The US Ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, started three days of an American-French arts alliance celebration with a heady question: “Can art help you live?” He didn’t answer his question, but if he had asked me I would have said that art may not make you live longer, but it certainly makes life better. That’s why I traveled to Paris last weekend, along with a hodge podge of other Americans, mainly from Texas, mainly with big hair and big diamonds, for the ‘Liaisons au Louvre.’ Becca Cason Thrash is a force to be reckoned with. She has single-handledly made this event a powerhouse of arts fundraising. This year, the third installment, festivities lasted three days and included a dinner at the US Embassy; a private tour of the Palais du Luxembourg, where the French Senate meets; a tour of the Louvre when the museum is closed to the public; and then a gala dinner. Oh yea, and a performance from the legendary Diana Ross. Thrash, along with her friend Kip Forbes, have raised millions of dollars for the Louvre. And seemed to have fun doing it.
The first night’s inaugural dinner was held at the private residence of the Ambassador, and it made me feel super nationalistic and proud to be an American. (Feeling chic as an American is hard in this town.) Two long banquette tables with simple white and silver tablescaping decorated an evening which was catered by the Ritz Paris. Just because the hotel is closed for renovations doesn’t mean the chefs can’t ship up something special, apparently. The second night was feted with a dinner in the Palais du Luxembourg after a tour of the French Senate. The Senate was marvelous, gilded and divine. Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes smiled that it was camp in the best way possible. Dinner ended with table hopping requests from The Gypsy Queens.
The third and final day was the most decadent. It started with a morning tour of the Louvre on a day when it’s normally closed. That means we had the entire museum to ourselves, which was great. It also meant that they were running fire alarms and evacuation drills, which was amusing because know I know how to say, ‘Please calmly and evacuate the museum’ in about eight different languages. Aesthetic highlights for me were the two modernist ceilings, one by George Braques and installed in 2002, and the other by Cy Twombly, the most recent addition to the museum, which was installed in 2010. It’s an uncommon work for Twombly, full of planets and celestial shapes and not a single squiggly line. We also spent some time taking in the Islamic wing of the museum, recently opened in 2012. The Islamic artifacts were splendid, but I was more inspired by the gallery itself. It was half submerged under the museum, and topped by a roof of waving gold, a triumph from the architect Rudy Ricciotti.
Dinner that night was the finale of the Liaisons, a black-tie dinner in one of the halls of the Louvre. My favorite dresses: Bianca Brandolini’s lace-ed and rosette-ed Alto Moda couture and Milla Jovovich’s shimmering Saint Laurent column dress, the latter of which weighed, oh, about 60 pounds. Following dinner, there was a live auction, officiated by Becca, of course. Becca wore Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, but don’t be fooled by a lady in a fancy dress: she is ballsy and aggressive and fabulous. She knew every single bidder and would drop bon mots on the audience like, ‘Oh, it’s only money, who will give me another few thousand?’ I love ‘em from Texas. After she raided her hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Louvre, another diva took the stage: Diana Ross. Bianca, Milla, Giambattista Valli and Hamish Bowles all charged the stage – video proof included below – for a still fabulous performance from Ms. Ross. (She even gave us a little “I Will Survive.”) Her ensemble was my favorite: All Ross, all the time. Big wig, bedazzled red dress and a gilded platform. I loved it so much, I think I may have found my Halloween costume.