Byline: Aileen Mehle
The Biennale des Antiquaires at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris opened with eclat, elan and elegance, comme d’habitude. So French. So formidable. Some people think it is the most glamorous art and antiques fair in the world.
First, there was an absolutely beautiful gala dinner hosted by Mme. Jacques Chirac in the very aisles of the show, fabulously orchestrated by Potel & Chabot, Paris’s top caterers. The evening benefited the charity near and dear to Mme. Chirac’s coeur, Le Fondation Hopitaux de Paris. This time around, the Carrousel du Louvre was transformed by the great Belgian designer Christopher Decarpentrie, who created a sweeping entranceway of white triumphal arches which led into the exhibition space where 122 art and antiques dealers took their places. The color scheme Decarpentrie chose for the interior was based on a theme representing the continents, don’t ask me why. A deep wine red symbolized Europe; a mix of beige and yellow represented North America (for our cotton and corn, how quaint); tobacco hues for Latin America, and coffee and chocolate colors for Africa. In a tribute to our great President Thomas Jefferson, there was a Galerie Jefferson, an imposing white and gray structure with hanging balconies. Jefferson, of course, was America’s great Francophile. When he returned to Virginia after his five-year stay in France, he shipped back 70 cartons of Paris-bought furniture. Quel chic!
The Vernissage took place the second evening. Naturally, the main reason terminally monied people come to the Biennale, excluding those who just want to be seen and show off, is to see the goods. This year there was a plethora of sights — more than 7,000 works from Sumerian archeological objects to Fifties furniture, all polished and ready to go. All the great French dealers were there including Bernard Steinitz and Olivier Watelet, showing furniture by Jacques Quinet, who designed les meubles for General Dwight Eisenhower’s house near Paris in 1947. Two prominent American dealers, New York’s Ariadne Galleries and Berry-Hill Galleries, were there, too.
Roaming the aisles were such swells as Princess Caroline of Monaco with her dear friend and decorator, the famous Jacques Grange; Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran; Helene and Michel David-Weill; Deeda Blair of Washington; Carey Lowell, without Richard Gere but with her decorator, Sharon Simonaire; M. and Mme. Bernard Arnault; Maryll and Bernard Lanvin; Baron and Baroness Gerard de Waldner; Pierre Berge; Francois Catroux; Alberto Pinto; Princess Ira von Furstenberg; Lee Radziwill; Veronica Hearst; Baroness Philippine de Rothschild; Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis, comme ca.
You should know that the rich English dinner hosted in London by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent at Kensington Palace for the visiting, preservation-loving group, Venetian Heritage, featured enough clotted cream to clog the arteries forever. And after Princess Michael rose to her feet to declare her love for Venice’s lagoons, in came a staggering dessert mountain, a six-foot platform dripping with Venetian carnival masks. And after that, a few close friends waddled into the splendid Indian tent the Kents had built in their new garden. And after that, perhaps consoling themselves with the thought that if you’re going to pig out it might as well be in a palace, all wandered off to their respective hotels.
On their last night in town, this floating cultural festival continued at a splendid dinner hosted by Lita Livanos, the beautiful wife of Greek shipping heir George Livanos, at the Livanos’s lovely new Mayfair townhouse. It was the group’s farewell to a luxurious tour and opulent parties that drew lagoon-lovers from all over: Dodie and John Rosekrans of San Francisco and Paris (at one of the fancy gatherings she wore Dior’s black taffeta extravaganza); the Dowager Viscountess Rothermere, seen in a short orange dinner dress by Christian Lacroix; Mary McFadden in a gold Mary McFadden; Judy Taubman in Yves Saint Laurent’s gold dinner suit, and Lee Thaw in Carolina Herrera’s rose silk dinner dress. Other lovely things along for the social ride included Jackie de Ravenel and Princess Laure de Beauvau-Craon from Paris; Victoria de Rothschild and Lady Margaret Anne Duquesne from London, and Patricia Patterson, Gillian Attfield, Muffie Miller and Deeda Blair from the U.S., and Doda Voridis from Greece. Oh, and various gentlemen who do come in handy from time to time and money to money.
In the interest of fair play, I now report on a fabulous costume party given by another group, Save Venice, Inc., whose worthy mission is also to preserve and restore the various historic buildings and treasures of that fabled city. Here we go: Elton John wore a black feather mask and plenty of diamonds. The 40 waiters all wore gold and white lame coats, powdered wigs and tricorner hats. Mezzo-soprano Kim Wheeler trilled various arias by Verdi while members of the Pasadena Dance Theater did what they do best, and models loaded with jewels by the underwriter Piranesi glittered like anything. It was all for the good work of Save Venice’s newly-formed California chapter, founded by Terry Stanfill, another dedicated lagoon-lover.
Now, take your average 120-foot-long dinner table set in the middle of a rose garden in full bloom, cover it with red-orange cloths and a gold mesh overlay, light it with 14 four-foot-tall, eight-branched gold and crystal candelabra designed by the wizard of decor, the late Tony Duquette, and seat 130 costumed guests ranging from the above Elton to Undersecretary of the United Nations Joseph Connor and Mrs. Connor and you have to get the picture.
The hosts were Thomas Schumacher, a prominent young Disney executive, and Matthew White, the interior designer, and it all took place at their so-beautiful Italianate “Villa delle Favole” in Pasadena. Among the guests were Julie Taymor of Disney’s “The Lion King” fame, who had dressed Thomas Schumacher as the Lion King himself; Terry and Dennis Stanfill (Terry wore a coral tiara designed for her by Tony Duquette); Saundra Whitney and Paul Wallace of New York; New York interior designer Bunny Williams; underwriter John Landrum Bryant of New York; John Loring of the New York Tiffany Lorings, and a supporting cast too “favoloso” to imagine, all decked out in Venetian carnival attire that only Hollywood could be held responsible for.