- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

“The art world has gone crazy,” artist Ellsworth Kelly said, musing on $95 million Picassos and other recent stratospheric art sales during Tuesday’s celebratory dinner for the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE).

Crazy like a fox, perhaps, if Mr. Kelly is any example. His work commands major prices in the market, although one of his latest projects — two colorful wall sculptures for the U.S. embassy in Beijing — is pro bono, like the work of many other renowned artists who donate site-specific pieces.

The annual dinner, hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the department’s elegant Diplomatic Reception Rooms, marked the nonprofit organization’s 20th year arranging for the best examples of American cultural forms to enhance U.S. embassies, consulates and ambassadorial residences around the world. More than 1,000 works of art have been donated to date for display in about 70 countries. In addition, FAPE is involved in numerous restoration projects for the State Department’s historic properties abroad.

Asked if politics had kept a number of artists from attending a White House reception hosted by first lady Laura Bush preceding Monday’s dinner at the National Gallery of Art, Mr. Kelly demurred. “I don’t want to talk about that,” he said, then offered his excuse — a bad back that had laid him low. No problem Tuesday, when he was in fine fettle, seated beside Miss Rice — “We talked about art and music”— with former Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead on her right.

To date, embassy gifts worth $30 million have been channeled through FAPE’s offices, reflecting support from many of the country’s wealthiest patrons. Contributors typically are feted in grand style, with dinners, tours and lectures that culminate in the State Department dinner.

President Emerita Wendy Luers, who co-founded the group with Leonore Annenberg and the late Lee Kimche McGrath, began remarks Tuesday by naming each of the artists who had contributed series of prints over the years (Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella, to name but a few). “One hell of a list,” she told the tittering crowd, which included FAPE Chairwoman Jo Carole Lauder; FAPE President Ann Gund; Vice Chairwomen Eden Rafshoon, Vera Blinken, Ann Jordan and Kay Allaire; and event organizers Wilma Bernstein, Buffy Cafritz, Liz Stevens and Alma Gildenhorn

.

Guests enjoyed the fine weather and views of the city from the eighth-floor terrace, sipping wine and exchanging news of recent events within their exclusive circle. Lawyer Kevin Warshq the former executive secretary of the president’s National Economic Council, accepted congratulations on his recent appointment as the youngest governor ever of the Federal Reserve Board. Mr. Warsh, 36, a son-in-law of Mrs. Lauder and cosmetics mogul Ronald Lauder, said with some humor that his Senate confirmation hearings were “not as long or bad as expected” but that he had taken no chances by keeping his wife, Jane Lauder, sitting behind him “ready to cry if needed.”

Others spread the word that Mary Ourisman, the Texas-born wife of auto magnate Mandell Ourisman and a longtime Republican activist, is expected to be named to a State Department post, probably an ambassadorship, by President Bush sometime soon. “The FBI has been all over Washington and Palm Beach interviewing people for their field report,” one in-the-know grande dame confided.

…After dinner, Miss Rice mentioned her department’s “unprecedented building of late: 27 compounds completed and 40 more under construction.” All require “the most special expression of individualism and individual talent to give the nations’ artists a voice in our diplomacy,” she pointed out before a lengthy speech larded heavily with administration foreign-policy objectives.

“We want to be there at the beginning,” Mrs. Lauder had said earlier, mentioning upcoming projects in Jamaica, Athens and Berlin that are sure to keep supporters active for years to come.

“We are creating something that will remain, something we can all be proud of,” Mrs. Luers added. “We want to make these wonderful works of art feel like old friends.”

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