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Venetian Affair

"Donatella will be happy," Stefano Pilati joked outside the Italian pavilion at the Biennale here.

VENICE — "Donatella will be happy," Stefano Pilati joked outside the Italian pavilion at the Biennale here, as two performance artists in business suits slipped clear, Versace-logoed garment bags over their heads. The point of the suffocating stunt? Who knows, but fashion and art got along famously over a weekend jam-packed with parties, prizes and schmoozing.

"Comment ça va?" Marc Jacobs exclaimed as his posse ran smack into Azzedine Alaïa's at the Arsenale site, where Francesco Vezzoli's latest work, "Democrazy," depicting mock presidential campaign commercials featuring Sharon Stone and Bernard-Henri Lévy, was a top attraction.

Later, Lévy was pressing flesh and receiving mock political congratulations at François Pinault's lavish dinner at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini's stunning cloister. "Can you believe there's a garden like this in Venice?" marveled Gucci's Frida Giannini, agog at the towering centerpiece by Belgian artist Daniel Ost — a globe composed of 174 individual plants.

François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, in a green satin Gucci gown and Boucheron jewels, hadn't yet seen any exhibitions, but talk among the other guests naturally centered on art. "I have a really, really small collection," demurred actress Mia Maestro, who just wrapped up filming a comedy and two psychological thrillers.

"Did you see ‘Yellowcake'?" Susan Gutfreund asked with urgency, referring to Thomas Demand's politically charged images of the Rome building where paperwork suggested Saddam Hussein was allegedly amassing bomb-making materials. "If you're a visual person, you have to be here," she said, turning to snap photos of Hayek and her fiancé.

MaxMara, Y-3 and Prada also hosted events, but most of the fashion and artsy folk ended their night at the Hotel Bauer bar. After security guards blocked the entrance to the overfilled boîte late on Friday night, some diehards ordered their boats to bring them around back to the locked terrace gate, which they leaped right over — no small feat when you're in heels and a Cavalli gown.
"It's always like that: party to party to party," mused Stephanie Seymour, dressed in body-hugging Alaïa, as was Naomi Campbell, who confessed, "I really don't know a lot about art. But it's been a laugh."

After the Pinault dinner, a flotilla of private boats whisked guests to a heaving Gucci-sponsored party for L'Uomo Vogue's art issue at François Pinault's Palazzo Grassi, where the likes of Campbell, Alberta Ferretti, Margherita Missoni, Maurizio Cattelan and Franca Sozzani grooved to Michel Gaubert's beats in the central atrium, dominated by a towering Christmas-tree-like sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer aptly titled "Jet Set Lady."

By Saturday night, some art world heavies were already heading out of town for Art Basel, but the Venetian Heritage crew took up the slack with a black-tie charity ball at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta. Prince and Princess d'Arenberg, Trevor Traina, Princess Alexandra of Greece and Toto Bergamo Rossi, along with 400 other aristos and social stalwarts from all corners of Europe and North America, cavorted under the palazzo's Tiepolo frescoes. When Princess Michael of Kent swept in, wearing a pale blue Zandra Rhodes gown, she declared that in a week packed with countless parties and dinners, this one was unquestionably her favorite. "It raises the most money," she said. "That's what it's all about."