The vibrant blue paint was barely dry on the gallery walls, and labels identifying the artwork were still to come, but the show went on Thursday at the Salvador Dali Museum, a preview of "Masterpieces of Surrealism."
Director Marshall Rousseau, curator of the collection Joan Kropf, and curator of special exhibitions William Jeffett, along with a lot of staff members, spent a long day readying the show.
The evening was also occasion to welcome new members into the Order of Salvador, a prestigious group of patrons, identified by the medallions they sport at museum events.
Museum co-founder Eleanor Morse originated the Order with her husband, Reynolds. Not surprisingly, the brace of medals they have received from foreign governments in appreciation of their support of the arts could sink a small boat and includes one from Spain's King Juan Carlos that Mrs. Morse wears suspended from a delicate striped grosgrain bow.
Officers of the Order have special titles, so Bill Hough is not the treasurer, he is the Grand Receiver, which, I told him, would look nifty on a resume. "I want it on my tombstone," he answered.
Roger Sherman is the Grand Chancellor, so he gets to use a sword during the Ceremony of Investiture.
"It's a ceremonial sword," Sherman said, drawing the Toledo steel blade from its 17th century sheath. "But it could still do some damage."
"Someone could lose an arm tonight," said Bill Wallace. (He was kidding, but then, he is already a member and did not have to get near it.)
Not looking a bit worried were Jane Ann Thompson Lees and Jean D. Irwin, both new members about to get tapped, in the crowd with Ron Williams, Ron Lees, Gus and Frances Stavros, Bill and Jane Emerson, board president Tom James, Andy and Betty Corty, Sally Wallace, Leonard and Barbara McCue, David and Anita Kenerson, Jack and Donna Painter, Bob Ulrich, and Jim and Cathy Martin. Patrick Elliot came from Edinburgh and Piet DeJonge from Rotterdam, accompanying art for the exhibit on loan from their museums.
Fred and Carol Bullard and Dick and Helen Minck had a spirited discussion about jewelry, so I learned that both women were wearing South Sea pearls, identifiable by their luminous gray color, but Mrs. Mink's necklace was of the Baroque variety because they were irregular forms, and Mrs. Bullard's perfectly matched orbs were the traditional kind. I liked both.
Hazel Hough is very involved with planning the Palladium Theater's fundraiser on Feb. 17, which has an Elizabethan theme. Dress code is "according to your station," and she said she has been asked what that means. "I'm hoping we'll get everything from tiaras to jeans," she said.
Not to be missed on Saturday night was the opening reception for Festival Beth El, the 27th annual art show sponsored by Temple Beth El that draws serious collectors from around the state.
Perennial chairwomen Ellie Argintar, Donna Berman, Sonya Miller, Pam Newman and Jan Sher did it again, pulling together a mix of media and combining new artists with bestselling favorites.
Dayton Art Institute director Alexander Lee Nyerges awarded Best of Show to Marilyn Endres and Eucled Moore.
"Go look at their work and you'll see why," said Mrs. Sher.
"Pick this up," Mrs. Endres said, lifting a large urn with one hand. "It's made of 10,000 pieces of wood, all natural colors."
Indeed, it was an intricate mosaic of precious woods as light as a feather.
"Look inside," she said, and, like an Oriental rug, the interior was identical to the exquisite exterior, indicating it was not veneer.
As gorgeous as the art is, most of it is relatively expensive. Several years ago, organizers added a boutique of more affordable things. Barbara Sterensis and Nan Bugatch selected several galleries' worth of art and fine crafts that let even cheapskates like me walk away with something special.
In the crowd of several hundred were Steve and Sonia Raymund, Jeff and Mary Ellen Howells, Don and Jane Silverberg, Bonita Cobb, Ira and Beverly Mitlin, Janet Allweiss, Alan and Helene Allweiss, Ellen Friedberg, Anne Von Rosenstiel, Guna Carr, boutique manager Susan Connelly, David and Michele Cohen, and Anita Sher.
As I visited with Ann Soble, a waitress brandished a tray of pastry.
Mrs. Soble identified them as duck knishes, "but these are not ordinary knishes."
Never tasting any kind of knish, I can only say it was a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
"All the food is made by volunteers," said Ron Oxman, leading me through a labyrinth of doors to a formidable kitchen where men and women were assembling trays of hors d'oeuvres.
Over the years, the food at this party has become almost as anticipated as the art, due to the hard work and creativity of Louis Kroll and his volunteers, such as mainstays Lewis and Rene Krosner, Ross Preville and Jim Paret, who produce cocktail fare that is scooped up almost as soon as it leaves the kitchen.
This year's selection included fried saffron pasta filled with black beans; spring rolls with peanut sauce; smoked salmon and cream cheese pasta pillows; five-mushroom pizza; and an unctuous paste of chopped chicken livers.
Just as good were the chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas made by temple youth group members Jonathan Hirsch, Michael Galperin and Dan Friedel for a youth group fundraiser.
BENEDICT HAVEN LIVE AUCTION: This agency serves the mentally ill, and on March 1 it opens the only 24-hour supervised family-type home for individuals with severe, chronic illness. The fundraiser will help furnish the home. Items include art, gift baskets, trips and autographed sports memorabilia. Light refreshments. 6:30 p.m., Salt Creek Artworks, 1600 Fourth St. S. $5 admission. 522-2478.
DEAF SERVICE CENTER GALA AND AUCTION: More than 13,000 hard-of-hearing and deaf people are helped by the center in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties with testing, counseling, interpreter services, residential programs, fellowship and support groups, and help in purchasing and installing assistance devices. The party includes dinner and dancing. 6:30 p.m., Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Black tie optional. $50. 541-4488.