Written by Darcy Tabako Friday, 30 July 2010 00:00
The evening of Sunday, July 11 was one many will not soon forget. Made possible by the joint collaboration of the Oyster Bay Historical Society and the Roslyn Landmark Society, “An Evening at Twinight: A Collector’s Paradise” proved to be an extraordinary evening of art and philanthropy. This spectacular gala event was held at the breathtaking estate of Richard Baron Cohen, Twinight, which sits majestically on nearly six acres in Centre Island on Long Island Sound and is said to replicate the grandeur of the Petit Trianon Palace in Versailles.
Guests of the evening were greeted with cocktails and delectable hors d’oeuvres and invited to tour the most remarkable private collection of early 19th-century Royal Copenhagen Porcelain in the world – The Twinight Collection - a collection of such significance that it was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Franklin Hill Perrell, director of the Roslyn Landmark Society, personally led these guided tours and shared his extensive knowledge of pieces in the collection. Mr. Perrell and retiring OBHS President Maureen Monck were the co-chairs of the event.
On display throughout the house is an astounding number of delicate vases, plates and plaques produced in the porcelain factories of Berlin, Sèvres and Vienna in the first half of the 19th-century. These vibrant pieces display intricate landscapes, botanicals, biblical figures and images of emperors, kings and queens. “Many of these pieces were gifts from royal personages to the nobility,” said Mr. Perrell. He continued, “The Napoleonic period brought forth a tremendous enrichment of knowledge about making porcelains.” He said, “Perfecting the science of color - is what the 19th century was about.” Mr. Perrell drew everyone’s attention to two enormous amphora found in their own respective niche at the entrance of the house. Each represents the Flight from Egypt and are based on a mural by German artist, Wilhelm von Kaulbach. “They are the real spectacle pieces in the presentation,” said Mr. Perrell.
Another great highlight in the house was the porcelain dinnerware set from Royal Copenhagen adorned with hippopotami. Mr. Cohen is said to have hired a photographer to travel the world photographing these hippos in various zoos around the world. These images were later hand-painted onto each place setting. Each hippo’s name and city is noted on the underside of each piece. As the most recent addition to the collection, is it receiving very favorable acclaim.
Guests were then invited onto the terrace to continue their lively discussions and enjoy the subtle sunset of the evening, indicative of why the estate is named Twinight. Many also had the opportunity to peruse silent and live auction works of art by prominent Long Island artists such as Kendall Klingbeil, Frank Olt and Carol Vollet Kingston, to name a few.
Prior to the start of the live auction, Mr. Perrell spoke of the unique opportunity for the Roslyn Landmark Society to partner with the Oyster Bay Historical Society in coordinating such an amazing affair that would not have been possible without the unrivaled support of Richard Baron Cohen. Mr. Perrell said, “It is such a great joy being here to understand the beauty and wisdom in his collection.” He added, “Richard is a great collector, but I also feel the collection collected him,” words that drew applause from the crowd. Attention then turned to the host of the evening, Richard Baron Cohen. Mr. Cohen warmly addressed guests in attendance by saying, “I’ve had large audiences, in first Berlin, then Vienna, then Paris, then the Metropolitan in New York, but no audience has given me better pleasure than the audience here in my hometown… my beloved Oyster Bay.” He added, “Collecting is a very solitary pursuit. Mine is really a search for clarity. I find clarity in my life through these objects. These objects are meant to be seen, not meant to be hidden, but to fill the world with great joy.”
With that in mind, Mr. Cohen encouraged members of the audience to bid generously on the wonderful works of art of the future as the auction began. The art auction was curated by Yvonne Noonan-Cifarelli, Oyster Bay Historical Society’s 2nd vice president and owner of Curatorial Services.
The live auction segment of the evening was soon underway as guest auctioneer John Loring, design director emeritus of Tiffany & Co., introduced the first item up for auction, a 15 inch-tall horse head statue titled TR’s Little Texas by Dan Christoffel. Several participants took part in consistent competitive bidding for the piece portraying one of President Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite horses, which in the end sold to Doris Hinsch Lezny. Offering one of the most striking and unique works of art in the auction was Puneeta Mittal with Bottlescape. This assemblage of nine bottles made of clay went to the highest bidder – Townsend Weeks. Mr. Loring maintained a comfortable momentum in the room, effortlessly engaging onlookers throughout the evening. Another piece that received much attention was a uniquely exquisite ceramic by Susan Kadish. Once the gavel came down, Frank Leone, president of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, held the winning bid for this piece. It was the second winning bid of the evening, his first was a piece by Kendall Klingbeil, an oil, Birches by the Water. One of the evening’s brightest moments came in the final minutes of the auction when a still life painting on canvas, titled Clash, by local artist Rob Zeller, went to the highest bidder, Michael Piccolo.
As the evening came to a rousing close, Ms. Monck was joined by members of the Oyster Bay Historical Society and the Roslyn Landmark Society, as they presented Mr. Cohen with an oil on canvas by Paul Bachem (a local artist originally from Glen Cove) depicting a hippopotamus and in the distance his grand estate. It was commissioned by the two societies. Frank Leone, President of the Oyster Bay Historical society, offered his final thoughts on the evening by adding, “I’d like to thank Richard Baron Cohen for opening his magnificent home to our members and friends and making it possible for us to raise a significant amount of money toward our Building Fund during this amazing event.” He added, “I’m excited about being the society’s president and I’m now on the hunt for new members to join the society and to inject some new blood into our board of trustees. It’s a brand new day at the Oyster Bay Historical Society!”
Proceeds garnered from this event will aid in the completion of the Angela P. Koenig Research Center currently under construction. The Dolan Family Foundation has generously pledged a matching grant to the Oyster Bay Historical Society to complete the building. In addition, the event will also allow for the expansion of new programming at the Roslyn Landmark Society.