If New Yorkers have the Met Gala, then Washingtonians have the American Portrait Gala. At least that was the case this year, where the National Portrait Gallery‘s biennial black tie benefit might have clinched the top spot for most star-studded DC fundraiser of 2019 (last month’s Mark Twain Prize might be neck and neck).
Sunday’s sold-out event raised more than $2 million in support of the Smithsonian museum’s endowment for exhibitions, with more than 700 guests in attendance.
This year’s honorees included Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee band Earth, Wind & Fire, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and hip-hop musical Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The “Portrait of a Nation Prize” winners began the weekend with a private welcome dinner on Saturday evening at the British Ambassador’s residence just off Embassy Row. While it’s possible that Wintour facilitated such a connection (she is an appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire after all), it’s more likely this year’s well connected gala chairs clinched that exclusive invite. Joining founding chairs Wayne and Catherine Reynolds for 2019 were national chairs Randi Charno Levine and Jeffrey Levine and Joseph Ujobai and Eduardo Ardiles, along with DC chairs Kristin and John Cecchi and Susanna and Jack Quinn.
Given the caliber of winners this year, and philanthropic and social acumen of the organizers, it’s no wonder that last night’s guest list read like a who’s who of the District. Two former First Ladies, the current Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader, a newly minted World Series champion, the Secretary of Commerce, news anchors, ambassadors, governors, senators, the luminaries go on and on.
At its core, the artwork that resides in the Portrait Gallery is intended to portray those individuals whose lives tell the American story. Judging by Sunday’s gala, it’s a story worth repeating!