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RSVP : An Evening of All Things Asian


On Saturday evening, for once, the elaborate gilding and murals in the Biltmore's Crystal room didn't outshine the crowd. Many of the women and several of the men attending the Festival of the Autumn Moon benefit for the Pacific Asia Museum were bedecked in Oriental splendor.

"I only get to wear this about three hours a year," said Everett Palmer as he pointed out the five-clawed dragon woven amid the silver and gold threads of his Chinese robe.

"It really shouldn't be worn at all. It's too good," added Palmer, whose wife Peg is one of the museum's founders. "We assume this must have been given to the missionary by someone pretty important," he said, explaining that he had bought the garment from a missionary family.

Equally eye-catching was Peter Adams, whose wife Elaine was event chairwoman. His shaggy red Tibetan hat, earrings from Afghanistan, coat from Thailand and Indian shoes were all bought on his travels.

Reaction to the art treasures in the silent and fine art auctions was enthusiastic. "You're getting this really cheap," said the museum's Executive Director David Kamansky to urge on the bidders.

Under the direction of Lisa Hubbard, who had flown in from Sotheby's Hong Kong branch for the occasion, several items went for more than estimated. $1,800 was bid for a Burmese bronze Buddha and $4,200 for a Cartier-carved emerald pendant.

But, in general, the fund-raising evening provided an opportunity for guests to add to their collections at bargain prices while benefiting the museum's education and outreach programs.

Festival sponsor Richard Kelton added to his trove of Canton blue and white export ware with the purchase of a bowl and tray, circa 1840.

Kelton--whose hobby is to sail parties of anthropologists and scientists to remote islands on his yacht--first became involved with the museum through his interest in the journeys of South Seas explorer Captain James Cook.

"I attended a good high school," said Kelton, "but I only remember one course about Asian history. Sadly, we don't learn much about China, Japan or the cultures of Pacific Asia here. That's why I feel the museum's outreach programs to the schools are so important."

The exotic menu included Oriental-style smoked salmon salad, duck and a sweet cream custard wih guava sauce. Guests took home the table favors, moon cakes from the Kien Giang Bakery in blue and white china bowls.

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