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Agnes Gund

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Socialites Reduced to Mere Numbers

Nicole Miller
Romeo + Juliet opened at the New York City Ballet earlier this week, and guests at the black-tie dinner afterward were handed not seating cards but rather a sprawling seating chart. Odd: Instead of being shown their seats, society girls with tiny clutches were forced to grapple with 25 pages of table assignments. But the usual system was fortunate for folks like us, providing insights into the inner workings of high society. For example: • VIPs get triple-digit table numbers. Double-digit tables seemed to have a maximum of one celebrity each, while single digits went to the teeming masses. • Designer Alice Roi does not seem to count as a VIP. Neither did MoMA bigwig Agnes Gund. • Former mayoral candidate Carl McCall won this round by sitting at table 55, right next to the bar. • Lost's Michelle Rodriguez, no longer serving time, was sentenced to table 8. (Or maybe not: Turned out to be a civilian with the same name.) • Nicole Miller, whose husband works in national security (who knew?), was supposed to be at table 109 with fellow designer Thom Browne. Instead, she was a little disappointed to have been moved to table 114 with Gilles Mendel, Byrdie Bell, and Mary Alice Stephenson. How do we know? Because she got stuck sitting next to us and borrowed our seating chart to check out where all her friends were. —Jada Yuan

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MoMA, Guggenheim Experts Say You'd Be Better Off Buying Real Estate

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With the big-money contemporary-art fairs in town last week and the big-money contemporary-art auctions set for this week, we had to wonder whether all these big-tickets works are good investments. “No Picasso is worth what people are paying today," MoMA president emerita Agnes Gund told us at a party for Joel Gray's photography last week. "They just aren’t that valuable in comparison. There are really Van Goghs and drawings that are worth more.” So where should you put your money? “Real estate is always the better investment because real estate will always be here, but the prices of art fluctuates,” she said. “Oops, I guess I shouldn’t say that!” Guggenheim director Lisa Dennison concurred. “I’d have to say real estate," she said. "You can live in it, you can hang art in it, and the prices seem more reasonable.” Real-estate prices seem reasonable? “As a museum director, it’s hard for me to say you should invest in art.” —Justin Ravitz

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It's Good to Be the MoMA Director

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MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry is a wealthy man with even wealthier friends. Not only does he have one of the highest salaries in the museum biz, but, as the Times almost gleefully reports today, some of those rich friends set up something called the New York Fine Arts Support Fund (we'll say!), which showered him with over $5.35 million in gifts from 1995 to 2003. Contributions to the fund came from such massive last names as Rockefeller, Gund, and Lauder, and it was put together with the express purpose of luring Lowry to MoMA. Just how hard were they working to lure him? Check out this one: In 1995, MoMA picked up the down-payment for an apartment Lowry bought; the trust then took care of the mortgage repayments. In 1999, the trust bought that apartment from Lowry, who pocketed $1.3 million on the sale. Did he spend that profit — on an apartment he hadn't paid for in the first place, keep in mind — on a new place to live? Of course not. The museum then gave Lowry another free apartment, this one in Museum Tower. The man has to live somewhere, after all. Now, finally, we understand the $20 ticket prices. Donors Sweetened Director’s Pay at MoMA [NYT]

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