History of the Dîner en Blanc in Paris (White Dinner)

Not with P-Diddy, but just as fabulous? Two months ago, my boyfriend told me to save June 17th for a surprise. I decided to embrace the concept of surprise so I concluded that it must be the ballet with Baryshnikov. Fortunately, it’s going to be the 2010 installation of Dîner en Blanc or The White Party, an invite-only secret dinner party that descends upon a different and very public location each year: The Arc de Triomphe, Concorde, The Invalides…It’s so secret in fact, that even those connected by blood to the organizers do not know.  But rumors are that this year’s location is going to be especially impressive. The location is announced upon boarding pre-arranged buses that take the invitees to the dinner spot.  Everyone must wear white, bring dinner in a picnic basket, chairs, table and champagne. You exchange food and dates (temporarily) with those around you.

From those interested in the history…The Dîner en  Blanc was started buy a man named François Pasquier, who invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne one day in June. To find each other in the park, they all wore white. The dinner was such a success that they decided the next year, each person would invite some other friends and the event grew organically into the 10000+ dinner it is today.

From a preservation perspective, I have always been impressed by the progressive view the Parisian government has on the usage of venerated architecture, permitting large electro parties to happen in the Grand Palais and other formal institutions. The police generally try to break up the Dîner en Blanc (hence the need for secrecy), but I still think it reflects the spirit of Paris and its constant reinvention of history on already storied locations. It also raises an interesting question about preservation: do we over-protect  historic buildings in America, thereby preventing the current generation from putting their imprint on the spaces? Perhaps preservation should also mean participation. If the Dîner en Blanc were  to happen in New York, the process would probably be a bit more democratized and less classy, but I just can’t imagine 10,000 people descending on the MET and the police (or the museum board) just letting it happen. Can you?

Pictures from the event to come after this Thursday!

UPDATE: Pictures from the 2011 Dîner en Blanc and  the 2010 Dîner en Blanc!

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.

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