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ANN CONWAY

Art Museum Wines, Dines But Doesn't Disclose

May 25, 1999|ANN CONWAY

Using its benefit as both money-maker and marketing tool, the Orange County Museum of Art staged its annual Art of Dining on Sunday in two locales: the museum and the nearby Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach.

Net proceeds: $650,000 for museum art exhibits and education programs.

No longer satisfied to stash guests behind the closed doors of a hotel ballroom, party planners are choosing to directly expose them to the organizations they support.

The Orange County Performing Arts Center launched the trend three years ago when it began showcasing its annual Candlelight Concert gala onstage in Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa.

The Pacific Symphony hopped on the bandwagon last week when it staged its annual Symphony of Jewels gala under a tent on the site of its future home--the Orange County Performing Arts Center's new concert hall.

And the 400 guests at the champagne reception in the modern art museum at Fashion Island on Sunday were encouraged to cruise its art exhibits before being shuttled to the Four Seasons Hotel for a sumptuous five-course repast.

Though the elegantly clad museum supporters were tickled to enjoy an on-site reception, the unspoken question was: What will be the permanent site of the museum?

The museum has long hoped to move to a larger and more central location, and expand its artistic and educational programs.

"We're very actively working on our options," museum chairman Charles D. Martin said. "It isn't likely that we will remain here." One option under consideration: The parcel of land next to the center that will be partly crowned with the new concert hall.

Another: A land parcel in the area of the museum that a well-connected insider says has been "conceptually" offered by Irvine Co. chairman Donald Bren, who has declined to comment.

Four options are being considered, Martin said. "But I would betray confidences if I told you what they all were."

In any case, the museum doesn't plan to stray too far from its roots. "It isn't wise to move too far from the patronage," Martin observed. "On the other hand, we need to achieve connectivity with the broader community of Orange County."

During the reception, museum leaders presented San Francisco-based sculptor Manuel Neri with its Artist of the Year Award.

"Since the '50s, Neri has been the most important sculptor in California working in figurative art," museum curator Bruce Guenther said. "His works--in plaster, bronze and marble--suggest the Greco-Roman tradition. They are female figures filled with tenderness and strength--playful but very serious."

Neri, attending the gala with Mary Julia Klimenko, his muse of 26 years, confided he was "bowled over" by the award. "I'm very proud to receive it," he said.

Said Klimenko, who has collaborated with Neri on books of poetry: "I'm pleased to be part of his work."

Honored with the museum's Philanthropist of the Year Award was Neiman Marcus scion Stanley Marcus, the 94-year-old son of company founder Herbert Marcus.

"When you're dealing with two of my favorite subjects--art and food--it's easy to get me to come," joked Marcus, who came from Dallas for the gala.

Neiman Marcus helped underwrite the benefit, donating the talent of its national design team to create an Oriental fantasy--complete with parasols, screens, fans and ceremonial vases--in the hotel ballroom.

Guests sat at tables topped with sprays of persimmon-colored orchids and dined on fare created by local chefs: garlic flan created by Five Feet owner Michael Kang; black sea bass from Troquet's Tim Goodell; filet mignon by Picayo owner Laurent Brazier; and cheese souffle by Pascal Olhats of Pascal. Sheldon Millet, pastry chef of the Four Seasons, whipped up chocolate-flavored butterflies--inspired by Neiman's logo--for dessert. Hotel chef Michel Pieton was the event's executive chef. Marsha Anderson--outfitted in persimmon chiffon and a tapestry shrug by designer Bob Mackie--was gala chairwoman.

*

Roll Over, Beethoven!: "Aren't you glad you live here?" That was the question Jim Alexiou--board president of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County--asked guests attending Friday's party to celebrate the conclusion of the organization's sold-out Beethoven Festival.

The festival of Beethoven's symphonies was performed last week by the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

"What a night! What a week! What a way to end the season!" Alexiou exclaimed during the festivities at the Center Club in Costa Mesa. "This is a concert heard nowhere else in the United States or anywhere ever. It proves that if you challenge the community with the best, they will respond by being the best."

Schmoozing with orchestra conductor John Eliot Gardiner, guests sampled appetizers, sipped bubbly and raved about the festival that featured all of Beethoven's nine symphonies.

"I did all nine!" rhapsodized Sharon McNalley, co-host with Judith Jelinek of the wrap party.

Observed Dean Corey, executive director of the society: "The one lesson we learned this week is never to compromise. The orchestra has shown us what people can really achieve. And that's quite a lot."

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