as the collectors and the donors. One has the sense of being among the very select, and very bright (and maybe even wise – just dreaming  of course). There is a reverence for culture and knowledge emanating from its walls. I find myself thinking about the wonder of the men and women who can contribute the Met. Imagine. And when they finally do, there is a kind of reverential passing on of the wisdom of the ages.

I know that can sound just so romantic, but when you consider this amazing institution built by members of the community and filled with the treasures of the ages and man’s creative genius, you realize the achievement it is and what it has required of people.
Iris Cantor and Carlos Picon, curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Met
Shelby White
The planning and creating  of these particular Greek and Roman galleries have been 15 years in the making. The space they occupy – the south wing off the museum’s entrance gallery -- was actually built for a Greek and Roman gallery fifty years ago, although museum goers have known it only as a restaurant and cafeteria.

It is now called the Leon Levy & Shelby White Gallery. Mr. Levy and Ms. White were married for many many years (and have a family). Mr. Levy was one of the wise men of Wall Street, very shrewd and articulate who lent a philosophical and generous turn to his assessments of matters economic. He passed away a couple of years ago. He and his wife were longtime collectors of ancient art and artifacts, much of which has been donated to the Met and will occupy the new gallery. An ebullient man named Carlos Picon is the curator of Greek and Roman Art and this gallery exhibition is his child.
The new gallery is stupendous. My interest in Greco-Roman art is not deep, or informed, if only curious. In these shining and monumental new galleries, the collection is compelling, evoking all kinds of thoughts and questions about the ancient world and the world right now, today.

After the cocktail reception for several hundred, there was a dinner in the Petrie Court (where you can see the façade of the 18th century New York building along with architectural pieces from 19th century New York). Candlelit and festive, it was an evening of speeches. From the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Jamie Houghton, from Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Met and from Shelby White who told us how her husband loved reading history of the ancient world and that their collection was aided by his belief that everything  should, like the planting of a tree, have an eye on the future (and what we call history).

We dined on Mrs. White’s words last night at the Met, and were nourished. It came as a relief, from the weather, from the “pains you got if any brains you got, from those little radios,” with an eye on the past and a vision of the future. Reassuring us, at least briefly.

The very recent past.  Pat Buckley died the day before yesterday in a hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. She had been ill for some time. Mrs. Buckley was one of the new breed of dowagers inNew York, like her late great friend Nan Kempner. In her 80th year (Nan was in her 79th), they were old enough for the title but far too young to wear it with anything but a flourish and maybe a diamond clip. I was acquainted with Mrs. Buckley, but I did not know her, except to pass the how-ja-do’s and maybe a little laugh from a quip (because she always had something wry or arch to add to the ether surrounding). We shared a mutual friend, the late John Galliher (another one of the great characters of the last half of 20th century New York – see In Memoriam on The List). Johnny, as he was called, often spent the weekend and many holidays with the Buckleys at their house on the Sound in Stamford, and in Switzerland in the wintertime. She and he were big gin rummy aficionados.

She was tall and willowy. And all-American chic. For years she was the driving force in fund raising for the Costume Institute at the Met and at that time, the Institute’s annual gala was the hottest social event in New York. (Now it is the hottest social event in Conde Nast).

Style; she had it, right before your eyes. Big bright eyes, long lashes, lanky but elegant frame, if diamonds were blasé. She had a lot of friends, many famous like Blass and Kenny Lane and Nancy Reagan, etc. But everybody loved her company if you didn’t mind her frankness. You could imagine that Auntie Mame might have been fashioned after her. She loved her dogs. She had one son, Christopher (whose book party was in these pages several days ago) for his new novel “Boomsday”) and her famous husband, also well known for his quips, among other things, William, writer, political commentator, magazine founder (Natonal Review). As I said, I didn’t really know her. After Mr. Galliher died, I would tell her when we happened to meet, that I was going to call and take her to lunch. Alas I never did. For one reason or another, including my own moments of diffidence. A great loss to the neighborhood that is known as New York.

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