James Cameron, National Geographic, De Borchgrave: D.C.

Evening of Exploration
Film director and explorer James Cameron and Rolex U.S.A. CEO Stewart Wicht. Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Austrian alpinist Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the first woman to climb the world’s 14 8,000-meter peaks without supplementary oxygen, was named National Geographic Society’s “Explorer of the Year” Thursday night.

Jacques Piccard, who in 1960 was one of the two first men (with Don Walsh) to explore the deepest part of the ocean, the Pacific’s Mariana Trench, received the Hubbard Medal posthumously. It was accepted by his son, balloonist Bertrand Piccard, the first person to complete a nonstop, round-the-world balloon flight.

Film director James Cameron, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, became the third person to explore the Mariana Trench, on March 26.

Cameron participated in the program at the society’s headquarters, which included a viewing of “Titanic: 100 Year Obsession,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.

Cameron, director of the blockbuster “Titanic,” and Stewart Wicht, Rolex Watch U.S.A. Inc. chief executive, admired a model of the ship. Both sported Rolex’s Sea-dweller Deepsea. Rolex sponsored Cameron’s recent expedition as well as the event last night.

Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic’s remains in 1985, said his favorite item in the exhibition was a model of the wreckage.

At the party after the awards presentation, bubbles fell from the ceiling and frosty mist rose from the floor.

Chef Barton Seaver studied the meals served on the Titanic to determine his own menu. One of his offerings was Waldorf salad, a preferred dish onboard.


Belgian Ambassador Jan Matthysen was at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Thursday night for the opening of “Pret-a-Papier: The Exquisite Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave.”

De Borchgrave, a Belgian artist, created floral hand fans for the more than 300 guests; June breezes made them unnecessary.

A few fireflies could be seen in the garden during dinner, which included Belgian endive salad, Belgian frites and Belgian chocolate ganache.

Hillwood, the former home of the late heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, opened to the public as a museum in 1977. It houses Russian and French art and boasts a 25-acre landscaped garden.

George Floyd, a partner with Brown Advisory Securities, a major sponsor of the event, said he became a supporter of Hillwood because Ellen Charles, his sister-in-law, is Post’s granddaughter.

Charles sat at de Borchgrave’s and Matthysen’s table, near philanthropist Nina Pillsbury.

After the meal, guests walked through the mansion to look at the exhibition, which features historic dresses and costumes, like those of Empress Josephine, made with papier-mache. Many of the designs were inspired by paintings in the Hillwood collection, such as “Portrait of Countess Samoilova” by Karl Pavlovich Briullov.

“Can it be?” asked Laura Bisogniero, the wife of Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, to no one in particular, while she marveled at a dainty papier-mache tiara, modeled after the countess’s.

The event raised almost $100,000 for Hillwood. The exhibition opens to the public Saturday.

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

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater.

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