The architecture world descended upon Venice last week to help kick off the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, which opened to the general public on Sunday as part of the city’s Biennale. The Arsenale and the Giardini were buzzing with parties at the various national pavilions, including a Friday fete to celebrate “starchitect” Frank Gehry’s Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Several hundred guests joined host William Menking, the commissioner of this year’s U.S. Pavilion, to sip rosé and Prosecco in the courtyard of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. As they mingled, the guest of honor made a grand entrance: He arrived by vaporetto, descending through the main stairs of the museum for all to see.

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

After cocktails, 50 VIPs, including Jean Nouvel, Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, headed to the museum’s roof for a dinner hosted by Guggenheim director Thomas Krens.

“This is one of my last — if not last — events in Venice as director of the Guggenheim,” declared Krens, who revealed in February that he was stepping down after a 20-year tenure, but

will be an adviser to the Abu Dhabi satellite museum. “If it weren’t for Frank and Bilbao, I wouldn’t have survived the Guggenheim.”

“I met Frank for the first time at one of the architecture Biennales in Venice in the Seventies,” remembered Gehry’s old friend Nouvel. “Eighty percent of architecture at that time was either historicist or post-Modern, and in this panorama, your work seemed raw — a rebel attitude already. You were already the lion of Venice,” he told Gehry.

The dinner took a turn for the poignant when Gehry pledged allegiance to his host. “Where Tom Krens wants to go, I will go,” declared Gehry. “It’s complicated, but we’re getting there. Wherever you go, Jean and I will go with you.”

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