To completely mesmerize more than 300 of the city's most sophisticated philanthropists is no easy task. But the kinetic energy and graceful beauty of Jennifer Steinkamp's flowering trees light installations in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston enchanted absolutely everyone attending Saturday night's Grand Gala Ball.
Six of the life-sized, 3D shimmering trees lined the perimeter of the museum's Cullinan Hall, where every 11 minutes the lifelike images ebbed and flowed through the four seasons. Employing these works of art as the focal point of the black-tie gala was the genius of ball chair Frances Marzio, who convinced the artist to loan the museum five of her Mike Kelley Projections to join the Mike Kelly 14 that is in the MFAH's permanent collection. (Would that we had all six!)
The evening's success of $1.6 million in proceeds was "made possible by the extraordinary efforts of our gallant chair Frances Marzio."
"How many times in Houston have we been able to experience all four seasons in a single night?" posed Marzio. (See the video below.)
Indeed, from museum patrons Michelle and Frank Hevrdejs to Sara and Bill Morgan and Janice and Bob McNair, the response to the installations was universal. Magnificent, hypnotizing, fantastic — the praise ran throughout the night as guests lifted their smart phones over and over again to capture the fascinating dance of the trees.
"I've never seen anything like it," cooed Joanne King Herring. "It's the most magical thing I've ever seen."
As the museum purposely scales back attendance at the gala, proceeds continue to rise for the evening that was as much intimate celebration as fundraising gala. And although Marzio was tapped as chair of the glamorous evening, the soirée was also a tribute to her personally.
"This is always a special event for the patrons of the museum because it is the biggest social event of the year and our biggest fundraising event of the year," noted museum director Gary Tinterow. The evening's success of $1.6 million in proceeds, he said, "was made possible by the extraordinary efforts of our gallant chair Frances Marzio."
He praised Marzio for 32 years of service to the museum not only as a curator but also as the wife of late MFAH director Peter Marzio. "They were equal partners in the effort that brought this museum to greatness."
Museum board chairman Rich Kinder then led a toast to Marzio that included a heartfelt standing ovation from the gathering of 322.
In Bloom created the orchid-infused centerpieces that reflected the four seasons while City Kitchen provided the equally magnificent dinner that also reflected the seasons — jumbo lump crabmeat appetizer, veal osso-bucco main course and a playful sorbet trio dessert complete with autumn leaf ginger snaps.
The David Caceres Orchestra had the dance floor packed from the first strains and into the night as guests including Jeanie Kilroy Wilson and Wally Wilson, Sharyn and Jim Weaver, Diane Lokey Farb and Mark Sullivan and Anne and Karl Stern swirled across the museum floor.
The stellar guest list included Nancy Kinder, Elise and Russell Joseph, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Lynn Wyatt, Bobbie and John Nau, Christopher Gardner, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Anne and Charles Duncan, Amy Purvis, Sue Trammell Whitfield, Delise Ward and Craig Lidji and Lori and Phillip Sarofim.