I track down Cindy Rachofsky easily, tracing her by phone to Napa Valley,

where she is hiding out from the Dallas heat but not from TWO x TWO, the extraordinary seated dinner and auction she

and her husband Howard have staged for 20 years to benefit amfAR,

the Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

She answers herself, clearly expecting me, and no doubt a dozen others after that, dealers and artists eager to donate their work to this unexpected pairing of imperatives—cultural and medical,

 linked for too long as too many makers of art of all kinds have fallen to this dread disease, still far from cured.

“When amfAR declares victory on that front,” says Cindy, “hopefully they’ll put us out of business. Howard and I can retire from this.”

But not now; the Rachofskys are hard at it, determined that this 20th anniversary gathering, emceed by the brilliant actor, Alan Cumming, will be more than spectacular.

What they want is renewed affirmation of art as the great elixir of the good and healthy life. Last year, TWO x TWO raised $7.5 million.

Half went to the war on AIDS and half to the Dallas Museum of Art,

which has bought 260 contemporary works over the past two decades,

thanks to this collection of collectors, many of them newly attracted to the joys of acquisition by Cindy and Howard and the artists they bring to the occasion.

Those artists flock to The Rachofsky House because all the money raised there for the museum must be spent with them and their dealers, nowhere else.

For this reason I learn from Howard, who by now is on the phone, “TWO x TWO has maintained a high level of donations.

They get something back. While other museums doing similar events may get sporadic quality, we are not getting metoo products.

[The art we auction] is significantly better. Sending a great work of art is the best way of marketing and showcasing.”

“Dealers,” Cindy adds, “know the quality of collectors in Dallas.”

The quality is so high that this year 135 of the 480 guests are coming from other parts of the country and other parts of the world.

 Great collectors themselves, Cindy and Howard are also great controllers of cost.

This extravaganza is not extravagant at all, despite its unmistakable elegance.

Howard points out that “30 to 40 percent [of the take] is typical of these gala events” but theirs is costing only 13 percent.

That’s due, he explains, to “arm twisting, generous donors, and we’re frugal.”

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