Magazine article The Spectator

Kennedy Cult Continued

Magazine article The Spectator

Kennedy Cult Continued

Article excerpt

New York

To the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue, natch, for the Costume Institute's annual ball at $3,500 smackers per person. My hostess, the great designer Carolina Herrera, has taken a table for ten, which if my arithmetic is correct, makes it a mere bagatelle of 35,000 greenbacks.

Mind you, it's all worth it. Never have I seen so many pretty girls in such a grand setting. The Met is a hell of a place for a party, with the Temple of Dandur set up as a disco, the great hall for cocktails, and the Petrie room for dining. (Or is it the other way round? I got too drunk too early to find out for sure.) The mood was 1960 White House, as it was the opening of Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Years. Now before I tell you all about the party, a few remarks about a museum exhibiting Jackie's empty gowns.

In my opinion, the function of a museum is not only to exhibit great art, but also to make us a little smarter rather than a little stupider and to elevate us rather than debase us. The Saatchi show, wherever it may be, is crass, self-abasing, coarse and leaves one feeling degraded, whereas the Vermeer exhibition is sublime, high-minded, inspiring and leaves one a better person for having attended. The Camelot myth, which is repeated in pictures selected from the JFK library and museum for the Met exhibition, is a breathless and fawning effort to buck up the Kennedy image. Nothing more, nothing less.

If one is a Kennedy cultist, and there are as many of those as there are fools in the world, it's like entering paradise. There's a display of campaign buttons, engraved invitations and videos of JFK jabbing his finger and asking for the umpteenth time what one can do for one's country, along with the famous Avedon picture of Jackie in black and white which is plastered across the wall.

Which brings me to the point I wish to make. Should the Met be playing politics? The flotilla of Kennedys attending said it all, but under the guise of Jackie, yet again. Caroline Kennedy, who gave a graceful speech, is a private person who shuns publicity and the limelight. When she was first approached by the Met she consulted her friend Carolina Herrera and asked the latter to help her. (Herrera dressed Jackie and now dresses Caroline.) Hamish Bowles, an Englishman, was chosen as curator and the result has been the greatest publicity and advertisement for the Kennedys' newer generation since the film PT 109. …

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