I bump into Hainya Wiseman in the Westmount Square Concourse. She is steering a grocery store shopping basket with one hand and steadying its contents, an enormous greenish black Asian vase, with the other. There are Chinese male figures in relief surrounding the vessel. She stops to greet me.
‘Arleen I LOVE YOU!’
‘I LOVE YOU MORE, my Hainya.’ And simultaneously we both pucker our lips and kiss the air, mmwahh, mmwahh. We’ve known each other since childhood. We both celebrated our 75th birthdays last winter. She is small with bouncy blond curls and always wears stunning jewelled vintage glasses. She has that precious quality called style.
I gush over her glasses. ‘Where do you find your glasses? They are all so unique!’
‘I find them everywhere. These are original Christian Dior. I find them in flea markets, antique shops and consignment stores, everywhere. So far, I own 30 pairs. I’m crazy about unusual things,’ she smiles. She is always smiling.
She is beaming about her recent find that morning at an estate sale. ‘Visually this is fabulous. I had to buy it but I need to know more about it. I paid $350. It has a few chips but that doesn’t matter because those are signs of age and show wear and that gives it honesty and patina. I’m pretty sure it’s not a treasure, like a Van Gogh, but visually it’s fabulous. It's Famille Noire and very decorative.’
Hainya Wiseman is Montreal’s most prominent philanthropic hostess. Every year, she and her husband Murray open their exquisite penthouse condominium in Westmount Square for private fund raising events. She owns one of the largest collection of crystal, china and silverware in North America. Hainya loves to cook and entertain and delights in putting her outstanding treasures to good use because her motto is ‘it’s very important to be hospitable!’
In May, 2014, I was one of 80 guests who attended The Montreal Children’s Library fund raising dinner. The evening began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres being served as we walked around oohing and ahhing at the remarkable table settings that had been placed around the living/dining room areas displaying prize artifacts that can be found in museums.
Dining room table display:
Russian candlesticks, 1980
Plates:Worcester U.K. circa 1925, 22 karats, gold embossed décor, hand painted by Master Reginald D. Austin.
Glasses:Bayel crystallerie Royale de Chanmpagne ‘Palais’ pattern, France, circa 1970.
Salt & cruet set created by Charles Denis Noel Martin (1819-1838) ormulo & crystal, Charles X France
Comports:old Baccariet crystal on ormulo mounts, France XX century.
Flatware:Germany XX century
Knife rest: Cristallerie Lorraine France, circa 1920
With art historian Serge Quevillion by her side, Hainya entertained us during dinner with a humorous talk on the art of hosting.
‘We’re a great team,’ Hainya said of Serge. ‘Very compatible. We both enjoy people and he is a perfectionist. He measures my table settings with a tape. If I have five settings on one side instead of four, he insists that we must have the proper space proportion between the plates so it will look right.’ Serge has documented Hainya’s collection and spoke about the importance and provenance of some of her pieces. The evening ended with a sweet table while some of the guests took photos of each other standing at Hainya’s table settings.
Check back tomorrow for a short interview with Hainya.