The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery said Tuesday it will host its first fundraising gala Nov. 15 to honor five accomplished individuals and raise $1 million toward its endowment.
The American Portrait Gala, to be held in the museum’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, will salute Hank Aaron, Aretha Franklin, Carolina Herrera, Maya Lin and Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, a Marine and Medal of Honor recipient. Philanthropists Wayne and Catherine Reynolds are the gala’s founding chairs.
“It really is as much about the gesture and the message than the fundraising itself,” said Kim Sajet, the gallery’s director. “It’s to say to everyone that we recognize and also collect the portraits of living Americans.”
Sajet said she hopes the gala will add a dose of glamour to the District.
“I wouldn’t mind bringing a little L.A. and New York razzle-dazzle,” said Sajet, who added that Franklin would perform at the event. “If we can’t do American achievement and celebrity and throw a party around those ideas, who can?”
The five honorees represent a range of American achievement, Sajet said. Their portraits are already in the museum, which means they have been vetted by the museum’s historians and art experts.
“There are all sorts of hoops they have to go through,” Sajet said of the gallery’s acquisition process. “Historians have to decide if someone has national influence, and the art historian has to find a good work of art.”
The gala, Sajet said, also will showcase the museum’s mission and the art of portraiture.
“It’s a way of encouraging artists to do portraits of men and women of significance,” she said. “To make people aware of what we do nationally.”