The first rule of “Les XX,” the exclusive new membership at the Phillips Collection, is: Learn how to pronounce “Les XX.” (It’s “le van” with a heavy emphasis on the nasal). The next order of business–after you’ve summoned your best French accent–is figuring out just what “Les XX” is.

At the group’s inaugural reception on Thursday about 20 “young influencers” arrived at the art-filled Dupont home of Phillips trustee Eric Richter expecting an answer to the query posed on their invites, “Are you in?” I don’t know, am I?

Turns out the fancy-sounding clique, which takes its name from a similar group founded by avant garde artists in Brussels in 1883, is part secret salon and part marketing tool.

The small crowd on Thursday included everyone from fashion insiders to financiers. They are being asked to provide the names of some 2,000 chic Washingtonians who will in turn receive a “Les XX” membership card. The card arrives in September, just in time for the museum’s new exhibit, “Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: Painting, Poetry and Music.”

Throughout the exhibit’s run (September 27 until January 11) members will get exclusive (there’s that word again) access to posh events around town. Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn is offering Les XXers “Neo-Impressionism inspired cocktails” at his Capitol Hill restaurant Bernaise. Wink, the Georgetown women’s boutique, is offering a 15 percent discount on members’ purchases.

The plan is to combine all the things Washingtonians love–exclusivity, free drinks–while also making a play for young art patrons who might be looking for a new institution to call home.

“It’s sooo much better than the Corcoran,” we overheard one Les XXer whisper over the clink of champagne glasses.


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