Corcoran Ball’s still a go, even as the gallery faces takeover

The scene at the 2005 Corcoran Ball.(Photo by Michael Robinson-Chavez.)
The scene at the 2005 Corcoran Ball. (Michael Robinson-Chavez)

The ball keeps rolling. Even as the Corcoran Gallery of Art is being taken over in dramatic fashion, its signature fundraising event is full speed ahead.

Invites to the April 25 Corcoran Ball, the glitzy annual fundraising event supporting the 150- year-old institution, are trickling into area mailboxes. The caterer is at the ready. For the first time, DJs have been hired to entertain the younger crowd, in addition to the usual orchestras. “All systems are go,” says gallery spokeswoman Mimi Carter.

But the breakup of the gallery — an arrangement announced last week in which George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art are assuming control of the financially troubled Corcoran and its collection — may pose a challenge for this year’s event.

Some getting the invitations (cheapest tickets are $600, and a table can go for as much as $50,000) aren’t even sure what the money raised will be used for. “We are confused,” one invitee said. “Will the funds raised go to the movers?”

Carter says the proceeds from the ball, which provides the bulk of the some $600,000 that the gallery’s Women’s Committee raises every year, will continue to fund a project to digitize the Corcoran’s collection, even though the works are set to be farmed out to the National Gallery, which will display them in the Corcoran building in a new entity called the Corcoran Contemporary.

Women’s Committee chair Molly Rolandi  insists that ticket sales and corporate sponsorships are up from this time last year.  And it’s no swan song — Rolandi says she believes the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University want to continue the tradition of the annual fete, and that the committee will survive the current upheaval. 

“I believe there’s a niche for us moving forward,” she says. “Of course, there will be some … re-definitions.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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