San Francisco Social Diary: Spring in the City

The Asian Art Museum (AAM) of San Francisco presented the exhibition China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, one of the greatest archaeological finds of our time.


Through the end of May, the Asian Art Museum (AAM) of San Francisco is exhibiting terra cotta warrior statues from the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259-206 BCE), who unified the country in 221 BCE.

The exhibit explores the emperor’s reign and influence. Qin leaders, much like the Egyptian Pharaohs, were buried with their wealth so they could carry it into the afterlife.

Discovered in 1974 in Xi’an in northern China by farmers digging a well, Emperor Qin’s riches-filled tomb is guarded by more than 7,000 life-size terra cotta warriors, horses, chariots, and more than 10,000 weapons, with more excavation continuing today.

The exhibit, China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, was the last stop on a worldwide tour of the warriors.

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco stands across the plaza from City Hall.

A replica of a chariot and horses discovered in the tombs in Xi’an greets the visitors as they arrive in the foyer.

The exquisite bronze horses and chariot are considered masterpieces.


While living in China, I’ve visited the original terra cotta warriors several times over the years. Archeologists have carefully excavated the pits where rows of warriors were discovered. Some are in good condition, but others are damaged, and a protective cover was built to protect that which is unearthed.

The find was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is sometimes referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum is located 22 miles from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province.

My daughter Stephanie Lawrence and I visited the pits where the majestic terra cotta warriors have stood through the centuries.

The figures were created with a series of clay molds, then finished by individual artists, so no two are exactly alike.

As the statues were made piece-by-piece and then put together like a puzzle, some are missing a part or two.


The AAM has eight warriors and two horses on display along with more than 100 artifacts of the era. The exhibit is organized into four themes—Immortality, Innovation, Archaeology, and Unification—exploring the emperor’s vision and his contribution to historical and modern-day China.

The rank and position of each warrior can be gleaned from its placement in the tomb, hair and clothing styles, and weaponry such as swords, spears, and crossbows.

Each figure is positioned correlating to his duties; this kneeling figure is an archer preparing to shoot an arrow.

Varying garments include tunics, armor breastplates, fish scale armor, hair and headwear, and footwear.

In addition to foot soldiers, there are also cavalry leading horses and chariots.

A General wearing his ribbons. The soldiers are remarkably lifelike and each one has an individual head, hairstyle, and facial expression.

Finished by skilled artisans, the details of the heads, faces, and hands are unique and are thought to represent real soldiers.

An ancient limestone suit of armor.

The exhibit gives museumgoers the opportunity to view the warriors up close and in detail, while in their home in Xi’an, one can only see most of them from afar.

The cavalry horses include a saddle, but stirrups were not in use at the time.

This photo illustrates the vivid colors the warriors were originally painted, but with exposure to the elements most of the pigment has been lost.

This display explains how the warriors were built from individual clay pieces.

The exhibition was enhanced with more than 100 artifacts from the era.

A life-size bronze crane (left) and swan.

This intricately decorated vessel is in remarkable condition.

One of many bronze ritual vessels.

You can take home your own terra cotta warriors, as there’s a wonderful selection of figurines and many books on the subject in the museum’s store.


On my last visit to the exhibit, I was joined by my friend Tatiana Sorokko, who chaired the AAM Maharaja Gala (2011). It’s always fun to go with another person since you get another viewpoint.

While I was studying the captions and thinking about their historic significance, Tatiana, an editor for Harper’s Bazaar, was considering the figures’ role in fashion. She whipped out her iPhone and sent a photo of the detail of the sleeves of a general’s uniform to her favorite designer in New York, Ralph Rucci.

She wanted Ralph to design a dress for her using these sleeves as inspiration. Ralph was also fascinated by the chained armor; I wonder how he’ll recreate it?


The 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase kicked off with a sponsors’ opening night preview party at the historic Herbst Manor in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood. The show is open until May 27.

The Georgian mansion, built in 1899 by Ernest Coxhead, has more than 8,000 square feet of spacious rooms, a dramatic grand stairway, outdoor terraces and gardens, and sweeping panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the city. With so much space, the 27 selected designers had room to let their imaginations fly.

In the lovely garden, guests enjoyed drinks and plentiful hors d’oeuvres provided by McCalls caterers. Guests nibbled on caviar, oysters, and rack of lamb—if only I had known there’d be so much food, I would have planned on dinner there.

Benefitting San Francisco’s University High School Financial Aid Program, the SF Decorator Showcase selects a different estate every year, and then invites a select group of interior and landscape designers to transform spaces within the site.

In its 35 years, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase has raised more than $12 million in student financial aid, of which 22% of the high school’s student body benefits.

A view of the Pacific Heights neighborhood across the street from the mansion.

Sponsors Fazilat Jalili and Sarah Gallivan with Showcase Chair Jane Prior.

Designer Catherine Kwong in her Mick Jagger-inspired living room.

The salon, designed by Matthew Leverone, is an example of the house’s common thread of lightness and modernity.

Phillip Silver, of Bigelow + Silver, took an Eastern approach with the master bedroom’s furniture placement, “allowing energy to flow and giving the room clarity.”

The theme of designer Heather Hilliard’s dining room was “graphic and contemporary.”

Heather Hilliard in the dining room she designed.

Designer Alison Davin anchored the “Family Kitchen” with a long farm table and warm touches.

The “Birds of Prey Garden Courtyard,” designed by Davis Dalbok (left) of Living Green Design, features Japanese-inspired metal leaf prints created by artist Jane Richardson Mack (right).

Alexander McQueen and the San Francisco Ballet provided inspiration for designer Jaimie Belew’s atelier alcove.

Vernon Applegate and Gioi Tran went for a bold look in this teenage girl’s room.

Designer Shelley Cahan brought a luxurious, graphic sense to the dressing room.

The “Maker’s Mark Retreat,” designed by Kelly Hohla, is an “homage to the urban artisan.”

Hohla’s room features a lovely dusty gray palette combined with stark metals and soothing blue details.

Designers Eche Martinez and Martha Angus in their bright and playful “Danger Zone,” a children’s playroom.

Designer Christine Michelini transformed a small attic space into a unique “Writer’s Retreat.”

Antonio Martins used antique tools on the walls of the atelier to pay homage to craftsmen.

The atelier’s antique touches make it feel like an archeologist’s study.

Designers Karen Villanueva and Julia Marinho turned the “Penthouse Retreat and Terrace” into a soothing in-home spa.

Outside the penthouse space, guests enjoyed Champagne and caviar and stunning city views from the terrace.

The terrace provided a gorgeous view of the Bay, with a glimpse of Alcatraz.


It was a busy season for the Serge Sorokko Gallery: It hosted a stunning exhibition of work by New York-based painter Hunt Slonem, followed by an impressive selection of works by Belgian mixed media artist Isabelle de Borchgrave.

For each artist, fans turned out for a private opening night reception, enjoying cocktails, hobnobbing with the artists, and getting a first look at the works on display.

Serge Sorokko and artist Hunt Slonem in front of Hunt’s painting, Chandelier 8.

Serge Sorokko, artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, Tatiana Sorokko, and Werner de Borchgrave.

Serge Sorokko Gallery is located just a few blocks from San Francisco’s Union Square, the heart of the city.


The Worlds of Hunt Slonem featured more than 30 of Hunt’s latest neo-expressionist paintings, and marked his return to the Sorokko Gallery after 16 years.

Influenced by life in New York and his personal aviary of 30 to 100 live birds, the artist’s paintings frequently convey an appreciation for nature. His bird and rabbit paintings, especially, are favorites among collectors.

Hunt’s work is often seen in the culinary scene. One of his early works (and also his largest) is the 86-foot-long birds mural in New York’s Bryant Park Grill Restaurant.

West coast chef Gary Danko, who catered the gallery preview, is a longtime friend and fan: Some of Hunt’s paintings hang in his upscale San Francisco eatery, Gary Danko. Hunt has also designed the wine label for Napa Valley winery Amuse Bouche’s 2009 Merlot.

Artist Hunt Slonem, Tatiana Sorokko, and Greg Lopez.

Jody Thelander and Luba Troyanovsky.

Don Howerton, Alec Holmes, Sharon Carnicelli, David Nash, and Philip Dwelle.

Painter Hunt Slonem with Patty Mozart, in front of her new acquisition.

Sonya Molodetskaya poses with her artsy handbag.

Hunt’s popular rabbit series is influenced by his birth year—the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.



Doves and Guardians


April was a big month for Hunt. In addition to the opening of his show at the Sorokko Gallery, he was honored with the “Award of Excellence” from the Horticultural Society of New York at its annual Flower Show Dinner Dance, and received a “Lifetime Cultural Achievement Award,” created in his honor, from the Louisiana State Arts Council and Governor Bobby Jindal.


Next at the Sorokko Gallery, the internationally renowned Isabelle de Borchgrave displayed her works of paper. She crafts three-dimensional, tactile masterpieces that beg to be touched.

Influenced by international travels, the colors and textures of her work reflect the many locales she’s visited.

“My work is a confluence of influences—paper, painting, sculptor, textiles, costume, illusion, and trompe l’oeil,” she says.

I was first introduced to her work during a fabulous retrospective at San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum in 2011. Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave was the museum’s most attended show that year.

Isabelle de Borchgrave with Derek Barnes.

Suzanna Jackson, Elisabetta Viani, and Tatiana Sorokko.

Gorretti Lui and Isabelle de Borchgrave.

Daniel Diaz and Katya Sorokko.

Serge Sorokko, Kristen Fiori, and Robert Flynn Johnson.

Marianne Woo, Sue Kim, and Irene Woo.

Isabelle de Borchgrave: New Paintings and Sculptures included a selection of the artist’s paintings, works on paper, paper sculptures, and bronzes—the first time her bronzes have ever been displayed in the U.S.

Her gorgeous pleated gowns, created with paper, were inspired by fashion designer Mariano Fortuny’s early-20th-century “Delphos” dresses, finely pleated silk frocks based on classical Greek statues.


The Italian luxury brand Gucci held a party at its San Francisco flagship store to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the brand’s horsebit shoe—the iconic equestrian-style loafer with a double ring and bar motif.

Hosted by the city’s movers and shakers Sloan and Roger Barnett, Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar, Jean-Pierre Conte, and Alison and Mark Pincus, the evening was to benefit the “The Bay Lights,” the stunning light installation on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

With this stellar committee and with PR wiz Allison Speer’s help, all the “beautiful young things” showed up and it seemed more like an exclusive cocktail party than a typical store event.

Visiting New Yorker Aileen Agopian (Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist of Contemporary Art), accompanied by colleague Jennifer Beiderbeck (Director of the San Francisco office), was impressed by how fashionably the guests were dressed at this glamorous and high-energy party.

Gucci celebrated the anniversary of its horsebit loafer at its flagship store in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Allison Speer and host Alison Pincus, co-founder high-end décor retailer One Kings Lane.

The classic horsebit loafer, next to a photo of actor Dustin Hoffman sporting it in 1970.

A photo of actress Jodie Foster skateboarding in a pair of horsebit loafers in 1977, surrounded by some spring colors.

The classic Gucci horsebit loafer debuted in 1953 and was soon seen gracing the feet of celebrities such as Clark Gable, John Wayne, and Fred Astair. In 1985, the iconic shoe was adopted into the permanent collection of the costume institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Today the loafer is available in numerous materials—suede, patent leather, and python—and it was announced that you can now even customize the shoe, so it really is uniquely yours.

Ricky Serbin, of online luxury retailer 1stdibs, exclaimed, “Talk about ‘light on his loafers. To me, Gucci shoes are the most comfortable.”

Guests were only too happy to snap up the latest styles.

Summer Tompkins Walker, Ricky Serbin, and Jennifer Raiser.

Hosts Sabrina Buell and Sloan Barnett.

Ricky Serbin picked out “Floral,” a painted canvas pair, but left empty-handed as it sold out quickly. Instead, he is waiting for them to be shipped from Italy.

Alison Pincus, Jean-Pierre Conte, and Vanessa Getty.

Lindsay Bolton and Jeanne Lawrence.

Maria Manetti Shrem and Summer Tompkins Walker.

Kimberly Bakker, Don Stephens, and Denise Ivory.

Mansoor and Fati Farmanfarmaian.

John-Paul Cross and Stuart Maschmeier.

Jeanne Lawrence, Jennifer Biederbeck, Aileen Agopian, and Becca Prowda.

Susan Dunlevy, Diane Chapman, and Meriwether McGettigan.

Charlot and Gregory Malin.

Xiaojun Lee and Ali Turner.

Diane Chapman, Dorka Keehn, Michael Purdy, and Jay Jeffers.

Jean-Pierre Conte and Hillary Thomas.

Suzanne and Carson Levit with Laura Sweeney.

David and Jocelyn Sandler.

John and Lana Adair.

John van Camp, Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café, Maria Manetti Shrem, Rolando Beramendi, and Jeanne Lawrence.

Of course Florentine-born Maria Manetti Shrem was in attendance, as she once established 12 Gucci stores at the now closed but much missed upscale department stores Joseph Magnin.

Other Gucci party guests included Adria Bini, Willie Brown, Glen and April Bucksbaum, Carla Emil, Ken Fulk, Peter Hirshberg, Jenna Hunt, Sonya Molodetskaya, Alison Sonsini, Steve and Mary Swig, Jeana Toney, Alexis and Trevor Traina, and many others.


Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, Darryl Kirchner, Serge Sorokko Gallery, Rebecca Kmiec, Christopher Stark, Drew Kelly, and Lucas Saugen.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *