News & Politics

A Confluence of Diplomatic Events on Embassy Row (Pictures)

Two Embassy parties and a dinner at Hillary Clinton’s home on the same night turned Embassy Row into a veritable parking lot.

Sackler Gallery director Julian Raby, Jillian Sackler, Susie Westmacott, and British ambassador Peter Westmacott. Photograph by James R. Brantley.

It was a good night to work in the diplomatic service industries Wednesday–especially as security, servers, or social staff–as there was a diplomatic confluence at the intersection of Clinton-ville and Embassy Row. Within one block of one another, and at the same time, were two embassy parties and a dinner at the home of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her special guest was the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, plus an assortment of ambassadors and other officials. Out on the street in front were Secret Service, security for every other country, and a block-long virtual parking lot of limos and SUVS.

So, pity the poor Embassy of Denmark, across the street from the Clinton home, where Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen hosted a small wine reception for the Preakness thoroughbred races, complete with a traditional bugle “call to post.” To get to the Danish Embassy, guests had to swim upstream through a phalanx of men and women in black suits and coats with earpieces, talking into their hands (and who were no doubt fully armed).

When we first drove up Whitehaven, en route to the Danish Embassy, a Secret Service agent turned us away, saying there was no Danish Embassy there. Ha. We didn’t give up. We parked elsewhere and walked, and made it in time to enjoy some caviar, canapes, and remarks from the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Tom Chuckas, and Ambassador Taksøe-Jensen, announcing that Denmark would host the international pavilion at the May 19 races. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was supposed to be the featured guest, but he was a no-show. Maybe the Secret Service turned him away, too?

Around the corner, on Massachusetts Avenue, the big black gates of the British Embassy were open, allowing in an assortment of towncars and other pricey vehicles, bearing guests to a party hosted by Ambassador Peter Westmacott in honor of the Sackler Museum, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. At the gates, security guards checked names off a list and directed guests away from the main entrance and toward the side, which was unusual but allowed a walk through the beautiful embassy gardens, which were in bountiful spring bloom.

Inside, under the stunning Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth that hangs in the main room, a crowd of Washington swells sipped Champagne and nibbled on fish and chips served in a paper cone, among other delicious canapes that were passed by servers in charming waistcoats.

Art was the theme of the party, and the ambassador noted that he and wife, Susie, are in the process of changing up and rehanging much of the embassy’s art collection. Susie was once an assistant curator at the Sackler. The rehanging project explained why the main entrance to the residence was closed. The grand staircase was crowded by scaffolding and framed pieces waiting to find their place on the high walls. Among the speakers, in addition to the ambassador, were Jillian Sackler, the widow of the gallery’s founder, Arthur M. Sackler, and Julian Raby, who is director of both the Sackler Gallery and the adjoining Freer Gallery. He mentioned that Dame Sackler had endowed his job, making him the Dame Sackler Director of the Sackler Gallery. Quite a mouthful.