- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Abreath of spring blew into Washington at the stately Corcoran Gallery of Art Friday night.

Of Washington’s many social events, the annual Corcoran Ball is surely the most visually spectacular. Despite limited gallery space due to preparations for the “Modernism” show opening on March 17, guests marveled at the always astonishing scene created by noted floral designer Jack Lucky with the help of the Corcoran Women’s Committee.

Ballgoers were bombarded by the modernism theme as soon as they entered. Pale turquoise hues dominated in the Atrium, with the main staircase lined with reproductions of a 1918 Gerrit Rietveld chair. There was pussy willow galore and white flowers to die for — white amaryllis without the long stalks (who would have guessed?) — with Plexiglas chairs surrounding the organza-bedecked tables as an especially appropriate touch.

Brushed aluminum walls — also in keeping with the modernist theme — served as a spectacular background for black and white tablecloths laid under polished pewter chargers with glasses set on a diagonal plane (which had a few guests wondering if they’d had one too many). Centerpieces were conversation-friendly pedestals with red tulips and roses.

In the Salon D’Ore, stacked masterpieces by Reynolds, Turner, Gainsborough and Constable provided a jaw-dropping backdrop for mimosa trees, roses and orchids topping the tables. Ditto in the Mantel Room, where Gobelin tapestries complemented rust covered chairs, flowered tablecloths and multicolored rust roses. Yet another gallery boasted “jungle” decor with palms, pineapples, bromeliads and rattan chairs.

The splendor proved a trifle overwhelming for a few of the guests up on the Bridge, where Everett “Kip” Johnson was spotted jauntily relocating banks of forsythia from the purple damasked tables in order to chin-wag with VIP journo David Gregory.

The Otto Ruesch Conference Room, dedicated to the late Corcoran board chairman (and husband of current chair Jeanne Ruesch), was the site of the pre-dinner reception for top donors. In his adjoining office, Corcoran Director Paul Greenhalgh was spotted proudly showing off a few favorite works by Corot and David Smith and a small, circa 440 B.C., Greek statue. Taking time to discuss the Elgin Marbles with collector/arts attorney Richard Newman and his wife, Janice, Mr. Greenhalgh was heard expounding on the gallery’s renovation plans (some of the columns have already been cleaned and gold leaf repainted above the rotunda) and the upcoming modernism exhibit — the largest ever staged in the United States, if not the world.

Following a delicious crab and green tomato napoleon and filet so mignon it could be cut with a fork, longtime Corcoran benefactor Evelyn Nef was first on the dance floor, followed by Corinne Bensahel (in glittering white Dominique Sirop couture) dancing with Dr. Thome Nicocelli.

Guests, a healthy mix of the Washington social and business glitterati and their offspring, got it right fashion-wise, although a few short frocks and velvet slacks were in evidence at one of the few remaining black-tie events where long dresses are de rigueur. Seated at one especially glamorous table were Aniko Gaal Schott in a brown tulle by Roberto Cavalli, Sedi Flugelman in Christian Lacroix, Nini Ferguson in Hermes, and Junita Duggan in Evelina Galli. Among the younger set, model Katie Rost stood out in her perfect black and white printed high-waisted chiffon strapless Marchese, as did Samantha Waterman in BCBG, Lindsay Angerholzer in Vera Wang and Margaret Pickron in Carolina Herrera.

Ball chairwoman Melissa Keshishian said she expected the event to raise $500,000 from the 1,000-plus who attended, with proceeds benefiting both the gallery and its College of Art and Design.

The honorary patrons, British Ambassador Sir David and Lady Manning, were unable to attend, although the guests comprised an eclectic mix of old and new arts supporters, including Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov and wife Svetlana (seen sipping Dom Perignon with Judith Terra, resplendent in a silvery Christian La Croix), Argentine Ambassador Jose Octavio Bordon, developer John T. “Til” Hazel, Bernard and Jane Carl, Bitsey Folger, Albert and Madzy Beveridge, Lolo Sarnoff, Philip and Nina Pillsbury, Franco Nuschese, Vicki and Roger Sant, Philip and Melanne Verveer, Jim Kimsey, D.C. council member David Catania and Women’s Committee Chairman Laura Coughlin.

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