I love the Princeton University Art Museum gala, not only because the guest list represents a veritable Who’s Who of Princeton’s social register — people who actually know how to dress when the invitation says “black tie,” but because I always come away with interesting little didja-knows about people, places, and things — wonderful fodder for dinner party chit-chat.
Here’s what I learned this time around. But first, let’s set the stage. The gala, “Midnight in the Garden,” drew 420 guests and celebrated the Victorian-era Gothic Revival movement, uniting art and architecture, notably the Gothic Revival character of Prospect House and its gardens. It also set the stage for the upcoming exhibits “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” opening Saturday, February 25, and “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum,” opening Saturday, March 17.
Drink trivia: I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I like a party where you walk in and a waiter immediately hands you a drink. The evening’s signature cocktail, the French 75 — a concoction of prosecco, gin, lemon juice, and superfine sugar — was created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. The mixture was said to have such a kick, it felt like being shelled by the French 75 mm field gun, which helped win World War I. In the United States, the cocktail was popularized at the Stock Club in New York.
Royalty trivia: I’m hopelessly smitten with British royalty. I got up 5 a.m. to watch the weddings of Princess Diana, Fergie, and Kate and William. I read the Daily Mail online for useless facts such as: This past summer drew record crowds — more than 600,000 visitors — to Buckingham Palace (which is open each year whilst Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is on holiday at Balmoral Castle, her residence in the Scottish Highlands), to see Kate’s Sarah Burton-designed gown on display. The proceeds — £10 million — go towards the upkeep of the Royal Collection, comprising paintings, furniture, and antiques collected by monarchs over the past 500 years.
So while the Queen is on holiday in Scotland, who do you think serves as her pastor? Iain Torrance, president of Princeton Theological Seminary (see photo top right, this page).Torrance, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has been Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland since 2001. When the Queen calls, Torrance hops on a plane.
Proceeds raised from the gala support the museum’s educational and outreach programs for audiences of all ages, interests, abilities, and cultural backgrounds, including pre-K through 12th-grade students, seniors, and audiences with physical or developmental challenges. Offered free of charge, these programs include school tours customized to each group’s curricula, Art for Families, Family Day, gallery talks, and scholarly lectures, designed to connect visual materials to cultural contexts, uniting art with history and geography.
Good deal trivia: Becoming a Friend of the museum also supports educational programming. An individual membership costs just $75 (dual/family, $125). Benefits include day trips to private collections and invitations to exhibition previews. The Contributor level ($250) also includes discounts for products and services including Mrs. G’s, fine dry cleaning, Pilates instruction, custom stationery and photography, as well as wine shops and restaurants including Elements, Mediterra, Teresa’s, and Eno Terra.
For more information visit http://artmuseum.princeton.edu.