Venetian Heritage, one of the intrepid groups which raises money for preservation and restoration in Venice, Italy, held a gala event there for a few beautifully sunny days in early June. Their scheduled activities for the 200 or so guests coincided with the opening of the Biennale, the much discussed and often maligned, but nevertheless avidly attended, art fair which is held every two years in Venice.
This year’s participants included Muffy Miller, Vice Chairman and her husband, Donald Miller; the organization’s president, Pierre Durand, its vice presidents – Jay Krehbiel, Trevor Traina and his wife Alexis; and Tom Quick, who is treasurer. Prince and Princess Michael of Kent gamely went everywhere and did everything as did the Kopiev family from Russia, Danna and Helmut Swarovski of Austria, Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, Princes Guilliaume and Jean de Luxemboug – with his tall, lovely wife Diane, as well as ordinary mortals such as … actually, come to think of it, there weren’t any ordinary mortals!
Between the group activities and the Biennale, Venice was jumping. Since everyone walks everywhere, there were surprise meetings and “what are YOU doing here?” through all the streets of the city. Harry’s Bar seemed to be full 24 hours a day and they always managed to squeeze in another table. Insiders know the place to sit is upstairs. One night Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Campbell and beautiful Stella Schnabel were spotted, while Harry Cipriani’s daughter, Carmela, despite hopping up every few minutes to be sure things were going well in the restaurant, had dinner with a friend.
Besides visits to see completed restoration projects, one could always go to the Giardini or the Arsenale to stand in line to see art installations many love to hate.
Private visits were arranged, including a view of the dazzling 14th century gilded silver alter screen on the high altar of the church of San Salvador which was restored by Venetian Heritage, with the help of Louis Vuitton.
With supporters Alfred and Judy Taubman, Alexis Gregory and Gil Shiva, Venetian Heritage has sponsored a program of research on Venetian Jewish music so the group was treated to a concert of Jewish music in the Spanish Synagogue in the Ghetto as well as visits to two other 16th century synagogues.
Additional activities kept the group hopping: an invitation from Christie’s for lunch aboard a Bateau Mouche, often rocked by waves from passing boat traffic in the Grand Canal much to the amusement of guests staggering to the buffet; a cocktail reception as guests of the jeweler VHernier, whose display of new jewelry tempted even Danna and Helmut Swarovski.
Vhernier also underwrote the ultimate event – a black tie dinner dance at the Ca Vendramin Calergi, a grand palazzo which houses the Casino of Venice. Especially pleasant was the large garden where pre-dinner cocktails were served and where after dinner guests lingered long and late on a beautiful Venetian night.
Photographs by Mary Hilliard.