The deYoung Museum rolled out its version the Oscars with a red carpet that dazzled in its elegance and virtuosity. The occasion was the opening of, “Oscar de la Renta: The Restrospective” exhibit, curated by the inimitable Andre Leon Talley and sponsored in conjunction with the beloved designer’s family and organization. The exhibit includes 134 ensembles from de la Renta’s lengthy career, which began with his apprenticeship with the master Balenciaga and continued through the founding of his eponymous house, and his decade simultaneously designing with Pierre Balmain in Paris. The exhibit showcases his range of ability to adorn the female form, with special emphasis on the luxe evening wear for which he was particularly adored. “Oscar would have been so happy to see this room tonight,” enthused Fine Arts Museums President Diane Wilsey, whose passionate dedication to de la Renta’s artistry conceived the show, in her opening remarks. “There has never been more women wearing Oscar per square foot!” The room was in fact a glorious tented garden atrium filled to the rafters with trellises and topiary, hydrangeas lining the walkways, urns overflowing with de la Renta’s favorite red carnations, surrounded by roses in every hue of pink. The petunia hue of the carpet underfoot matched five huge urns of just-blooming branches of quince overhead, a stunning backdrop for the grand gowns that adorned nearly every woman in the room. The look was elegant and opulent, verdant and virtuosic, a fitting tribute to the designer’s love of beauty in its most ethereal form. De la Renta’s wife, Annette, pronounced the evening, “wonderful,” sitting alongside a beaming Talley, holding court on his banquette in a grand red robe that just matched the J. Riccardo Benevides’ sumptuous décor. Tables were set with an array of gilded and floral china and crystal, with a vermeil dessert service to complement McCall’s delicious, garden- inspired meal of spring pea-tarragon vichyssoise, grilled filet of beef with basil farrow risotto and spring vegetables, butter lettuce and endive salad with grapes and almonds, and blackberry sorbet and local berries in a chocolate lattice basket, accompanied by Hess Collection vintages. The evening, and the exhibit itself, had become a passion project for everyone involved, including the museum’s Richard Benefield, who had shepherded the project from the beginning, and Alex Bolen, the CEO of the organization and de la Renta’s son-in-law, both of whom spoke with glowing and affectionate remarks about the process and the result. The beloved designer’s spirit was evident in the galleries, and in the gowns, floating through the evening with the feminine grace and refined grandeur that is his honored legacy. For those fortunate enough to breathe in the verdant perfume of his imagination, it was a treasured prize, indeed.
Along the garden path: Many, many Oscar afficianados, including designer Peter Copping, to whom Oscar handed the mantle of design, Oscar’s stepdaughters Eliza Reed Bolen and Beatrice Bolen, Houston’s Lynn Wyatt, Denise Hale, Boaz Mazur, exhibition champion Barbara Brown, and sponsors Cynthia Fry Gunn and John A. Gunn, Lisa and Douglas Goldman, with Matthew, Jason, and Jennifer Goldman, Yurie and Carl Pascarella, Paula and Bandel Carano, Stephanie and Jim Marver, Jennifer and Steven Walske, Neiman Marcus’ Alan Morell, Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg, Mary Beth and David Shimmon, Carole McNeil, FAMSF Trustees Trevor Traina with Alexis Traina, Lonna Wais, Ken Fulk, Mary Poland, Todd and Katie Traina, Lucy and William Hamilton, George and Judy Marcus, Lisa Podos, Douglas and Mariana Gantus Wall, Janet Lamkin, Dr. Heidi Cary, Aaron and Krista Giovara, Stuart and gina Peterson, Richard Beleson and Kim Lam Beleson, Molly and David Wadhwani, Jennifer Hale, Nadir and Sobia Shaikh, Tony and Cori Bates, Lisa and Brian Sugar, Christine Suppes, Frederick Aranda, OJ and Gary Shansby, Martin Chapman, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, and many, many more who gathered to celebrate the man who made women so very beautiful.