It’s felt like the Sackler Gallery’s 25th anniversary has been celebrated for at least the past year, with two big parties, but the actual grand gala happened Thursday night, and Dame Jillian Sackler herself was there to greet guests for the luxe affair. It’s not every evening in Washington that one is welcomed to a party by the host and promptly offered a glass of chilled Moet & Chandon Champagne.
The Asian-inspired dinner menu began with a bento box containing curry-coconut shrimp with rice noodles, tofu-eggplant salad, poached lobster with dill, and orange segments with endive and hearts of palm. The second course was five-spice short ribs with wasabi mashed potatoes and knotted Asian long beans, followed by a dessert of traditional Indian kulfi, a confection of milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla bean.
The Sackler was done up in its very best party finery, matched only by the finery of guests, including imports such as Princess Michael of Kent and Baroness Aziza Allard from England, Prince and Princess Johannes von Auesperg from Austria, and business mogul Shafik Gabr of Egypt. But it was an evening for Washingtonians, especially those who have an interest in the Asian arts. The Sackler was founded by the late Arthur M. Sackler, who endowed the mostly underground gallery with 1,000 objects from India, China, Japan, and other parts of Asia, as well as $4 million to build the museum. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The familiar faces on hand included House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Sachiko Kuno, Catherine Reynolds, Susan and Michael Pillsbury, Mary and Mandy Ourisman, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Karni Singh, Lucky Roosevelt, John and Joann Mason, Greek ambassador Alexander Philon, Mark Ein, Phillipa Hughes, Winston Bao Lord, Amanda Downes, Calvin Cafritz, Raul Fernandez, former empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi, Adrienne Arsht, and British ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and his wife, Susie.
Following the dinner there was dancing for the dinner guests as well as others who were invited only for dessert.
The Sackler, and the conjoined Freer Gallery, are open every day except Christmas from 10 to 5:30. Admission is free.