News & Politics

Trump’s New Kennedy Center Board Appointee Paolo Zampolli Has Some Ideas: Picasso Exhibits, Soccer Stars, Franchise Deals

The modeling agent and tabloid fixture says he's not in it for free concert tickets

Photograph by Flickr user runner310.

President Trump sent out a flurry of appointments yesterday, to loyalists like Hope Hicks (she’ll join the Fulbright board), former press secretary Stephanie Grisham (who’ll join the National Board for Education Sciences), and former Florida attorney general and Trump post-election agitator Pam Bondi (who’ll sit on the Kennedy Center Board).

For fans of New York tabloids, though, another new Kennedy Center board appointee’s name may also have stood out: The outgoing president’s good buddy Paolo Zampolli, the former modeling agent and Page Six fixture credited with introducing Trump to model Melania Knauss way back when. Earlier this year, Zampolli left Manhattan and moved with his family to Georgetown. We decided to call him up and see what his ambitions are for the national temple of high culture.

“It was a big surprise,” Zampolli says of the appointment. “This is not a joke. I don’t want to sit on the board to go to some concert. This is for six years…I would like to propose some amazing ideas to make our president—he’s still our president—proud.”

What might those ideas look like? For starters, he thinks the Kennedy Center should be replicated far and wide. “The Louvre has been franchised to Abu Dhabi,” he says. “I’d like to see the Kennedy Center all over the world.”

Also, he knows “one of the biggest collectors of Picasso” and would like to facilitate some kind of exhibition. The center, of course, is meant to be a performing arts facility—it’s right there in the name—but it has in fact hosted small exhibitions in the past. And there’s some gallery space at the Reach, its new building that opened last year.  “If I can deliver a hundred Picassos,” he says, “They’re not going to say, ‘Paolo, you’re stupid.’”

He’s also batting around vague plans to use the “amazing rooftop” for something sports-related. “We’ll bring all the superstars from soccer and sports culture,” he says.

While Zampolli hasn’t yet spoken to the president about his new role, he’s looking forward to thanking him in person. They’ve spent the past four New Years holidays together, and he figures he’ll do the same this year.

Zampolli stresses that these ideas are just ideas, and that they need to be proposed to the board. But he says he’s thinking hard about how he can have an impact on the nearly 50-year-old institution.  “I wanna fucking deliver, sorry my French,” he says. “You think I want free tickets? I’m not that rich but I can buy some tickets.”

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.