Art mogul Joseph Hirshhorn woke up from his afternoon nap, poked his head out the window, then decided to stay home and keep warm. Everybody else went out.
It seemed like it, anyway. Last night, nearly 1,000 people traded a cozy night at home next to the fire, spouse or television set for the chance to wedge into a packed art gallery and talk, over the din, of things artistic.
This occured at three separate parties that attracted minks, army fatigues, health food T-shirts and the wives of the vice president and the napping Hirshhorn. Champagne corks hit the ceiling, lines like "I find this work so incredibly strong and romantic" were spoken and people stood around smelling the insides of books. Really.
"Open that book and let him get a whiff," said Richard Kidwell, a budget analyst for the Navy.
"Smells like a good, old-fashioned book," ruled Ben Lawless, assistant director for exhibits at the Museum of History and Technology.
The book they were smelling was "The Democratic Art" written by Corcocan director Peter Marzio on legal pads in with a No. 1 pencil when he lived in a sort of pigeonhole in Harbour Square. The party they were attending was Marzio's publication get-together at Kramer Books, an event neatly scheduled right between a 6 p.m. party at the Art Barn and an 8 p.m. orderly mob scene at the National Archives.
It was just dark when the minks and velvet blazers made their ways through the parking lot of the Art Barn. Outside were the forest smells and yellow leaves of Rock Creek Park; inside were stone walls, wooden floors and popping champagne corks. And Polly Logan, the guest of honor who founded the Art Barn as a gallery nearly 10 years ago.
Inside also was Hirshhorn's wife, Olga, as well as 150 arts patrons, jammed elbow to belly into a very small space.
Various sorts of modern art hung on the walls. On people, too. At least that's what fabric artist Efrocine Fiotes claimed as she whipped off her brown shawl, flung it through the air and said with great feeling, "See what I mean -- it's a painting. It's a painting. It's a painting of a copper pheasant." She then whipped the bird back on.
Soon after, the Marzio party on I Street began to gel. But it was a slow, weak gel. An hour after it started under the Kramer Books sign that said "And the Sale Goes On . . .", only a quiet group of 15 was there congratulating the author.
"This is more of a scholarly event," said Lee Kimche, the director of the Institute of Museum Services, "and people in Washington are not always attracted to substantive ideas."
There was plenty of red and white wine left over on a shelf that held cookbooks by Fannie Farmers and a group of EEOC hearing examiners dining in the adjoining restaurant actually was larger than the Marzio crowd.
But Marzio, who worked on this book about chromolithography for 10 years, had his mind on other matters. "I find that when I pick up a copy of it and thumb through it, that I really don't mind reading it," he said.
And then, down Pennsylvania Avenue, people began climbing -- literally -- into the Archives party. This was because they used the main door on Constitution, an entrance with enough steps to wind a good jogger.
The party here was to celebrate the opening of a show called "The American Image: Photographs from the National Archives." The crowd was highly heterogenous, ranging from Joan Mondale to a part-time house painter who wore a maroon beret and a yellow T-shirt that read "natural living."
Mondale was whisked through by three Secret Service agents; the painter, Steve Volow, stayed until the end.
"It's sort of like a little pompous, you know?" he said. "Every once in a while, somebody will look at me and wonder what the hell I'm doing here."
Others looked at the photographs. Like Harry Lunn, the art gallery owner and collector who waxed eloquent over an 1857 photograph of the Capitol still under construction.
"That has a magic that speaks to you," he said.
Below this was a picture of several friendly-looking cows bathing in the Anacostia River. The Capitol dome, by that time completed, is in the background.
There were two main congregating areas at this party. One was the corridor exhibit of photographs and the other was the huge circular gallery that included the original Declaration of Independence as well as the food -- cheese, fruit, Doritos, the omnipresent pate.
Generally, if you were a serious art person, you grabbed a celery stick or two, then made for a slow perusal of the photographs; if you were a serious party person, you breezed through the exhibit, then settled down with the celery sticks (and wine) for a political and/or gossip gab fest.
Adventuresome sorts, on the other hand, could wander into a room tucked off the main drag where six young women dressed in colonial costumes played violins.
And as always at big parties, there were the wallflowers. Among these was Robert Nelson, a Washington bookseller who chewed a toothpick as he leaned against a huge door.
"I just a happened to be walking by and smelled the wine," he said.