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Scene Last Night: Jillian Sackler, Keith Banks, Winter Antiques

A tomb figure in the home of Susan and Michael Pillsbury. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
A tomb figure in the home of Susan and Michael Pillsbury. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

    Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- In Washington last night, two tomb figures from the Tang dynasty watched over guests in a Georgetown townhouse as the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery kicked off its 25th-anniversary year.

C. Boyden Gray, a former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, chatted with Chinese storyteller Linda Fang. Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki, showed off a white rubber bracelet thanking the U.S. for its aid after last year’s earthquakes.

“I pop into the Sackler in between my meetings on the hill,” said Singapore’s ambassador to the U.S., Chan Heng Chee, on her way to a dinner she was hosting.

Also at the party were Kit Luce of the Luce Foundation; David Solo, a Citigroup managing director; Sameh Alfonse, congressional and media affairs counselor at the League of Arab States; Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, former U.S. chief of protocol; and Togo West, a former secretary of veterans affairs.

The guest of honor was New Yorker Jillian Sackler, the widow of Arthur M. Sackler, whose Asian art collection and donation founded the gallery on the National Mall in 1987 as a Smithsonian museum. Earlier this month she announced a $5 million gift to the museum.

“My husband was a scientist, and he collected like a scientist,” Sackler said. “He liked to have a large body of work to be studied.”

Iranian Silver

Among the treasures Sackler donated: Chinese jades and Iranian silver. An exhibition of the latter goes on view Feb. 4.

Midway through the party came remarks, at a microphone next to the living-room fireplace. Julian Raby, the director of the Sackler and of the Freer Gallery of Art, previewed the year’s schedule.

“We will have a Japanese spring, an Indian summer and an Arabian autumn,” Raby said. Some particulars: Hokusai goes on view in March, paintings from the workshops of Mughal emperors in July. In October the museum presents ancient artifacts excavated in modern-day Saudi Arabia, based on a show organized by the Louvre and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

The hosts of the party were Susan and Michael Pillsbury.

“She’s a royal ballerina, I’m a longtime Defense Department official,” Michael Pillsbury said before showing off a wall of photographs of the couple -- with Huli Wigmen in New Guinea, on safari in Tanzania, among others.

Before guests could hit the sushi in the kitchen -- or take off to watch the Republican debates -- there was talk of the Sackler’s 25th-anniversary gala on Nov. 29. Tables are $25,000.

“We’ll have maharajas and majesties and imperial highnesses,” said Ann Nitze, one of the chairmen of the gala. “Madhur Jaffrey, the chef, is coming. There’s a Malaysian chef who’s dying to come, too. Her husband, happily, is a partner at Goldman Sachs.”

Winter Antiques

In New York, at the Park Avenue Armory, the Winter Antiques Show opened with a gala preview benefiting the East Side House Settlement.

“I haven’t made the rounds yet, I’m trying to be a good host,” said Keith T. Banks, the event’s chairman and president of U.S. Trust, the New York-based private wealth management unit of Bank of America Corp. “I hear there are a lot of good things and I hope people will buy.”

Three sculptures by Calder -- from 1950, 1954 and 1960 -- were on sale for more than $2 million at the booth of Jonathan Boos, and sold for an undisclosed amount. The seller inherited the sculptures from her mother, who received them from the artist in appreciation of her care of his mother, Boos said.

Other items on view: A Dominican hymnal priced at $500,000, and an orange-and-black art deco carpet by Ivan da Silva Bruhns, which belonged to the maharajah of Indores. Eddie Keshishian of Keshishian Carpets was offering the carpet for $1.6 million.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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