On The Avenue

Arming the Arts

by Debbie Bancroft Photographed by Tiffany Bri/BFA.com
Friday, September 28, 2018
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The Park Avenue Armory, as an edifice, represents a piece of New York’s military architectural and social history. It was the home to the National Guard’s prestigious Seventh Regiment—the first militia to respond to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers in 1861. The regiments members, including Rensselaers, Roosevelts and Harrimans, often hired the Armory’s designers, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White and others for their own city and country palaces of the Gilded Age.


It was fitting then, that some of these newly restored rooms hosted the descendants and reasonable facsimiles for the inaugural Armory Luncheon series, introducing today’s arts patrons to the remarkable talent the Armory houses and presents. The New York Times called The Armory “the most important new cultural institution in New York City.”


At the lunch, organized by Board member Hèlène Comfort and Nathalie Kaplan, we heard from the Armory’s dynamic President, Rebecca Robertson who told us funds raised would go toward providing “creative, unconventional education for public school students, enabling them to perform with visiting artists like Kenneth Branaugh, Marina Abramovic and Cate Blanchett” and much more.


Clearly, one of the Armory’s most accomplished artists, dance pioneer Reggie (Regg Rock) Gray, told us his first experience there, working with Peter Sellars, was ‘a dream come true,’ and that the Armory is not just an arts institution, “it’s a home.” His dance troupe the D.R.E.A.M. team led us from the magnificent Veterans Hall, into their performance space in the Board of Officers room. We experienced mild terror as they beckoned us personally, thinking we might have to dance along in their signature style, which includes pausing, snapping, animation and most daunting, contortion. We remained seated, awed and inspired.


Hosts were Hèlène, Tania Higgins, Sharon Jacob, Simone Levinson, Christine Mack, Betsy Pitts, Christine Hearst Schwarzman and Sarah Zilkha, and their guests included: Julia Koch, Carol Mack, Renèe Rockefeller, Gabrielle Bacon, Alexandrè de Grece, Sylvana Durret, Kathryn Murdoch, Shirin von Wulffen and Lauren DuPont.


Brunnello Cucinelli presented and made our hearts skip a beat when we saw their gift bags on our seats—a lovely home fragrance set.


There are two more lunches planned, a major renovation by Herzog de Meuron in the works, and, among many other offerings, an exciting new production of Sam Mendes’s The Lehman Trilogy, about the rise and fall of the Lehman family, from London’s National Theater, predicted to sell out as soon as the box office opens.


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