Rarely has a President taken office who had so many artist chums.
And some of the most famous among them - Robert Rauschenberg, Jamie Wyeth, Roy Lichtensten, Jacob Jamie and Andy Warhol - turned up at the White House State Dining Room yesterday afternoon to hear Jimmy Carter thank them for helping to raise funds to defray the cost of cultural events held during inaugural week.
Each had produced a limited-edition print that was issued in a portfolio titled "Inaugural Impressions." The 100 portfolios, issued at $2,500 each, raised more than $150,000.
Rosalynn Carter helped Rauschenberg hold up his print, while the President read the words emblazoned on the front, which he said he found "really beautiful." It said: "change is not a contest. Change is survival's praise."
As each artist was introduced to the President, he commented on the works. "I'm not trying to interpret the art," he said to Lichtenstein, "but I find in this work the vitality of inaugural day."
No one really minded that the President kept calling them paintings, not prints, though Warhol flinched visibly.
"And last, but not least, is Andy Warhol," said Carter aide Tom Beard as he introduced the other artists.
"Who said he wasn't least?" quipped Carter, grabbing the hand of a frozen Warhol, whom the President then thanked for making a limited-edition portrait which raised $50,000 for the 1976 campaign. "It was the turning point in the financing of my campaign," said Carter appreciatively.
The whole Washington art establishment was there, trying to figure out who the Carter arts people are. Al Lerner and Steve Weil from the Hirshhorn, Laughlin Phillips from the Phillips Collection and Roy Slade all chatted with old friends such as New York Times critic Hilton Kramer and Harold Rosenberg of the New Yorker, who had come down just for the party.
"I'm ashamed to admit it, but that's why I came," said Rosenberg. "I've never been invited to the White House before." He was not alone.
When someone commented that raising money through the arts was a good idea, Rosenberg raised a bushy eye-brow and said, "That's not a new idea. People have been raising money ripping off artists for years." He obviously didn't know that each artist had been paid $10,000 for his work on the portfolio. He pronounced the results of this project "uneven."
Art lover Jay Solomon, the new administrator of the General Services Administration was busily touting GSA's Art in Architecture program, which currently gives three-eighths of 1 per cent of the cost of all new federal buildings to commissioning art. Solomon asked Rosalynn Carter if she'd say a word about the program when she goes to Honolulu later this month to dedicate a new federal building there.
Meanwhile, art juggernaut Joan Mondale, when not besieged by arts-folk making a pitch for various programs, was introducing all the artist she could find to Solomon for future reference.
Solomon's wife, photographer Rosalind Solomon, whose works were recently shown in Paris with those of Diane Arbus and Lisette Model, was slugging it out with press photographers, taking pictures at point-blank range.
Guests also greeted Arts Endowment Chairman Nancy Hanks, and Joan Mondale's influential arts assistant, Mary Ann Tighe, then made for Capitol Hill, where Rep. Frank Thompson (D-N.J.) and members of the Committee on House Administration were hosting another party for the artists, and where the prints have been hung for public viewing. Other inaugural memorabilia also has been assembled from the Library of Congress.