Table Art

By James Buckley   |   April 19, 2018

The idea is unique, at least in Santa Barbara, and we’ve not heard of such an event having been done elsewhere: Put 12 designers together, have each choose a piece of art from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s permanent collection, and then create a dining design to enhance the artist’s choice. All in the name of art, naturally, and in the name of fundraising for art, if truth be told.

It’s an illustrious group, headed up by Montecito-based designer John Saladino, who famously (and courageously) brought his 13-and-a-half-acre, 11,000-sq-ft stone estate re-named Villa de Lemma (originally tagged “Still Farm” by its designer/builder Lockwood de Forest in the early 1930s) back to life after decades of decay. The newly renovated estate was later purchased and sold by Montecito’s most notable house-flipper, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Creating separate table settings and choosing art themes along with the estimable Mr. Saladino are Rose and Jack Herschorn and Stacie Bouffard of The Sacred Space in Summerland, Diana Dolan of Porch, Cabana Home’s Caroline Thompson, Margaret Watson, and Steve Thompson, Early California Antiques’s Eric Berg, Gina Andrews of Bon Fortune, and artist-entrepreneurs Victoria Imperioli, Starr Siegele, Cynthia Belliveau, Kristi Meland and Jerry Peddicord with Hogue & Co., Colette Cosentino, Margaret Matson, and Marc Normand Gelinas.

Mr. Saladino has already chosen the “Head of Aphrodite”, a 2nd-century Roman marble sculpture gifted to the museum by Wright Luddington as his featured art, but the list of artwork the designers and artists are to choose from include Yinka Shonibare’s “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, a chromogenic print mounted on aluminum; an early 17th-century Qing Dynasty Zun-shaped porcelain vase; a nearly 1,000-year-old wood and gold statue called “Bodhisattva of Compassion”; Jehan-Georges Vibert’s watercolor “At the Breakfast Table”; Jules Breton’s 1872 painting, “The Pardon”; Claude Monet’s “Villas in Bordighera” (oil on canvas, 1884); Ernest Ange Duez’s “Woman in Grey on Board Ship, Gazing at the Sea” oil on canvas, dated 1873; Jules Bastien-Lepage’s “The Ripened Wheat (Les Bles Murs) oil on canvas, circa 1884; Aaron Morse’s “The Kingdom of Nature”, a 2008 watercolor; Cai Jia’s “Zhong Kui the Demon Queller in Self-Admiration”, a 1733 ink and color on paper; and finally, another Roman artifact: a relief of “Three Dancing Nymphs” in marble, dating from the 1st century.

It’s a weeklong event set to begin Friday, April 27, with a VIP preview ($200) of the settings with the designers. Later that evening, the rest of the guests ($150) will join the VIPs and designers for drinks and hors d’oeuvres for the viewings. Money raised is earmarked for the museum’s acquisitions, exhibitions, and education programs.

Attracting Adonis

John Saladino’s table is set for two in honor of “the seduction of Adonis by Aphrodite, as though she is luring him with good food and good wine,” Mr. Saladino’s explains during a short visit to his home in Birnam Wood. “The table is set with pretty costly things and I’m doing a vignette. There’s a seven-foot, six-inch-square marble tile floor, a column with Roman lavabo on top that one has to imagine is pouring water into an antique silver bowl filled with white marble fruit (you can’t have real fruit in the museum) sitting on a pedestal. To add some tongue-in-cheek levity to this classical production,” Saladino adds, “I have a silver rat peeking its head out from under the tablecloth. It’s always good to take some of the thunder out of the palace.”

The tablecloth is “sort of messy,” he says, noting that “It’s pushed toward Adonis because Aphrodite wants him to believe that he has the best of everything.”

Saladino’s attention to detail is real and complete and probably goes a long way in explaining the designer’s extraordinarily successful career.

“The Art of the Table” sounds like a fun event for a very good cause. For tickets and more information, you are invited to contact Karen Kawaguchi at (805) 884-6428 ( The Santa Barbara Museum of Art at 1130 State Street is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm and features free entry on Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 pm.


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