- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

The cool crowd of fine- and decorative-arts devotees was hardly surprised that Hillary Rodham Clinton would interrupt her New York Senate campaign for the annual gathering of the Friends of Arts and Preservation in Embassies at the White House last Friday afternoon.

Though she was more than an hour late because of problems with her aircraft at LaGuardia Airport, Mrs. Clinton turned up as expected to greet her VIP guests, who couldn't have minded having extra time to air-kiss and gossip in the historic, art-filled public rooms while discussing FAPE's mission to beautify U.S. embassies and ambassadorial residences abroad.

Mrs. Clinton's devotion to the cause has been unwavering during her years as first lady, though it certainly didn't hurt that many in the high-powered (though staunchly bipartisan) group were leading figures on the New York art, fashion and philanthropy scene. If she wins in November, she likely will be seeing a lot more of FAPE Chairman Jo Carole Lauder (wife of cosmetics tycoon Ronald Lauder), Harpers Bazaar Editor Katherine Betts, financier John Whitehead and various other uberdonors and activists, including Ann Gund, William H. and Wendy Luers, Robin Chandler Duke and Carol Swanson Price.

Not to forget the prominent artists who have made donations of limited-edition original prints for display on embassy buildings' walls worldwide: Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and this year's donor, James Rosenquist, who stood by proudly as Mrs. Clinton unveiled his spectacular seven-color lithograph, "The Stars and Stripes at the Speed of Light."

The ceremony in the East Room was marked by mutual expressions of appreciation and glad-handing (albeit with very well-manicured nails) by FAPE's founding chairman, Leonore Annenberg, who thanked Mrs. Clinton for her contributions; Mrs. Lauder (praising her committee members' work); and Mrs. Clinton, lauding Mrs. Duke for organizing FAPE's "Millennium Gift to the Nation" of 200 additional works of art.

Likening her role to that of a "traveling salesman," Mrs. Duke (who recently was nominated by the Clinton administration as the next ambassador to Norway) enumerated many of the objects she and her committee acquired from around the nation to put the United States' "cultural foot forward" throughout the world. It is, she said, a goal that is just as important as "showing our faces strong and big" in an economic and military sense.

Gifts include American Indian and Eskimo art, Gullah baskets from South Carolina, North Carolina glass and Appalachian quilts along with major works by John Sloan, John Singleton Copley and Andy Warhol (though no one was discussing what impact the latter's "Hamburger" conceivably might have on foreign perceptions of American culture).

A $1 million donation by Janice Levin, the widow of a New York real estate tycoon, also was recognized. Her gift will enable FAPE to renovate and maintain the gardens of Winfield House, the residence of the U.S. ambassador in London, and to purchase as its centerpiece sculpture a work by Elie Nadelman, titled "Seated Woman With Raised Arm."

Following the White House reception, guests were transported by bus or limousine to the State Department for another hour of cocktails and then dinner in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. It was a very long day, indeed, for those who had been on the go since lunch (hosted by British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer and Lady Meyer at their residence).

Ann Jordan, Nancy Ruwe, Dorothy and Leonard Marks, Lee Kimche McGrath and other FAPE stalwarts joined keynote speaker Sharon Percy Rockefeller among prominent locals dining on crab timbale, guinea hen and lemon mousse cake as a military strolling-strings ensemble circulated the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room playing jaunty musical-theater favorites. Many were heard to comment favorably on the presence of the sleek junior committee guests, most of whom came down from Manhattan that day at the behest of Mr. and Mrs. Lauder's two daughters, Jane Lauder and Aerin Lauder Zinterhoefer. Privileges of membership include all the benefits of the older donors (at a substantial reduction in the $2,500 annual fee) plus a few snazzy extras thrown in.

This year's inducement came courtesy of Karenna Gore Schiff, who came through with a special event for her pals breakfast at the home of her parents, Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore before they all flew back to New York the following day.

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