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Ralph Lauren's Paris Dinner

Ralph Lauren Celebrates The Art of the Automobile in Paris

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Andrew Lauren, Ricky Lauren, Ralph Lauren, and David Lauren   
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Boutique, check. Restaurant, check. Légion d'Honneur, check. Clearly, Ralph Lauren feels chez lui in Paris. And last night, the designer's love affair with the city shifted into high gear with the opening of L'Art de l'Automobile at the Louvre's Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

The show of 17 rare and exceptional cars opens with a bang—the 1938 Bugatti Atlantic, a masterpiece estimated at upward of $32 million—then retraces a brief history of automotive icons, from the boxy 1929 Bentley Blower to the orange 1996 Mc Laren F1 LM supercar. The essence of the show turns on midcentury models with names like Spyder and Papillon, culminating in the slick Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and the racing red Ferrari 250 LM piloted in 1966 by 27-time Grand Prix winner Jackie Stewart. "It looks as good now as it did then. Ralph only chooses the best and most beautiful," the retired racing legend observed, noting that his favorite memory in the car came after Lauren bought it. "He called me and I got the chance to drive it around Montauk with him."

Although he declines to play favorites, Lauren admits to a particular love for the Atlantic from a design perspective. "They're all like children to me," he said. "They're all similar, yet very different. Each one is amazing." And, he added, while he does indeed drive every car in his 45-or-so stable, he doesn't consider himself a collector. "A collector sits back and doesn't live with it. I love every one of them."

Jean Reno's wife, Zofia Borucka, who is expecting the couple's second son in September, reminisced about the long work sessions she shared with Lauren as his model and muse back in the nineties. "I remember working 17-hour days, and when Ralph took a break, music and cars were his escape route." A bevy of top French actresses were also present, among them Mélanie Thierry, Emmanuelle Béart, and Anne Parillaud, the latter two speaking about upcoming returns to the stage. But never mind preparations for her one-woman show; Béart was already envisioning a dramatic exit: "I knew immediately which one I want to go home in!" It was the Bugatti, of course.

The Art of the Automobile: Masterpieces From the Ralph Lauren Collection runs through August 28, 2011.

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