Unlike President Barack Obama, whose motorcade shut down New York’s Park Avenue for more than 20 minutes yesterday, Carlos Slim Helu was traveling light last night.
The world’s richest man -- with a net worth of $62.2 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg -- Slim arrived at the Metropolitan Club off Fifth Avenue with a nephew as his only visible escort.
The occasion was the sixth annual Louise Blouin Foundation Awards and Slim received one for his philanthropic activity in the arts, health, education and sports.
Asked to confirm that he has given $4 billion to the Carlos Slim Foundation, he said, “It’s not important. We make programs without limit.”
His $34 million Museo Soumaya in Mexico City, which opened in the spring, displays works by Dali, Picasso and Rodin. About 450,000 people have visited the free-admission museum since it opened six months ago, Slim said.
“Now, we are planning to do something interesting,” said Slim, taking a break from his chocolate cake. “We are going to stay open until 1 a.m.”
Slim was among five honorees at the gala, held as part of the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit in a ballroom with gilded walls and painted ceilings. The others were: conceptual artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov; Nobel Prize laureate for economics Edmund Phelps; and scientist Stephen Wolfram, who created the Mathematica software.
“It’s great to be a leader,” said Phelps during the cocktail reception, where mini spinach cakes and prawns were passed around. “It’s even better to be a creative leader.”
‘In the Doldrums’
He was less elated about the U.S. economy.
“We are in the doldrums,” he said. “We haven’t had a really good decade since the 1960s.”
The summit’s two days of panel discussions, examining various aspects of creativity, innovation and globalization, featured Andy Ozment, director of cyber-security policy at the White House, Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and Barry Bloom, a public-health professor at Harvard.
“It’s really a think tank,” said Louise Blouin, the founder of the summit. “People get invited by pure achievement and integrity. You can’t buy your way in.”
Blouin does most of the inviting, she said. At the party, one of her guests was Picasso’s granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who is a curator and art historian.
Ruling the World
“Everyone is trying to figure out how to rule the world,” said Widmaier-Picasso, clad in a gray Alaia dress. “I don’t think artists should be the rulers of the world.”
A few feet away, innovation in the sphere of domain names sparked a debate among Wolfram, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Massachusetts Institute of Technology business professor Thomas Malone.
“I am completely opposed to it,” said Wales, holding a half-empty champagne flute. If someone wanted to use Wikipedia.sport, “we’d have to defend it or we’d need to buy it.”
“It could become chic,” said Wolfram, who wore a purple tie and sipped water. “I remember when the Web was very young - - ‘http://’ seemed like a very obscure, geeky thing.”
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)