- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

How many dinners for retiring Smithsonian museum directors boast dramatically floodlighted tents filled with exotic flowers, 10-piece rock bands with vamping backup singers, a hilarious video testimonial courtesy of Arnold Schwarzenegger (who wouldn't have known the guest of honor from a J. Seward Johnson sculpture) and two internationally renowned artists cavorting in a fountain after the dessert and coffee?
The capital's often rather staid culture scene may never be the same after the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's benefit honoring James Demetrion Tuesday night. Credit gallery Chairman Robert Lehrman for the planning chutzpah that amused a galaxy of glitterati from both near and far, including artists Frank Stella, Mark di Suvero, Christo and Jean-Claude, Willem de Looper, Sam Gilliam, Martin Puryear, Sean Scully and William Christenberry; collectors Agnes Gund and Barney Ebsworth; New York dealer Larry Gagosian; and such arts-minded philanthropists as Bill Paley, Lloyd Cutler and Polly Kraft, Lucky Roosevelt, Leo and Grega Daly and Marc and Jacqueline Leland.
There was, of course, a time to be serious as well. After drinks, a tour of the gallery's new Juan Munoz retrospective and dinner under the stars (the tents had clear plastic windows), guests listened attentively as Mr. Demetrion's many accomplishments at the Hirshhorn's helm were lauded.
"In 17 years, he has become not just a model director, but a museum's defining personality," said National Gallery of Art Director Earl A. "Rusty" Powell III, praising his colleague's success in transforming donor Joseph Hirshhorn's immense and eclectic collection into one of the world's finest repositories of modern and contemporary art.
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small cited the honoree's "two incredible skills a very discerning eye and an educator's instinct" along with his ability to unite "those who love the fine arts and those who create them" in the museum's behalf.
The response was characteristically brief and to the point. If there was a "secret to his success," Mr. Demetrion told fans, it had to be "keeping the 12 trustees who hate your guts away from the 13 who are undecided."
Cut to the applause and ovations, and oh, yes, that little fountain denouement when Mr. di Suvero, on crutches, pulled the (somewhat reluctant) Mr. Stella into knee-high waters for a brief romp.
One final splash for "Mr. D."

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