In THR's inaugural Art Issue, Pharrell loves Takashi Murakami, Brian Grazer is jonesing for Jeff Koons, Sean Combs is into power art shopping: As A-listers and industry insiders hit a new level of sophistication with collecting -- and sticker shock is not an option.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
There's a serious love affair going on between Hollywood and the art world. Exhibit A: In May, a charity art auction organized by Leonardo DiCaprio raised $38 million in one night and set sales records for 13 artists. Exhibit B: A month later, Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey stepped up to join Brian Grazer, Michael Lynton and Bryan Lourd on the entertainment-heavy board of LACMA. Exhibit C: the artist-actor hybrid that is James Franco.
Suddenly, everyone in town seems to have gone collecting mad. In an industry once dominated by a few powerful collectors (David Geffen, Michael Ovitz), there's now a deeper and younger bench of players passionate about art, from agents (CAA's Joel Lubin, UTA's Pete Franciosa) and actors (Neil Patrick Harris) to execs (HBO's Michael Lombardo) and managers (Brillstein Entertainment Partners' JoAnne Colonna, Scooter Braun). "There's a lot of people in the industry who have great taste who are being exposed to great art," says producer and LACMA board member Steve Tisch. "I know a number of collectors who have gotten into collecting in the past five or 10 years, and their passion for building their collection is fantastic."
It's a convergence that was inevitable. As the entertainment world's 1 percent have grown more sophisticated -- and want the world (or at least their peers) to know it -- the L.A. art world is on the rise, generating buzz in Hollywood's backyard. Masters such as John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha have been joined by a swelling rank of wunderkinds who sell out shows (Mark Grotjahn, whose paintings go at auction for more than $1 million, sold out his last show at Culver City's Blum & Poe before it opened) and earn MacArthur fellowships (painter Mark Bradford) and public followings (photographer Catherine Opie, street artist Shepard Fairey). And L.A. is on a cultural building spree, which includes Beverly Hills' new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Eli Broad's Broad Museum due to open in 2014 across from MOCA and the upcoming Academy Museum.
Entertainment players are giving back, too -- not just by serving on boards, but with hefty donations, including Tisch's $467,500 contribution to LACMA to buy Christian Marclay's film The Clock and former UPN chief Dean Valentine's gift of 50 important sculptures to the Hammer. "L.A. is finally a place that people are proud to call home," says Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin, whose board boasts UTA's Jeremy Zimmer and Peter Benedek, CAA's Michael Rubel, Gersh's Bob Gersh and WME's George Freeman. "It's no longer a place they're passing through, a place they have to live in. I think a lot of these [industry leaders] are simply becoming better citizens, they're starting to care about the cultural vitality of the city. The robust connections between the art world and the film industry are just getting stronger and stronger." -- MAXWELL WILLIAMS
Written by Gary Baum, Merle Ginsberg, Marissa Gluck, Tatiana Siegel, Rebecca Sun, Kate Sutton and Michael Walker. Karen Rhee contributed to this feature.
Aloni sees plenty of parallels between his career and his hobby.
"[Collecting] is like representing filmmakers," he says. "It's fun to represent people that are established, but also those that are starting out and help develop their careers." Thus Aloni's pop-inflected collection of abstract and text-based paintings, which he scouts for alongside friends like Alan Hergott, includes pieces from established artists like Christopher Wool and Lawrence Weiner as well as up-and-comers such as Garth Weiser and Lucien Smith.
"Being in the representation business helps in terms of figuring out where people are going in their careers, who's interesting and why," he tells THR.
Maria, the former head writer of CBS' The Young and the Restless, is best known in the L.A. art world for her visible role as board co-chair of the city's Museum of Contemporary Art (she steps down Jan. 1).
The Northwestern art history major got her start collecting modestly priced George Hurrell photos. These days, her husband, Bill, goes deep on icons -- Marcel Duchamp, Jeff Koons -- while she champions the idiosyncratic, from Francesco Vezzoli to Mark Ryden.
"Your collection becomes your interpretation of how you see the world," she says. "It's very personal."
"It's what I like to look at," says Benedek of his collection, which dots the walls of two houses and his agency's Beverly Hills headquarters and includes 14 pieces in his office.
After getting serious about collecting more than 20 years ago, Benedek discovered he had an eye for art and an equally good instinct for value, snapping up an Alice Neel painting at auction (Benedek displays the portrait of Neel's dealer Robert Graham in his office: "It's great to have an agent looking at me every day") and purchasing a John Currin nude at Shaun Regen's gallery long before the painter's notoriety hit.
Benedek can be patient, working with longtime consultant Nancy Chaikin to find the perfect painting by Giorgio Morandi, Joan Mitchell or Fairfield Porter -- even if the hunt takes years.
Bloom and his wife have amassed one of the largest collections in the country, yet their foray started humbly.
Living in a one-bedroom apartment, the couple visited galleries as free entertainment. "It was something we could do and learn together," says Ruth. Four decades later, the couple owns nearly 1,000 works, including pieces by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, art darling Jeff Koons, local luminary John Baldessari and Matthew Barney, whose Vaseline Dumbbell they keep in their refrigerator, trotting it out for guests.
As a passion project, they resolved in the early 1990s to collect all 83 images from photographer Robert Frank's iconic 1958 book The Americans. They have 77, so, as Ruth laughs, "we're almost there!"
Combs made headlines when he steered his entourage into the Gagosian Gallery booth at Miami Beach Art Basel 2011.
At the time, he explained he was "just there to learn," only this art student was accompanied by top-notch teachers: painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel and art adviser to the stars (well, at least Gwyneth Paltrow) Maria Brito. Combs scored a Tracey Emin neon for $95,000 at Lehmann Maupin, returning the following December to snag a mirrored sculpture by Ivan Navarro from Paul Kasmin Gallery for a reported $65,000, two gold flag paintings by Bay Area artist Andrew Schoultz and a $15,000 work by South African Brett Murray.
Combs clearly is a collector who buys with a wall in mind: In August, he put up for sale his Beverly Hills residence with its art collection attached.
The A-list star, whose parents named him after da Vinci following a visit to Florence's Uffizi Gallery, collects the heavyweight likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Urs Fischer.
But DiCaprio, who for three years now has co-hosted LACMA's glittering Art + Film Gala, made his biggest splash by marrying the collecting impulse with environmental advocacy, raising $38.8 million at a Christie's charity auction for wildlife in May (outstripping auction records for artists Dan Colen, Adam McEwen, Elizabeth Peyton and Rob Pruitt). The actor personally selected the 33 artists (among them, Walton Ford, Schnabel and Banksy), donating his own Andreas Gursky.
"Much like the movies I choose, I never really second-guess the art I like and don't like," he has said. "I just go for it." DiCaprio couldn't resist picking up something for himself: a $700,000 unfinished painting by Takashi Murakami.
This summer, Geffen was declared to hold the world's most expensive art collection, according to a report by Wealth-X.
Its findings attribute $1.1 billion of his estimated $5.5 billion holdings to his collection, edging out Francois Pinault, Steve Cohen and Eli Broad (though with recent market fluctuations, its value could be anywhere between $400 million and $2 billion). There is no disputing that Geffen has one of the most important collections of U.S. artists, including Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock.
In 2006, he sold Willem de Kooning's Woman III (which famously spent much of its early life with the Shah of Iran) to Cohen for $137 million, making it the third-most-expensive painting on record (the second: a Pollock sold by Geffen in 2006 for $140 million). He recently gave $25 million for the Academy Museum.
Grazer was producing the 1999 comedy Bowfinger when star Steve Martin introduced him to collecting.
"He said, 'I'm going to take you to a few places, and all you do is pick what reaches you on an emotional basis,' " he recalls. Grazer has been operating on instinct ever since, snapping up several Andy Warhol pieces, including Diamond Dust Shoes and two Rorschachs. He also owns Ed Ruscha's first acrylic Cables/Fittings, a dozen Raymond Pettibon pieces, a Gerhard Richter work, several Rudolf Stingels and Richard Prince's Surfer Nurse ("because I'm a surfer").
He even hired David Bernardi, a former art magazine editor with zero film experience, as a creative executive at Imagine Entertainment to keep an art adviser in-house. "David would say, 'Do it.' He'd make me jump off the cliff every time," he says.
Although Bernardi has since left Imagine, Grazer is still known to make impulse buys for his new Pacific Palisades home and his Malibu getaway. He vows to land a Jeff Koons sculpture, which "just ignites everything that's inside of you emotionally," he says. And though Grazer, whose collection also boasts a Mike Kelley wooden installation and a pair of Martin Kippenberger pieces, now works with adviser Candy Coleman, he mostly keeps his collecting a solitary pursuit: "I don't want to get too influenced by somebody," he says.
For the Bloom Hergott partner, amassing a blue-chip art collection has been a 30-year pursuit, sparked when he was a law student at Northwestern.
"I used my study breaks to teach myself about art," says Hergott, who frequented the Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. With his life partner, Curt Shepard, Hergott, who reps Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal, has built a contemporary collection of about 160 pieces featuring such cult favorites as John Currin, Mike Kelley, Rudolf Stingel and Richard Prince.
"It started with one drawing I bought at a charity auction," says Hergott. The couple regularly acquire works that deal with themes of male identity, buying from L.A. galleries such as Regen Projects and Blum & Poe, but also have been known to make the rounds internationally at Art Basel (where, in 2009, Hergott was spotted helping Brad Pitt pick up a $1 million Neo Rauch from David Zwirner) and the Venice Biennale (from which they took home a Kai Althoff work).
Read the breakout here.
On his 2009 track "Ain't I," the entertainer boasts, "I got Warhols on my hall's walls," and one of the artist's gold Rorschachs does indeed grace not only the wall above Jay Z's fireplace but also the cover of his 2010 memoir, Decoded.
But Warhol isn't the only artist Jay Z openly admires; his most recent album, Magna Carta, name-checks the "yellow Basquiat in the kitchen corner" (it's actually an untitled 1983 print that hangs in the Roc Nation office). Jay Z also has picked up specially commissioned pieces by Damien Hirst and such blue-chip painters as Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha, but on his well-documented trips to Art Basel Miami Beach, he and wife Beyonce have supported lesser-known talents like young Chicago-based street artist Hebru Brantley, whose painting they bought in 2012 for $20,000.
In July, Jay Z shot the video for his track "Picasso Baby" in New York's Pace Gallery, enlisting the art world elite as extras, from his art adviser Jeanne Greenberg Rafferty to performance artist Marina Abramovic to quirky critic Jerry Saltz.
John may be better known for his Grammys than his (Andreas) Gurskys, but the musician, with his husband, David Furnish, has amassed one of the world's most important photography collections, with an emphasis on portraits, celebrity and fashion.
First exposed to Horst P. Horst's erotically charged fashion portraiture, in 1993 John went on to collect Man Ray's Glass Tears, acquired for a record-setting $193,000 (now worth closer to $2 million). Favorites include seminal artists such as early innovators Andre Kertesz and Edward Steichen and portrait masters Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon and David LaChapelle.
Through Sir Elton's continued involvement in the art world (in particular, his high-profile charity auctions), the singer broadened his interests to include new classicists Tracey Moffatt, Gilbert & George and art-world wunderkind Ryan McGinley.
She may have gotten her start traipsing the art underground, arm-in-arm with Basquiat, but her art collection began on a highbrow note: In 1987, she shelled out nearly $1 million for Fernand Leger's Les Deux Bicyclettes.
Since then, she has acquired more than 300 works, drawing from Modern masters -- Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Maxfield Parrish -- and the occasional contemporary one, a la Hirst. Fellow chameleon Frida Kahlo is a favorite, as is sultry portraitist Tamara de Lempicka. In 2000, Madonna paid $4.7 million for Pablo Picasso's Buste de Femme a la Frange, contributing to a 2008 appraisal of her collection of more than $100 million.
In May 2013, she put up one of her Legers -- the 1921 Trois Femmes a la Table Rouge, picked up at Sotheby's for $3.4 million in 1990 -- for auction, pledging that profits would go toward girls education in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It went for $7.2 million.
"It's my greatest hobby," Martin has said of art collecting, and his large, diverse holdings reflect that: Pablo Picasso, Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, April Gornik, Cindy Sherman, Georges Seurat, Francis Bacon, David Hockney and several works by the artist he reveres most, Eric Fischl.
The collection with a focus on postwar American art debuted at the Bellagio in Vegas in 2001 under the heading, "The Private Collection of Steve Martin," no doubt providing much fodder for the actor's novel about paintings, 2010's An Object of Beauty.
With his brand of hard-edged negotiation tactics, Ovitz is credited with bringing Hollywood to the art world. Mentored by renowned collector Barry Lowen, then SoHo's Mary Boone and later Pace Gallery's Arne Glimcher, Ovitz became the first major industry player to sit on the board at the Museum of Modern Art.
Ovitz amassed more than 1,500 critical works, from standard-bearers such as Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Roy Lichtenstein to young guns Sterling Ruby, Carol Bove, Isa Genzken and Roe Ethridge. To house it all, he commissioned Michael Maltzan to design a perforated-steel villa in Benedict Canyon, which Ovitz completed in 2011. Visitors are treated to a view of his prized Jasper Johns, White Flag, which holds pride of place between a Robert Rauschenberg and a Willem de Kooning.
Read the breakout here.
The Sex and the City alum has been "collecting seriously" for a decade.
As befits a trustee of MOCA, Star (whose mother was a museum docent) credits it with raising the game in Los Angeles. "MOCA added a level of sophistication that didn't exist; it defined contemporary art in L.A.," says Star, who collects Southern California artists such as Mike Kelley, John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha.
"I remember in my 20s, right out of UCLA, what an important place MOCA was and that it can't be allowed to falter." (The museum currently is on the hunt for a new director.) Star prefers to live with his collection -- "I don't have a lot of pieces in storage" -- and avows that "I've never sold a piece of work. Hopefully, it'll pan out someday."
When not helping to cut deals for such A-listers as Sandra Bullock and Guy Ritchie, Swofford unwinds by hunting for art.
"I see as much as possible around the world and buy what I love," the New York and L.A. resident tells THR. Ignoring advice she once received to "buy stock instead of art," the PS1 board member began collecting in 2000, amassing hundreds of pieces across every medium, though her focus is on the past half-century, starting with Richter and Sigmar Polke during the mid-1960s.
Tisch took a shine to collecting after receiving a Joan Miro print for his bar mitzvah.
Like Forrest Gump (which won the producer an Oscar), Tisch's collection encapsulates a century's highlights: from American modernists Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe, to postwar greats Vija Celmins, John Baldessari, David Hockney and Robert Mapplethorpe, to today's most sought-after artists, including Thomas Houseago, Glenn Ligon and Alex Hubbard.
"I don't buy as an investment," says the decades-long friend of Ed Ruscha and a LACMA trustee since 2010 (in 2011, Tisch donated the $467,500 video work The Clock by Christian Marclay to the museum). "I buy because I appreciate the work." With the help of longtime art adviser Jaime Frankfurt, Tisch's collection has grown so large, he's replacing the tennis court at his Benedict Canyon estate with a private, 4,000-square-foot museum. "Especially with younger, emerging artists, the scale is really big," he tells THR.
The Grammy-winning singer and producer is a world-class collector of contemporary art.
His Miami residence houses the chaotic works of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Kaws and Takashi Murakami, whom Williams reveres as "the king of kings." The two met through Emmanuel Perrotin, the hip Paris dealer, who drafted Williams not only for the DJ tables of his legendary Art Basel boat parties, but also for his skills as a furniture designer (his tip-toeing and tank-tread chairs kept clients coming back to Perrotin's booth at 2009's Design Miami).
Williams collaborated with Murakami on The Simple Things, a post-Warhol commentary on consumerism that sold for $2 million and included a diamond-encrusted cupcake, condom, Heinz ketchup bottle and other ephemera placed inside the jaws of a grinning Murakami monster. "When there's a slight twist on things that we know to be normal," Williams has said, "they really stand out."
The walls of UTA's new Beverly Hills headquarters might be bare if not for a Super Bowl bet Zimmer won two decades ago.
"I usually frittered away the money, but this time I wanted to actually have something," he tells THR. "I was driving by the old Butterfields auction house on Sunset and I spontaneously pulled in and found my first photograph."
What started with that Sally Mann print has become an extensive contemporary art collection (Nathan Mabry, Thomas Struth), much of it large-format color photography that cycles between the UTA offices and Zimmer's home, where he and his wife, Marisa, have an affinity for ocean-based paintings and photographs.