COLUMBIA, SC — Paul Sloan didn’t recall how it popped into his head (“I’m sure wine was involved”) but he decided to invite a group of women over and offer one of them a portrait by Bonnie Goldberg, painted on the spot.
Everyone else could visit and drink champagne and watch the process unfold.
So Wednesday night, Sloan had his party.
A clever bit of marketing, bringing 25 women – clients, people he’s met through charitable work and the arts, gutsy businesswomen – to his interior-design shop in the Vista.
He kept it small and picked people who were interesting in appearance, he said, to make it easier for the artist, who he represents.
“I’ve actually had two people call and beg me to come,” Sloan confided beforehand.
As they arrived, people greeted with kisses to both cheeks, catching up amid colorful upholstered furniture and glossy lamps, mirrors and contemporary chandeliers.
Goldberg said the biggest trick was deciding what to wear.
“You mean you’re going to paint now?” Michel Moore asked.
People milled around, considering the likelihood that Sloan would select their name from the silver bowl.
Many discussed whether they’d ever model nude.
Maybe 10 years ago, one woman said. Twenty-five or 30 pounds ago.
Moore said seeing the artist at work would allow people an emotional connection to her art.
“People are afraid to buy art because they don’t know what it’s worth,” she said. “We’re all used to assigning a value to something.”
Finally Sloan called the group together. Caroline McConnell’s name was picked for the portrait.
She wore a bright red shawl and crossed her arms, seeming relaxed in a corner chair as Goldberg quickly painted in what she called “an abstract, gestural way.” An hour and a half later, she was finished.
“Caroline, look how beautiful you are,” an admirer exclaimed.
The artist and her subject chatted.
“It’s my first portrait, and I’m floored,” McConnell said.
Goldberg began cleaning up.
The group began to break up.
“Love you, too,” one woman said to a parting friend. “Let’s do dinner.”
There had been just enough champagne, just enough space to move about the elegant room.