Gilded-Age Robber Barons at Frick as Schomburg Brings DJ, Lear

  • Dinner next to Rembrandts, Whistlers happens only once a year
  • Schomburg Center's next show looks at black suburbia in U.S.

Kim G. Davis, co-chairman of Charlesbank Capital Partners, crossed an item off his bucket list Monday night by going to dinner at the Frick Collection, the museum made from the mansion Henry Clay Frick built and filled with art.

It’s easy to see why Davis wanted to go. The Frick’s Autumn Dinner is the one time a year guests are seated for supper in the picture galleries.

In the West Gallery

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

That means the tables were steps from paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya and Whistler. Bouquets were real still-life, complete with shiny pomegranates. And the menu was a fantasy of what Gilded Age robber barons ate: celery root veloute with lobster, roasted pheasant with chestnut agnolotti and toasted oat ice cream with pickled cranberry and candied sweet potato.

On second thought, maybe a late-night burger from J.G. Melon would do. Until then, guests including Sandeep Mathrani, Thomas Kempner and Oscar Tang were part of the retro tableau. They did, however, bring 21st century perspectives.

“We don’t know how to do this anymore,” said architect Rafael Vinoly, looking around the West Gallery. “You needed the skill, the sense of proportion. What a spectacular place.”

These are words to consider months after the Frick scrapped a much-criticized proposal to expand. “We’re rebooting our construction plans,” said Frick Director Ian Wardropper on a break from a hectic receiving line.

Ian Wardropper, center, director of the Frick Collection

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Of the gathering, David Leuschen, co-founder of Riverstone Holdings, emphasized its “coziness” and Charles Royce called it “intimate.”
“Everyone knows each other,” said Frederick Beinecke of Antaeus Enterprises, as Dick Cashin, J. Christopher Flowers and Ed Hyman posed for a picture.

Ed Hyman, Dick Cashin and J. Christopher Flowers

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Amy Falls attended out of friendship with the honoree, Sid Knafel of SRK Management. They met through the alumni community of Phillips Academy, where she helped establish the investment office.

Amy Falls, chief investment officer at Rockefeller University

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Now managing Rockefeller University’s endowment, Falls said she was ready for volatility. “We have cash, we pre-paid the draw for a couple of quarters, we sold some private equity holdings and we hedged our biotech,” she said.

Davis of Charlesbank said he not only came to the dinner to shrink his bucket list, but also to support his friend Knafel. “Ask him about pottery,” Davis said.

Kim G. Davis and Judy Davis

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Knafel said his collection began with a broken platter his wife purchased at a flea market in France. Intrigued, he read up on the tin-glazed pottery called faience. One example in the Frick he helped the museum purchase: a 16th-century pitcher with a lizard spout and a bearded man’s body forming the handle.

Catie Marron, Elizabeth Alexander and Jon LaPook

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Down Fifth Avenue, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture marked its 90th anniversary at the New York Public Library. The room’s decor included peacocks nestled in trees, burgundy dahlias and bowls of grapes and apples. Unlike the Frick, this event had DJ Laylo and six honorees including Elizabeth Alexander and Norman Lear, who recalled traveling into the city by train as a kid, and looking into tenements from the 125th Street tracks. “I saw the families inside and wondered, what these people did in the next second, where was their favorite drawer? What was inside it?” Lear said.

Inside the Schomburg’s drawers: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg, said one of the past shows he’s most proud of examined 14th century East Africans in India. The next show opening Thursday explores black suburbia from Levittown to Ferguson.

“It’s the academic anchor of Harlem and an educational center for the world,” Citibank’s Ray McGuire, an event chairman, said.

Ray McGuire and Crystal McCrary

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg