In Venice and Paris, Vogue’s Hamish Bowles Embarks on An Art-Filled Excursion

The unstoppable force that is Houston’s own Becca Cason Thrash, having taken a hiatus from European cultural philanthropy, plunged once more into the fray with a vengeance to chair a weeklong program that married Liaisons au Louvre IV, an American Friends of the Louvre fundraiser, with Venice’s La Dolce Vita, which raises funds for the nonprofit Venetian Heritage.

Things got off to a thrilling start in Paris at the Picasso Museum, where the artist’s grandson and doppelgänger, Olivier Widmaier Picasso, showed guests around an exhibition devoted to Pablo Picasso’s first wife, the tempestuous Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova. Picasso’s images of Olga trace not only his astonishing artistic developments, but a poignant trajectory from love to disinterest—from scrupulously academic and tender to searingly vicious and abstract.

Across town, a (thankfully, thwarted) terrorist attack in the Champs-Élysées, yards from the Petit Palais, complicated plans for a dinner for 100 in that self-same institution later that evening. Undaunted, many guests still ventured forth for drinks in the exotic courtyard gardens (where Giambattista Valli also presented his frothing haute couture collection this season) and dinner in the vast gallery, built in 1900 by the architect Charles Girault for the Exposition Universelle. Dinner was beautifully arranged: two long banqueting tables with shaded orange and yellow roses running the length and chair cushions to match, the chairs all turned at an angle so that arriving guests were greeted with these powerful color harmonies.

On the morrow I joined a fantastically informative (and droll) tour of the decorative arts galleries of the Louvre, which showcased decorating maestro Jacques Garcia’s high-impact arrangements of the superb late-17th and 18th-century furniture, pictures, and objects that make my heart beat a great deal faster—including the exquisite Saxe blue, white, and gilded-paneled…

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