- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

No top-notch celebration is complete without champagne and flowers, and in the case of the Phillips Collection, hosting Friday’s benefit gala in honor of the museum’s 85th anniversary, no expense was spared in the choice of drink and decorations. New York’s David Tutera, recruited by co-chairman Samia Farouki, dressed the connecting wings with elaborate eye-catching sprays and bouquets of spring blossoms designed to match the evening’s theme: “Celebrating the Magic of Art and Film.”

More than 300 guests complied (mostly) with the required dress code of black and white attire, after the two-tone show on view through May 20 of American art reflecting early film images. Musicians of various sorts played in nearly every room before a sit-down dinner at 34 round tables covered in black and white cloth with service done on, of course, black and white plates. Women were presented with red feather boas on arrival. “Just for fun, and add contrast,” said a black-robed museum employee.

Then, having had their fill of dinner (“Summer seafood pave” and “Amish guinea fowl”), guests trouped across Massachusetts Avenue to the grand Anderson House headquarters of the Society of the Cincinnati, descendants of American Revolutionary officers. There a dance band played into the wee hours amid groaning dessert buffet tables and more drinks.

“The Phillips is one of the best small museums in the world,” volunteered artist William Christenberry, whose work is on the walls and who, unusual among Washington artists of renown, has been a board member. There was praise for the event itself from every quarter: trustees, benefactors, first-timers and executives from some of the Washington area’s largest corporations. All were lured no doubt by the charm of board chairman George Vradenburg and Phillips’ Director Jay Gates, who presided over the $1,000-a-pop benefit.

— Ann Geracimos

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