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The Art of Dining in Good Company

Notables at the event, staged for the first time to benefit the O.C. Museum of Art, raised $525,000 for exhibitions and education.

May 20, 1997|ANN CONWAY

Hundreds of visual-arts supporters streamed past museum-merger opponents Sunday to attend the 10th annual Art of Dining.

Staged for the first time to benefit the Orange County Museum of Art--formed last year with the merger of the Laguna and Newport Harbor Art museums--the evening netted $525,000 for museum exhibitions and education programs. (Past galas were held in support of the Newport Harbor Art Museum.)

Outside of the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, OCMA protesters waved a banner at arriving guests (boosters of the original Laguna Art Museum, they want their 80-year-old charter and permanent art collection returned). Inside, gala-goers mingled with the likes of art patron David Rockefeller of New York and artist Viola Frey of Oakland, who was honored at the event.

During the champagne reception, Rockefeller--whose mother was a founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York--mingled with guests who included OCMA board chairman Chuck Martin and his wife, gala chairwoman Twyla Reed Martin.

"I'm very glad to be here," said Rockefeller, who represented event underwriter Chase Manhattan Private Bank at the affair. "To have a full-fledged museum of art is wonderful. I have taken a tour [of the museum]. I like the idea of collecting all California art and starting from the beginning. It seems to make a lot of sense. I'm not sure others have done that."

On Saturday, Rockefeller joined the Martins for a reception at the Bel-Air home of Irvine Co. chairman Donald Bren. There, along with other representatives of Chase Manhattan, the group toured Bren's art collection. Later, they dined in a private room at the Regency Club in Los Angeles. "It was very special," Chuck Martin said. "We sat there, all of us at a round table, and discussed the world of art."

A shy Frey said she felt uncomfortable being recognized at such a lavish affair. "I can't object to the food," she said. "I like good food. But being honored is not my thing. There's just so many other good artists out there."

Guests dined on lemon-seared salmon and roast baby rack of veal in a ballroom arrayed with gilt chairs and tables draped with tangerine cloths. Chefs preparing the meal were from Four Seasons hotels around the country.

During the reception, Chuck Martin hinted that OCMA's present facility--housed on the site of the former Newport Harbor Art Museum--may be looking for a new home.

An apartment high-rise has gone up across the street, and it makes sense, Martin said, to assume that a similar high-rise may someday be built on the museum site. After all, "the museum sits on four acres of land," he said.

Where might the museum go? "Some interesting possibilities are being discussed," he said. "But it's too soon to talk about it."

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