Venice takes New York

The view of the Grand Canal from the roof of the Guggenheim. June, 2007. Photo: JH.
March 16, 2011. Chilly and mostly sunny, yesterday in New York.

Monday night was the SAB Winter Ball, last night was the Save Venice
Un Ballo in Maschera (Masked Ball) in the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza.

Aside: This was my second black tie dinner in two days. But, as Bob Hope famously wrote: Have Tux Will Travel. However. I can live without it too. However, it was Save Venice.

Save Venice was started more than forty years ago by Bob and Bea Guthrie and a group of friends who love the city known as the jewel of the Adriatic, and wanted to help keep it, through ongoing restoration projects.
It is now a make-believe city, this almost ancient metropolis, the commercial empire of the Middle Ages, a major maritime power, a center of the art and architecture of its time. We’ve all seen it in the paintings in the art books and in the films. But when you go there you are more amazed that it’s like that precisely. The water is as blue as Canalettos. I had always thought it was the painter’s poetic license, that blue. It never occurred to me that it was God’s. You know why the poets couldn’t stay away, or the dramatists.

Save Venice is working on preserving that for the future. It began as an idea for restoration and preservation, as well as an excellent reason to journey to Venice every year. Its members, besides raising the funding for these projects, have also seen the best and the greatest of Venice, been wined and dined, attended operas, symphonies, palazzo balls and grand banquets, supped under frescos of Veronese and archways of Palladio. It’s what we used to called in the 70s, a trip. And a great and grand trip.
Aside from those pleasures, over that time, Save Venice has raised more than $20 million to restore more than 400 works of art and architecture in Venice. Every year, the Board of Save Venice, as well as a Projects Committee of renowned experts, selects restoration projects in collaboration with the Venetian Superintendencies of Monuments, Fine Arts and Museums. Save Venice currently has more than 30 projects underway throughout the city. This has been made possible with support from individuals, foundations, and Chapters in Boston and California.

Last night’s grand Ballo In Maschera (A Celebration of Carnival and 40 years of restoring art in Venice) at the Plaza was a fund-raiser for these projects. The room, designed for the evening by Ron Wendt, was spectacular, immediately suggesting the other-worldliness of Venice and drawing you in to its opulence. Valentino and Bulgari supported it. It was their biggest ballo ever, and most successful (under the aegis of Save Venice’s new president Matthew White). Co-Chairs were Adelina Wong Ettelson, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Mary Kathryn Navab, Carlos Sousa and Matt White. International Co-Chairs were Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti and Nadia Swarovski. And Young Friends Co-Chairs Olivia Chantecaille, Amanda Hearst, Alexandra Lind Rose, and Luigi Tadini.
It was one of those parties where all I wanted to do was photograph. There was so much going on. The mood was upbeat, like taffeta or silks and gold. You could see that people were glad to be there, and glad to be dressed to the nines. There’s a celebration in that right now. The men enjoyed their masks as much as the women (and most of us went mask-less). It’s a younger, hipper crowd than ever before and they get into the sheer pleasure of the scene. And so do you.

Then after dinner the music came on, and the room rocked. This is the glamour today, whatever that means. This is the real thing -- not some magazine sponsored fashion show organized by media people playing arbiter. This is the real thing, organic and moving forward for a reason, for a cause, and for the fun of it. It was a good time even just to look at.
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