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Savoring the Pushkin's art

SOCIAL CLIMES

August 03, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

Inspired by a work of Matisse, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had partygoers feeling like they'd stepped into a masterpiece at the preview gala for "Old Masters, Impressionists and Moderns: French Masterworks From the State Pushkin Museum, Moscow." Silk cloths the color of the shocking orange creatures in the French Impressionist's "Goldfish" topped cocktail tables in the central court. And pedestals crowned with clear bubble bowls -- replete with wiggling goldfish -- dotted the plaza.

It was a clever kickoff for one of L.A.'s smartest summer socials, with the opportunity -- at $2,500 per person -- to preview a showcase of 75 breathtaking artworks, 52 of which were making their first visit to the United States. "I'm in awe," said Paramount head Sherry Lansing, a study in bronze bugle beads, as she approached a gallery hung with works by Picasso, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh. "It's a thrill to be here with so few people looking at these paintings."

After spotting what chief museum curator Patrice Marandel called the exhibit's "most famous" work, Matisse's cobalt and red "Nasturtiums and the Dance," museum donor Luanne Wells called out to Lansing: "Let's savor!" How do you savor a painting? "You see it, hold it in your mind, wait awhile, then see it again -- so you really enjoy it," she said.

After a tour of the exhibit, sponsored by Altria Group Inc., about 80 guests at the July 23 benefit -- which raised more than $100,000 for future museum exhibitions -- gathered in the courtyard for an alfresco dinner featuring rack of lamb flavored with herbes de Provence, and strawberry, lemon and pistachio tarts.

"Once in a generation, if not once in a lifetime, there is an exhibit like this," museum President Andrea Rich told the crowd. Speaking through an interpreter, Pushkin Museum Director Irina Antonova said it was only a "few years ago" that Russians "learned the word 'sponsor.' ... Such a thing could not have been done without Altria."

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