The opening of the new Dalí Museum brought royalty and celebrities and much interest to St. Petersburg to celebrate the launch last week. S.A.R. la Infanta Cristina of Spain was the international chairwoman for the festivities and was accompanied by her husband, Inaki Urdangarin. (S.A.R. is the abbreviation for Su Alteza Real, which translates to Her Royal Highness, and the couple are Duke and Duchess of Palma de Mallorca.)
Academy Award-winning actor Susan Sarandon attended the black-tie optional La Primera Vista (The First View) on Jan. 8 and led a discussion for about 100 donors and their guests on Sunday.
The first-look event drew more than 600 splendidly dressed guests to the cocktail party chaired by Tom and Mary James, both of whom spoke from the new building's spectacular spiral staircase, as did Dalí director Hank Hine.
In that crowd, it was impossible to greet everyone, but a host of Dalí donors and community leaders were eager to celebrate the accomplishment, including Yann Weymouth, the architect who designed the distinctive building; landscape architect Phil Graham, who designed grounds; director emeritus Marshall Rousseau; St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and former mayors Bob Ulrich, Dave Fischer and Rick Baker, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and USF St. Petersburg regional chancellor Margaret Sullivan.
Jim and Cathy Martin were chairs of the overall weeklong effort; the Jameses, Bill and Hazel Hough and Brad and Mary Ann Morse were honorary chairs. Harry Venezia and Jenna Staab oversaw the Sunday event; Gene and Karen Johnston and Jim and Suzanne MacDougald co-chaired a white-tie dinner on Monday, with former Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, as honorary chairs. Museum staffers Kathy White, Joan Kropf and William Jeffett supervised opening-day events on Tuesday and David and Linda Punzak were chairs for a luncheon.
Museum staffers have been fielding inquiries from throughout the world, from CNN to the BBC; from the Washington Post (Weymouth's daughter Katharine is the Post's publisher) and the Wall Street Journal to London's Financial Times.
Even celebrity Perez Hilton weighed in: "Rejoice art enthusiasts!" he said on his website. "You have a new place of worship now!"
• • •
Just in case those attending the Monday dinner were unclear about protocol in the presence of royalty, guests received printed cards (including bold-face type) that offered these guidelines:
"Turn cell phones off or on silent.
"There is to be NO personal photography during the event either by camera, phone or other devices.
"When S.A.R. enters the room for the first time, rise and face the entrance. When she leaves the event, rise as she exits. For intermediate movements (i.e.: program remarks), it is not necessary to rise.
"Wait to leave the event until S.A.R. does. Intermediate trips during the event are welcome (i.e.: restroom).
"It is not necessary to bow and/or curtsy for S.A.R. or el Duque.
"When greeting S.A.R. for the first time, refer to her in English as 'Your Royal Highness,' subsequent addresses as 'Madam.' In Spanish, 'Alteza' for the initial greeting and 'Señora' for subsequent.
"When greeting el Duque for the first time, refer to him in English as 'Your Excellency,' subsequent addresses as 'Sir.' In Spanish, 'Señor Duque' for the initial greeting and 'Señor' for subsequent.
"Regarding shaking hands, it is customary to allow S.A.R. or el Duque to offer their hand first, then respond with yours.
"When greeting the Ambassador of Spain, refer to him as 'Your Excellency.' "