An International Portrait Gallery?


Marc Pachter Ronald McDonald Thailand TWN 500.jpg
(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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march pachter twombly john waters 200.jpgHis 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


8 comments on “An International Portrait Gallery?

  1. David says:

    The very best reverence is irreverence.
    Ronald McDonald doing praying hands – priceless.


  2. Outraged American says:

    Palin to Fox – Stewart and Colberts’ prayers have been answered.
    I marketed the re-release of a Water’s film. Damned if I remember
    which one, the ironic thing being I’ve never seen any of them in full
    and really hated the snippet that I saw of one.


  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Off topic:
    BBC reports that Sarah Palin signs on as a commentator with Fox News.
    “Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin has signed to be a contributor on the
    Fox News Channel, her lawyer has said.
    Fox News said that while Mrs Palin would not have her own programme, she would
    appear on the channel regularly as part of a multi-year deal. Financial details
    of the deal have not been released.
    “I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News,”
    Mrs Palin said in a statement on the network’s website.
    “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.”


  4. Lurker says:

    This was a fun, interesting post, Steve. Marc Pachter sounds like a
    great man and good friend.


  5. DonS says:

    I swear to do my duty to God and my country to be more irreverent.


  6. Denis Neville says:

    Reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite story about Ethan Allen, the American Revolution war hero who went to Britain after the war. After he arrived, the British, still upset about having lost the war, put their measly British minds together and came up with a plot to try to embarrass Allen by putting a large portrait of George Washington in the only outhouse where he might encounter it. They had hoped Allen would be upset about the indignity of George Washington being in an outhouse. That night, after dinner and conversation, Allen made his way out, candle in hand, and did his business. He came back in as high of spirits as ever.
    “Didn’t you see George Washington in there?!” they said.
    “Oh yes,” said Allen. “Perfectly appropriate place for him”
    “What do you mean?” They said.
    “Well,” he said, “there is nothing to make an Englishman shit faster than the sight of General George Washington.


  7. Mr.Murder says:

    A splendid thread, full of enough Mchumor to fill a Happy Meal(tm).
    Somewhere from the depths of google, a wave of hungry bloggers arrives at TWN.


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