Audrey Bernard

*Expensive furs and designer coats wrapped around their svelte bodies keeping them warm as they walked up the grand steps leading into the beauteous Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street to attend a special tribute to Eunice W. Johnson who had succumbed to renal failure Sunday, January 3, 2010  at her Chicago home.  She was 93.

Politicians, socialites, celebrities and fashion industry stalwarts braved the blistering cold weather to celebrate the philanthropist and fashion icon that named Ebony Magazine and created the Ebony Fashion Fair that brought high fashion to African American communities worldwide.

Mrs. Johnson is the widow of the late John H. Johnson, publisher and chairman of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., which he founded in 1942 with her love and support. After her husband died in 2005, Mrs. Johnson maintained her duties with the Ebony Fashion Fair and Johnson Publishing.

Mrs. Johnson, who also served as the secretary and treasurer of Johnson Publishing, began her world famous fashion show in 1961 to showcase the range of fashion styles and cosmetics sported by African-American women.

The glamorous luncheon, which was made possible in part by Macy’s, took place on Monday, January 11, 2010 from 12:00-2:30 p.m. in The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing.  Donna Williams, chief audience development officer, welcomed the ladies who lunch followed by warm remarks from the museum’s director Thomas P. Campbell.

Mr. Campbell then introduced the surprise keynote speaker, former president Bill Clinton, a friend of the Johnson family who spoke about the sparkling partnership the Johnsons shared.

Eunice Johnson & Bill Clinton

Mr. Clinton drew laughter from the crowd when he told them of his admiration for Mrs. Johnson and what a fine looking woman she was.  “I remember when I walked her down the isle at her husband’s funeral saying to myself, ‘she’s still an attractive woman.’  She had an ageless mentality.  She was forever young”  Mr. Clinton praised the work the Johnsons have done for education noting that to date Ebony Fashion Fair has raised more than $55 million for various charities.

Harold Koda, curator in charge, The Costume Institute, introduced a video celebrating Eunice “In Living Brown Color” Johnson followed by a presentation of a proclamation by the museum’s president, Emily K. Rafferty and accepted by Mrs. Johnson’s daughter Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.

Linda referred to her mom as being a shining example of female strength and endurance in both media and fashion.  She was very pleased with the luncheon and said that her mother would be “thrilled.”

Linda thanked and praised the host committee for a fabulous job including Gayle Perkins Atkins, Carol Sutton Lewis, David Meitus, b michael, Audrey Smaltz, Andre Leon Talley, Lizzie Tisch and Isabel and Ruben Toledo.  At the end of the snazzy luncheon gests were encouraged to tour The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Multicultural Audience Development Initiative reflects the Museum’s founding mission to educate and inspire by reaching out to all of its constituencies, including the many diverse communities that comprise the tri-state area.

Alexa Rice, Bill Clinton & Linda Johnson Rice

Its objectives are to heighten awareness of the Museum’s programs and collections, to increase participation in its activities and to diversity its visitorship and Membership

Founded in 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s largest and finest art museums.  Its collections include more than two million works of art spanning five thousand years of world culture, from prehistory to the present and from every part of the globe.

 

Nearly five million people visit the Museum each year.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded on April 13, 1870, “to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction.”

This statement of purpose has guided the Museum for more than a century.  The Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art have reaffirmed the statement of purpose and supplemented it with the following statement of mission:

The mission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.