Friday, May 12, 2023. Warm in New York but not too … Although the weather man has been reporting the temps in the low 80s! But no humidity detectable. Very nice. With more predicted. Enjoy it while we can before it changes into something else. That’s New York weather these days. Although we’re only a little more than 30 days till Summertime.
Here in New York, if you’ve read us before, you know that we are in the midst of the Spring social season. This is when and where all the big benefits are being held to raise funds for the large variety of philanthropies that exist in this country. One thing we have done (the USA) and continue to do, which is in our Good News for many and all, is to fund and establish “charities” that are directed separately but together of all the problems that we (aka Mankind) face in this modern world. All, except all those members of the political class, the ghee on this meatloaf of ours.
It’s a wonderful thing, these organizations directed at various issues and problems that we face in this modern world of technological distraction. It’s also “The Peoples” instrument for teaching the newcomers (beginning with children).
Last week I went to the American-Scandinavian Foundations’s annual Spring Gala. I had no idea what that was. I was attending as a guest of my friend John Loeb Jr. who was receiving the organization’s Cultural Award at the Metropolitan Club for “furthering American awareness of Nordic creative excellence.”
This came about because historically John had once been Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Denmark. It was during that time that he was introduced to Danish art and now has the largest private collection of Danish art outside of Denmark. I learned of Danish art — i.e. painters who are Danish – through John. I completely understand: it’s about Beauty. It lifts you in a natural way. You know, the thing where you can’t help it. And for five minutes or more, you feel more inspired and better about life.
The other honoree for the evening was The Metropolitan Opera, which was accepted by Peter Gelb. I don’t know, have never met the man. I love music and I love opera but I am not an opera fan like many whom I know. Opera fans have an emotional relationship with opera music. It gets to them on a deep inner level. It’s actually quite common a condition, and best explains how the music of two centuries ago still has such an enormous emotional impact on people’s experience of it. It’s a very good thing; it is necessary, as is all art.
Mr. Gelb is in a position of what would have been been called impresario in another age. Although on stage he looks like a man in his midlife and conventionally dressed, looking relaxed, almost casual. When he speaks, which is in a relaxed almost off-hand way, you know he is very serious about his work.
The dinner was at the Metropolitan Club, built by JP Morgan who had a better idea back then (late 19th/early 20th century) of what a men’s club should be. Generally, more open to life and reality (although not the 21st century version). It’s in a beautiful building on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street built back in that Age, the beginning of the 20th century when New York blossomed and the world changed. NYSD readers have seen its classic interiors many times. Its grandeur is relaxing and self-assuring, as if you’re in a mentally safe place.
The evening began with cocktails in the main gallery which it enormous and marble and three stories high, and cool; you’re relaxed in its vibe, believe or not. The evening’s Special Guest was Liv Ullmann who is on the board of the Foundation. Monika A. Heimbold and Carol E. Domina served as the Gala Chairs for the event.
Once seated in the main dining room, Edward Gallagher who is President of the American-Scandinavian Foundation welcomed guests: “This evening we celebrate ASF’s long tradition of building bridges of friendship and understanding between the United States and the five Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — while recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of the Metropolitan Opera and Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. in furthering American awareness of Nordic creative excellence.”
Liv Ullmann took the podium and called on John, recognizing his outstanding accomplishments as a collector of art and for his decades-long efforts to support and promote awareness and appreciation of Danish art in the U.S. Which he did; accepting the Award. Presenting the award were ASF Executive Trustee Liv Ullmann and ASF Advisory Trustee Patricia G. Berman.
His collection, the largest one of Danish art outside Denmark, was presented at Scandinavia House in the exhibition From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough: Danish Paintings from the Collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. in 2013-14. He has also sponsored ASF fellowships, lectures, and publications, creating a greater awareness of Danish art among the American public.
He said in his acceptance, “My Danish art collection is the physical evidence of my deep admiration and respect for the people of Denmark, and of Scandinavia in general. This wonderful art represents a significant moment in Europe’s cultural and artistic history.”
Then the ASF bestowed its Gold Medal to The Metropolitan Opera in recognition and appreciation of its long history of presenting, promoting, and mentoring musical artists from the Nordic countries in the United States. The award also celebrated the 10th year in which the ASF has sponsored the ASF Birgit Nilsson Award of $20,000, which is presented annually at the Metropolitan Opera’s Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition.
Peter Gelb noted on accepting the award, “The first Scandinavian artist of distinction to perform at the Met was in 1883, our inaugural season, when Swedish singer Christina Nilsson sang the role of Marguerite in Faust …. Over the ensuing 140 years every legendary Scandinavian singer from Lauritz Melchior to Jussi Bjorling and from Kirsten Flagstad to Birgit Nilsson has sung leading roles at the Met. And now, with rising Norwegian superstar Lise Davidsen, and the great Swedish baritone Peter Mattei, opera’s artistic future is secure.”
After the awards program, we were treated to a special performance by Soprano Teresa Perrotta, the 2023 recipient of ASF’s Birgit Nilsson Award. All proceeds of ASF’s Spring Gala benefit the Foundation’s continuing initiatives to promote cultural and education exchange between the United States and the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
The American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF) promotes firsthand exchange of intellectual and creative influence between the United States and the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
A publicly supported American nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, ASF has an extensive program of fellowships, grants, intern/trainee sponsorship, publishing, and cultural activities. Headquartered in New York City, ASF has members throughout the United States, and alumni and donors worldwide. For more information, visit amscan.org.
Photographs by Christine Butler.