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NEW YORK Honoree James Gandolfini headlined the African Rainforest Conservancy's benefit at the newly opened Twenty Four Fiftha venue that would seem out of place in the The Sopranos. Located in an apartment building constructed in 1926 as the Fifth Avenue Hotel, the space features an elegant, understated ambience, befitting New York high society, not New Jersey mafia.
The formal candle-lit ballroom showcased a silent auction of African art, which the 190 guests bid on throughout the evening. Event producer Mara Medoff created a muted look for the room, with an infusion of green provided by centerpieces of single Elephant Ear leaves and fresh grass set off by votives. “I wanted it to feel intimate but also exciting,” Medoff told us.
The conservancy paid tribute to Gandolfini, an avid supporter and collector of African art, by asking him to name a new Tanzania wildflower. (Gandolfini decided on “Moses Mwangokae,” in honor of the scientist who found it.)
The David Rockwell-designed event spacewhich was originally scheduled to open months agocreated its own buzz as guests marveled at the ballroom's many stylish touches, from the beaded wall sconces to the antique chandeliers. An employee of the Glazier Group, which owns the space, found two women in the ladies room lingering in front of an intricate marble archway. Playing the role of tour guide, she explained how the piece was discovered underneath sheetrock in the midst of the restoration process. “I'm so glad I ran into you,” the admirer gushed. “You must have felt like an architect unearthing this.”