April 18 (Bloomberg) -- “The Rome Prize is a gateway drug, and it is downhill forever after, trying to get back to Rome,” said Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president and chief executive of the American Academy in Rome.
Guests at the academy’s annual gala last night laughed.
The crowd of 480 gathered at the Plaza Hotel around tables stacked with books included architects Robert A.M. Stern, David Childs and Thom Mayne, as well as Roberto Mignone, of Bridger Management LLC and Cary J. Davis, a managing director at Warburg Pincus LLC.
They dined on Scottish salmon tartar, filet mignon and pistachio panna cotta as they pined for the academy, idyllically situated on a hilltop in the center of Rome.
It offers fellowships to architects, writers, artists and scholars. There are gardens, a concert hall and a rare-book room designed by Michael Graves, in a restored McKim, Mead & White building. Alice Waters oversees the kitchen.
The vitality of the place is due largely to Chatfield-Taylor, leader of the academy since December 1988, who is retiring at the end of this year. When she started, her task was to rebuild everything.
She had help from what she called a “buoyant, generous and ever-growing mob.” It includes Barbara Goldsmith, who funded the rare-book room, and Mercedes Bass, chairman of the gala, who went down on her knees to strip wood during renovations at the academy.
“I’m hands-on,” Bass said.
Chatfield-Taylor assembled a dozen fellows to join her on stage to accept a medal of excellence from the academy. Once the red ribbon was placed around her neck, she received a standing ovation.
The architecture firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro received the academy’s centennial medal.
Diller was a fellow in 1980-1981, before Chatfield-Taylor. She recalled the carb-heavy food back then as “pasta served with rice and mashed potatoes.” She also remembered a visit from Ricardo Scofidio.
“It was at the infancy of our romance,” Diller said. An extra twin bed was brought in, next to hers. It was six inches higher. Some workers attempted to elevate hers, and so on, with more staff piling into her bedroom to help.
“It turned into this beautiful farce with everyone giving their opinions, this Italian babble,” Diller said. “Eventually they did level them.”
She called it a metaphor for the chaos leading to balance that fellows experience at the academy.
As guests dispersed, Diller, Scofidio and Renfro huddled, clinking their medals.
At the Breast Cancer Research Foundation gala, a mariachi band dressed in white with pink bowties serenaded guests at the Waldorf Astoria. They included designer Tory Burch, cosmetics magnate Leonard Lauder and Gerald Hassell, the chairman and chief executive of the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., who entertained clients at two tables.
Up at the Harold Pratt House, a reception toasted 11 East 68th Street, an HFZ Capital Group condominium development.
The project’s architect Lee Mindel, joined Ziel Feldman, founder and managing principal of HFZ Capital Group, for sushi from Morimoto and music by a classical trio. There was a huge cake in the shape of the building by Sylvia Weinstock.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Lance Esplund on art, Jason Harper on cars.
To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon at email@example.com or on Twitter @amandagordon.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.