A Winning Vision 11

For 30 years, Orange County Museum of Art’s “Art of Dining” benefit has featured great food and wine and the country’s top artists and arts patrons

“I was a one-man band,” Sam Goldstein says of launching Art of Dining for the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now known as Orange County Museum of Art), in 1987.

“I was on the museum’s acquisition committee, and we needed money to buy art, so I established a fundraiser that would divide the proceeds between acquiring art and the operating fund,” he says.

The result was Art of Dining, which Goldstein named, and which is celebrating its 30th anniversary on May 20th.

For seven years Goldstein worked his magic as the chair. His idea was to bring chefs from around the world to create a one-of-a-kind gourmet experience at the Four Seasons Newport Beach (now the Island Hotel). He drew major underwriting dollars from philanthropists like Julia and George Argyros, Joan and Don Beall, Anwar Soliman of American Restaurant Group, and Robert Mondavi Winery, as well as South Coast Plaza retailers Tiffany & Co. and Cartier, with Chanel and Neiman Marcus coming on board with high-end live auction items.

Goldstein worked with Four Seasons’ Executive Chef Michel Pieton and engaged Joachim Splichal, who at the time was consulting chef at the Regency Club in Los Angeles, who asked his friend Chef Michel Richard of Citrus in Los Angeles to join him in inviting chefs to participate. Collaborating chefs included such names as Alain Ducasse of Hotel de Paris, Jean-Louis Palladin at the Watergate, San Francisco’s Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, New York’s Brian Whitmer of Montrachet, etc.

To say it was a success was an understatement. Art of Dining was the place to be. Thanks to Goldstein, the stage was set, and a plethora of OCMA supporters took the reins and expanded the event beyond an exceptional dining experience.

It was Twyla Martin, who has attended every Art of Dining and chaired it four years running in the mid-to-late 1990s after Goldstein moved on (she calls Goldstein the “Father of Art of Dining”), who introduced the visual arts through honoring iconic artists and arts patrons.

Martin’s tenure honored such quintessential artists as Ed Ruscha, Wayne Thiebaud (who Donald Bren introduced), Viola Frey and sculptor Robert Graham (who brought his movie star wife Anjelica Huston), as well as arts patrons David Rockefeller and Eli Broad.

“It was a ‘we’ effort,” Martin says of her committee. “The artists we honored helped with the theme through décor and set design.”

Martin’s ingenious idea to engage glass artist Therman Statom to create individual centerpieces for each of the 43 tables in 1996 brought $30,000 to the bottom line.

Martin raised the bar by inviting the heads of large companies to underwrite and attend the event.

“We brought Chase Manhattan Private Banking, American Express, Delta Airlines, Ernst & Young, and Rockwell, among many others, to the table,” Martin says. “We also invited guests to syndicate big ticket tables.”

And, with South Coast Plaza purchasing tables through Henry and Renee Segerstrom, it also encouraged retailers like Bulgari, Escada, and Louis Vuitton to offer one-of-a-kind auction items.

OCMA supporter Marsha Anderson also stepped up four times to chair Art of Dining. Her first outing was in 1999, when Neiman Marcus underwrote the entire event (except the food), when Stanley Marcus was the honored arts patron and Manuel Neri the honored artist.

“Neiman’s VP and Fashion Director Ken Downing designed the ballroom in Tony Duquette décor, and it was stunning,” Anderson remembers.

In a new twist, guests met at OCMA for cocktails and speeches and were shuttled to the Four Seasons for dinner, where local chefs were featured for the first time.

Elizabeth Tierney chaired Art of Dining 2000, when Peter Alexander was the featured artist and Joan Irvine Smith the arts patron. Guests gathered at Palm Garden Restaurant in Fashion Island (no longer there) for the dining soiree.

Marsha Anderson was back with co-chair Pam Muzzy in 2001 at Palm Garden, with Neiman Marcus orchestrating the event. Four Seasons chefs came from the Pacific Rim, and renowned artist Robert Rauchenberg was honored artist (injured and unable to attend, artist Sidney Felsen came in his place).

Art of Dining 2002 was held in a tent at South Coast Plaza, with Joan Riach, Diane Coon and Erin Trunel co-chairing. Henry Segerstrom was the honored arts patron and John Baldessari the featured artist.

Next year’s event was in a tent at Pelican Hill Resort, with Marsha Anderson once again chairing with artist Nathan Oliveira and arts patron David A. Coulter honored.

Committee members Jennifer Segerstrom and Jennifer Van Bergh co-chaired in 2004 and 2005 at Pelican Hill Resort with artists Bill Viola and Dennis Hopper (a no show) the honored artists. Having married Anton Segerstrom in 2000, Jennifer says:

“I had an arts interest and Anton was a collector, so it was a natural progression for me to get more involved with the museum.”

Anton, who grew up in an arts family, as his mother Yvonne was an artist who introduced her husband Henry Segerstrom to the arts, says:

“My parents supported the Newport Harbor Arts Museum from almost the year it was founded in 1962. My father was on the board, and my mother was a docent. I remember attending NHAM art exhibitions when the museum was located in Balboa Pavilion.”

Renowned artist Richard Serra was honored in 2006, with Maralou Harrington chairing at OCMA and the Island Hotel. Marsha Anderson and Joan Riach co-chaired in 2007 at the St. Regis Resort, with Mary Heilmann the honored artist. Architect Thom Mayne was honored artist the next year, with Carmela Phillips chairing it at the Island Hotel, and visual theatre artist Robert Wilson was honored in 2009, when Inga Beder and Irene Martino were co-chairs at The Westin South Coast Plaza.

An executive committee composed of many past chairs took the reins from 2010 to the present, and venues have included Montage Resort, Balboa Bay Resort, South Coast Plaza’s Bridge of Gardens and the lawn at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where the museum is scheduled to move in the near future. Artists honored have included Felsen, Chris Burden, Irvine Blum, David Lynch, Diane Thater, Tony DeLap and Marilyn Minter, with a special tribute to arts patron, the late Henry Segerstrom.

This year’s Art of Dining is returning to its future site at SCFTA, with Louis Vuitton the presenter for the fourth year running. OCMA Director Todd Smith says of the featured artist:

“This year, we are most excited to be honoring Beijing-based artist Sun Xun, who is one of the most exciting artists to emerge from China in the last decade.”

Art of Dining has been a gigantic effort for so many people, including a myriad of chefs and their staffs. Goldstein sums it up nicely.

“Looking back, I feel great pride. Art of Dining has had such a wonderful charitable life for the museum and continues to do so.”