It was a party made for culture vultures: cocktails in the foyer of one gallery, a signing ceremony in another and dinner in a third. And for those attending the black-tie gala marking the culmination of three years of negotiations between the British Museum and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, it was a chance to celebrate a new chapter for the Santa Ana institution.
The joint venture will allow the Bowers to exhibit antiquities from the London museum, starting with a show of artifacts from the era of the queen of Sheba and a display of Egyptian mummies beginning in fall 2004. British Museum director Neil MacGregor and Bowers President Peter Keller signed the five-year agreement at the $1,000-a-ticket gala, which was fit for, well, the queen of Sheba.
Seated in a dimly lighted Bowers gallery glittering with a display of rare gems, guests sampled delicacies such as foie gras custard with bacon-shallot ragout, duck breast served over vanilla-apple and duck confit ravioli, and a pyramid of Assam tea-flavored mousse. But not before the formalities of the signing took place, with American and British flags serving as a backdrop. "This project is a result of friendship," MacGregor told about 120 guests, adding that the original idea for setting up the British Museum in 1753 was "revolutionary."