Around Town: Pop-up Power and Diamonds

by Editorial

Washington Project for the Arts goes to the bank; the Hope Diamond stars in a novel
By Donna Shor

Roderick and Alexia von Lipsey with Fernando Batista at a special event for Washington Project for the Arts. (Photo by Christopher Cunetto)


Jean-Michel Ross, here to address Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) members, is a Canadian artist, collector and exhibition curator with impressive credits. He could also pass as a varsity jock able to score a basket or win a marathon. His videos and witty commentary on what it takes to curate an exhibition show that he needs all the speed and stamina he can muster.

Pictures don’t just randomly hang themselves. A curator’s decisions, he pointed out, are based on aesthetic considerations and philosophical choices. Ross also believes strongly in collaborative interaction with the artists.

He’s doing a stint as artist-in-residence at Brooklyn’s ISCP (International Studio and Curatorial Program), which is partnering with WPA in a lecture series with InfoEx.

Last year, to encourage cultural dialogue, Ross began Free Pass, an online magazine in English and Spanish, with a French edition in the works. He asked the WPA crowd to submit art news and critiques, and brought “add your own photo” press passes for the takers.

“Since I arrived at ISPC I’ve started two new businesses,” he said, going on to speak of pop-up art galleries which have emerged despite a real estate recession, with property owners allowing artist’s shows in their empty spaces. He’s even designed a portable block-like sign identifying the temporary gallery.

Seen: WPA chair Fred Ognibene, a collector with over 250 pieces of art; artist Patricia Goslee; performance artist Andrea Collins; Fernando Batista, a connector in the arts and in investments; Jose Ortiz, director of Arlington’s Artisphere; Andrea Pollan of Curator’s Office and New York-based artist Jose Vargas Suarez.

Supporter Roderick von Lipsey, private wealth managing director at UBS Financial Services, arranged for the program and buffet dinner at his firm’s handsome K Street headquarters.

Von Lipsey, who modestly said he’s just beginning as a collector, has an amazing history. A much-decorated Marine lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp to Gen. Colin Powell, he was one of Time magazine’s heralded “Fifty for the Future” and a fellow at both the White House and the Council on Foreign Relations. As a Marine captain he led a daring flight into East Iraq during Desert Storm and safely brought all 35 planes back. For this act, among the dozen top service awards he earned, he shares the Distinguished Flying Cross with Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.


We’ve told how mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean offered the Hope Diamond to her son John’s bride, only to have the superstitious girl turn it down. Brownie McLean, one of Palm Beach’s best-known doyennes for more than 50 years, has said she was “spooked,” because it “glowed” when she approached it. The stone, now safely at the Smithsonian, was rumored to carry an ancient curse.

Now Stephen Strickland of the United Nations Foundation, who sidelines as a book publisher, has brought out a thriller that by coincidence may explain that glow.

“Hope Not Lost” by Jonathan Kelly (Whodunit Press), spins a tale of the fictional theft of the famous gem. The hero proves it has been replaced by a fake when he exposes it to radiation, then turns off the light, knowing that a true blue diamond will, by phosphorescence, emit an orange-reddish light.There’s no glow.

He’s proved his point, now he has to go through hair-raising adventures to get the gem back. And it looks as if he has proven Brownie’s, too.

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