(photo credit: Marc Pachter)
There is something intriguing to me that the long-time, now former director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Marc Pachter, took this picture of Ronald McDonald in Bangkok.
Pachter, who oversaw the brilliant renovation and upgrade of DC’s home base for official portraiture which now anchors the popular Penn Quarter, has now moved from that sort of officialdom, even applied in the avant-garde, to moving around the world without all the pretense and living life on his own terms — without regard to politics, funders, or obligations to who he officially “was.”
But yet — he still took this great photo, and I’m having a blast with him seeing New York city in a way that I hadn’t before.
Our mutual friend, Adam Goodheart, wrote this terrific New York Times profile of Pachter in 2002 starting with the line, “Marc Pachter can’t find Dorothy’s ruby slippers.” Pachter was was then acting Director of the National Museum of American History in addition to tending the stable of great portraits of US American presidents.
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His crowning achievement and swan song at the National Portrait Gallery was agreeing to hang Stephen Colbert’s portrait at the gallery — but only on Pachter’s terms.
Colbert was pleased to see his portrait, self-lugged into the Museum, hanging near Gilbert Stuart’s iconic George Washington — but was bemused by its placement in the alcove of the Gallery’s bathrooms.
When Colbert, on a subsequent program, asked Pachter whether anyone had come to see it, Pachter answered “Oh yes, it’s like a urological emergency. There are long lines to the bathroom.”
Pachter tells people that he’s writing nothing, but he actually has some thoughts on why museums lack a sense of humor about themselves.
One of my favorite encounters with him was at a brilliantly whacky John Waters interpretation of Cy Twombly’s work — but the cool part was that Pachter, dressed in white tie and tails, was heading off after Waters’ performance to the Gridiron Dinner where VP Joe Biden spoke and stole the show — and I convinced him to be my mole.
That was the night Biden said Obama thought Easter was about him.
I did note that though Pachter, dressed to the nines, probably looked like the only person who might be possibly cast in a John Waters movie, the filmmaker found it ‘unsurprising’ that someone would show up in white tie and tails at his deal.
We need more irreverence just about everywhere — but particularly in Washington.
— Steve Clemons