There are not a lot of private houses in Paris. Let alone private houses with a direct view of the river and the Eiffel Tower. So 34, avenue New York, home of the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art and Culture, is already something out of the ordinary.
We went there last December to see an exhibit of prints and drawings by Mary Cassatt. The exhibition was interesting, but I was captivated by the house. The lunchroom offered a view of an enclosed garden, and a large poster on the wall provided the beginnings of an answer to the question in my mind: “Mona Who?”
The short answer would be: a fabulously wealthy American society hostess (1897–1983), once nominated the “Best-Dressed Woman in the World,” and benefactress of the institution that occupies her former Paris residence.
There was a second exhibit on the upper floor, and I climbed the oval staircase to look around. A large room contained a grand piano, a gilded mirror, some candle sconces, and a few pictures. I spotted a small corridor leading to a powder room.