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When Fine Food and Fine Art Intersect

September 30, 1996|BETTY GOODWIN and BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Patrons of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art took nourishment both from and with art Thursday when LACMA began a two-night series of 50 fund-raising dinners. Most were held in private homes, but supporters also dined in corporate dining rooms, on a yacht and at an animation studio. All the locales were rubber chicken-free zones--rare in the world of fund-raisers.

In all, about 1,000 people paid $150 or $500 per ticket, more to get their first choice. They listed their top six picks from a list of 50, and assignments were made on a first-come, first-served basis. Since each host was responsible for paying for his or her own affair, "all the museum paid for is postage," event chairwoman Adrienne Horwitch said.

Actually, price was no object. Only one dinner, hosted by Mayor Richard Riordan and Nancy Daly at Riordan's Brentwood home with Wolfgang Puck manning the kitchen, cost $1,000 per head, and it was the most popular choice, Horwitch said.

The $225,000 netted by the benefit will fund acquisition of portable CD-ROM gallery guides for museum visitors. "Everybody has to eat," said board of trustees president William Mingst, "and every museum has to raise money. This is a fun, creative way to do it."

Mingst was speaking during cocktails Thursday in the living room of Argentine Ambassador Luis Riccheri's Hancock Park home. The diplomat hosted 16 guests for the cause. For a dinner of filet mignon, two white-clothed tables were outside beneath a poolside trellis. A jungle of palms, begonias and azaleas blossomed nearby.

"We want this to be like a typical night in Buenos Aires," the ambassador's wife, Beatriz, said, "informal but elegant, warm but sophisticated."

As the ambassador's guests dined, 40 guests at another LACMA dinner had just finished their tour of the art collection on the 51st floor of Bank of America's Southern California headquarters in downtown L.A..

BofA owns roughly 16,000 pieces of art. About 60 are on the 51st floor, where high-ranking executives have their offices. Among them: Lichtensteins, Warhols, Harings and Mapplethorpes--all of the latter Cincinnati Museum safe.

Though the quality of the collection is stunning, many of the guests seemed equally impressed by the bank's boardroom table. It is 50 by 14 feet, made from wood and weighs almost four tons. One woman compared its size to her house. The fact that the table is soon to be replaced and will have to be cut into pieces to be removed from the building seemed to affect guests more than the art.

Dinner was served one story down at the Floor Fifty restaurant in what had once been the corporate dining room. Here there was a ravioli appetizer and more filet mignon.

Jeremy Fair, LACMA trustee and BofA group executive vice president, hosted the dinner and began his remarks by saying, "The rest of the bank doesn't necessarily live this way."

On Friday night, during cocktails, a guest parked her rhinestone Judith Leiber bag next to a bust of Queen Nefertiti, circa 1500 B.C., from King Farouk's collection, now from Dona and Dwight Kendall's collection. If the Kendalls minded, they didn't say.

For the museum, the couple opened their Bel-Air home to 30 guests. With a $500 ticket, the Kendall soiree promised in print, ". . . You may suddenly feel you are in France." And it delivered.

As everyone sat down to dinner prepared by Patina and served with French wines, sliding doors opened to reveal a mural of the garden at the Kendalls' estate in Chantilly.

Meanwhile, over at Jane Glassman's Hollywood Hills home, a 30-person singles party was underway. ("Where in Los Angeles can you meet some interesting people who love art and happen to be single?" read the invitation.)

It was so successful, "we could have given it twice," Horwitch said. Indeed, two women each paid $1,000 (the cost of guaranteeing you would get your first choice of parties). To extend the mingling process, the hostess put off serving the buffet donated by Chin Chin until about 10 p.m.

"We actually went out 20 years ago," one man told a woman he just met.

"No way," the woman said.

"I want to hear this story," said an onlooker.

Also Friday evening, Jane and Stephen Ackerman's Studio City ranch house was the perfect setting for an Americana-themed evening with artist Jane Wooster Scott. The dinner for 20 featured crab cakes, chops and apple pie and was served on quilts.

Stephen led the proceedings. "Let's toast the Los Angeles County Museum," he said.

"We went to another dinner last night," offered Patricia Schroer."It was at a 15th-floor penthouse, and we watched the eclipse on the wraparound terrace. These dinners are all just out of this world."

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