Friday, May 25, 2018

Philadelphia Mainline and New York Born and Bred

Gazing across The Pond in Central Park towards a great egret. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, May 25, 2018. A beautiful, warm day, yesterday in New York. Bright, sunny 82 degrees. The long holiday weekend is already in mind for many of us.

The Calendar. I think it’s starting to let up a bit on the “gala” end. Because, mainly, people leave when the weather warms up into Summer. However, this is New York and there are always exciting, compelling, unusual, cultural, social settings, no matter the time of year or day.

Author David Wren with a copy of Ardrossan.
Click to order.
For example, this past Wednesday I was invited to hear a lecture by David Nelson Wren on his book “Ardrossan,” which was a labor of love and scholarship about the Mainline estate of the Montgomery and Scott families in what is now Radnor Township, Pennsylvania.

It is a story about some land, about a house – 50 rooms, 33,000 square feet – designed by Horace Trumbauer and completed in 1912.  But any story about any house is always a story about a family or at least the house’s creator.  Ardrossan – the name of a village the family descends from in northern Scotland – was built by Robert Montgomery, a partner in a very successful Philadelphia brokerage company. The 600 acres of land is on what was then known simply as The Mainline, specifically where the Philadelphia rich lived at their country houses. Ardrossan, one of the most magnificent, is the only one standing still occupied by a member of Mr. Montgomery’s immediate descendants.

So fascinating in its heyday, the family, specifically the daughter Hope, born Helen Hope Montgomery, were the inspiration for Philip Barry’s play and film, “The Philadelphia Story.” Its central character, played by Katharine Hepburn both on Broadway and in the film (she owned the film rights), is/was inspired by Hope, known always after her marriage to Edgar Scott as Hope Scott. I knew Hope briefly in the last years of her life, in her mid-to-late 80s. The  energy that possessed Philip Barry’s character, was evident in abundance in the Hope I met, even at that late age.
Mrs. Montgomery was a needlepoint aficionado extraordinaire. For a long time most of the furniture had slipcovers, and when they were eventually removed to be replaced, Mrs. Montgomery said she could needlepoint the upholstery. What you see of the edge of a settee is just a tiny example of her elaborate needlepoint. She would often needlepoint a portrait of a room including needlepoint of the paintings that hung on the wall.
This little stone wall between two levels of lawn is called a Haha. It was placed here so that the cows who were located on the wall side would not continue to wander up toward the main house. The sight of the wall naturally turned them away.
Working on this Diary, I  discovered that I’d written about meeting and knowing Hope Scott before, so we’re providing a link for those who might have missed it. She was a pistol, as they used to say.

DPC with Joan Mackie, a granddaughter of Robert Montgomery and niece of Hope Scott.
Aside from Hope Scott’s still memorable effervescence and ebullience, David Nelson Wren’s beautiful book (and fascinating lecture) reflect not only her energy but that of a whole family -- including the contracting and designing and living/lifestyle of the family in that house which still remains in the family name. The house itself was in a trust that could not be broken until after the death of the last grandchild of Robert Montgomery. 

Even in its grandeur and bigness, what with all of the original furniture and paintings, there is still a sense within of the family who dominated it for more than a century now. Hearing David Wren’s comfortably informal lecture (along with photographs) on its design, construction and family life is one of those moments – difficult to come upon many times these days – when you’re beguiled, amused, and even informed on the brighter side of the American family life of the 20th century.

David Wren’s lecture is a relaxed yet compelling 45-50 minutes. Plus a total pleasure. The book itself is a lesson in many things from architecture, culture, to family that plays together, stays together, even acceding to all of its characters. If you’re interested in booking Mr. Wren for one of your club lectures, you can contact him here.
Here is Hope Montgomery Scott doing some kind of dance with Bert Marlborough, the 10th Duke of Marlborough, eldest son of Consuelo Vanderbilt, first wife of John, the 9th Duke. Hope loved a good party.
Returning to last Tuesday night’s gala dinner at the Whitney Museum of American Art they raised $4.8M at their annual Gala and Studio Party. The evening also marked the 3rd anniversary of the Museum’s move to its downtown home in the Meatpacking.

This year’s evening celebrated the Whitney’s year of achievements, and honored artist Lorna Simpson, and longtime Trustees Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and Beth Rudin DeWoody. This year’s sponsor was Audi, and the following Studio Party was sponsored by Audi and Michael Kors.
Elizabeth Alexander, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, paid tribute to Lorna Simpson, one of the leading artists of her generation known for her photographic and film works which examine racial and gender identity. “Genius! Genius! Genius!” is how she summed up her consideration of the artist’s talent. Simpson was also awarded the Whitney Museum of American Art Award in 2001; and in 2007, her work was featured in a 20-year retrospective. 25 of her works are now in the Museum’s permanent collection.
Lorna Simpson, Adam Weinberg, Beth Rudin DeWoody, and Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo.
I had been drawn to this particular event this year because of two personal friends, both members of the Whitney’s Board of Trustees, Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and Beth Rudin DeWoody. The two women have been invaluable to the Whitney since the mid-1980s, which is when they met. They both have many friends, but together share a close bond developed over the years of mutual interest in the arts as well as a harmonious connection of personalities.
Carlton DeWoody, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, and William Burton Binnie.
Beth and Joanne were early champions of the Museum’s move downtown, and remain driving forces behind the future of the Whitney. Both are collectors – Beth’s collection is now vast and some of it is on Exhibition at her private/public collection called The Bunker in West Palm Beach.

Adam Weinberg, the head of the Whitney was a master “master of ceremonies,” introduced Elizabeth Alexander; and then Beth and Joanne, outlining their personal attributes and personalities in such a way that the substance of a long friendship was defined.
Adam Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum.
Beth and Joanne in the early days of their friendship, having met through their mutual interest, the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Weinberg is one of the few public speakers (of course he was speaking to the fans) who runs over any time limit unnoticed because he’s so interesting. I think it must be the teacher and the writer in him. So by the time the two women went up to the stage with Ms. Simpson, the whole room must have thought of them as personal friends, too.

It was certainly a room full of believers. My friend and neighbor Charlie Scheips who was there told me that “the Whitney parties are always fun!” and Adam Weinberg is at the helm. The Gala ceremony and dinner took place across the Museum’s first floor Kenneth C. Griffin Hall, and Andrea and James Gordon Restaurant at Untitled. 

The dinner ended with a heartfelt musical performance by Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award Winner Cynthia Erivo.
Cynthia Erivo.
All major galas have their own personality. The Whitney’s vibe is dual: fun and a presumed intense interest in the museum as an entity in the culture. This evening also had a major turnout of artists attending which adds to that interest: it’s a celebration, a getting-together, and a private passion.

Among the artists at Tuesday night’s gala were: Nina Chanel AbneyTony Bechara, Zoe Buckman, Ian Cheng, Petah Coyne, Liz Craft, Gregory Crewdson, E.V. Day, Raúl de Nieves, Michele Oka Doner, Torkwase Dyson, Mike Eckhaus,  Mark Fox, Cy Gavin, Oto Gillen, Ivy Haldeman, Hilary Harkness, Loie Hollowell, Jacqueline Humphries, Elizabeth Jaeger, Rashid Johnson, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Robert Longo, Nancy Lorenz, Nick Mauss, Josephine Meckseper, Julie Mehretu, Donald Moffett, Ken Okiishi, Juan Antonio Olivares, Laura Owens, Richard Phillips, Jessi Reaves, Rachel Rose, Tom Sachs, Jacolby Satterwhite, Cindy Sherman, Mike Starn, Charline von Heyl, Bob Wade, T.J. Wilcox, Rob Wynne, Firooz Zahedi.
Carlton DeWoody, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Kyle DeWoody, Zora Casebere, and Lorna Simpson.
Carlton DeWoody, Flora Biddle, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Bill Rudin, and Firooz Zahedi.
Whitney staff present included the aforementioned Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, Donna De Salvo, Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, and Whitney Curators David BreslinKim ConatyBarbara HaskellChrissie Iles,  David KiehlChristopher Y. LewCarol Mancusi-UngaroChristiane Paul, and Elisabeth Sussman.

Gala Co-Chairs were: Jill and Darius Bikoff, Jenny Brorsen and Rich DeMartini, Pamella and Dan DeVos, Susan and John Hess, Barbara and Jon Lee, Donna and Ben Rosen, Burwell and Chip Schorr

Studio Party Co-chairs were: William Binnie and Mari Rodriguez Binnie, Zora Casebere, Sarah and Carlton DeWoody, Kyle DeWoody.
Michael Rudin, Sabrina Rudin, Darian Zahedi, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, Bill Rudin, and Firooz Zahedi.

Photos: BFA (Whitney)

Contact DPC here.