Summer Treks and Arts Flashes

by Editorial


African art collector and noted bachelor Warren Robbins has finally taken the Big Step. His newest acquisition, bride Lydia Puccinelli, worked with him back when he housed a ground-breaking exhibition of 80 objects, loaned by others as well as himself, in the historic Frederick Douglass family homes. Warren later donated the buildings, plus nine other row houses and 12 garages to the Smithsonian Institution, thereby funding the nucleus of that institution’s National Museum of African Art, where he is Director Emeritus. The Robbins Cross-Cultural Center, which he founded because of the sensitive state of race relations, sponsors traveling exhibits of African art. At present, his own eclectic assemblage of objects is in the Robbins’ handsome home, two conjoined Capitol Hill townhouses. The Washington elite and other notables have been drawn to Warren’s salons over the years, and many remember meeting authors like Saul Bellow or public figures like Hubert Humphrey amid other politicos and artists gathered there.


At the annual reception hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Marcee Craighill debuted as the director and curator of the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, where the vice-president, secretary of state and other Cabinet members receive and fete U.S. and international dignitaries. These sumptuous spaces hold fine 18th- and 19th-century American furniture and decorative art, but they once were a brown-carpeted hodge-podge of forgettable furnishings until the first director, Clement Conger, (the “Grand Acquisitor”), began arm-twisting for donations. His successor, Gail Serfaty, who recently retired after working a total of 42 years there, continued acquiring furnishings and the funds to buy them from a nationwide donor base, public-spirited givers whom the annual reception honors. Among this year’s yield: from Maryland, the Robert Turners gave a “plowshare” paperweight, one of several presented to signers of various treaties by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan; and from the Leonard Silversteins, a fine Chippendale Pembroke table. Washington hostess and Democratic Party activist Esther Coopersmith gave a colored aquatint, “Benjamin Franklin at the Court of France, 1778.” The Richard Milburns of Vienna, Va., funded “Great Falls of the Potomac,” an engraving after George Beck’s painting, which once hung in George Washington’s Mount Vernon dining room. Additional longtime supporters seen at the reception were Toledo, Ohio’s Sandra Alexander, joined by her son Brad, from polo capital Wellington, Fla. (where he had his own string of polo ponies when he was 21); John Gleiber, Ruth Buchanan and John Peters Irelan.

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