Paris Photo L.A.: Where Brad Pitt Dropped $6,000 on an Art Photo

Noah Webb
Roth was photographed April 20 with his Mapplethorpe at his house in Hancock Park. “Being an art collector, you can have all these fun conversations. I’ve got a good inner circle: Maurice Marciano, Peter Morton, Matt Aberle and Peter Brant."

Enticing the likes of Pitt, Jodie Foster and Steve Levitan with top-tier art photography for sale, VIP previews and industry talks, Paris Photo Los Angeles once again takes over a Paramount backlot from April 30 to May 3.

This story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

At Paris Photo Los Angeles 2014, Jamie Lee Curtis perused a black-and-white photo by Carrie Mae Weems (whose pieces sell for $1,500 to $200,000). "I salivated over it," says Curtis. "But I have to be mindful about how much collection I have." The actress, who this year will judge the Young California Photographer Awards at the photo fair, which shows only in Paris and Los Angeles, owns pieces by heavyweights Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman and Irving Penn. The latter's work, which fetches up to $40,000, is among photography from 79 exhibitors being previewed April 30 and showing until May 3 at Paramount's New York Street (for a peek at what's on sale: parisphoto.com/losangeles/exhibitors).

As part of L.A.'s decade-long art boom — topped by Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel opening one of the world's biggest galleries downtown this fall — Paris Photo L.A. has courted the industry with VIP previews and top art photography for sale since 2013, attracting Orlando Bloom, Demi Moore, Judd Apatow, Jenji Kohan and Jodie Foster. New director Florence Bourgeois plans to maintain art's grip on the industry with Sound and Vision screenings and conversations (Matthew Weiner has taken the stage): "The words 'moving image' are in the tagline for Los Angeles," she says of the difference between the Hollywood show and the original that began in Paris 17 years ago.

Roth’s McCarthy teddy-bear photo is considerably less controversial than the artist’s Paris “butt plug” sculpture, Tree.

At last year's Paris Photo L.A., Brad Pitt bought a Danny Lyon (whose work sells for about $6,000) from Tucson, Ariz.-based Etherton Gallery, and Steve Levitan browsed a Thomas Ruff that was being shown by Gagosian Gallery. Levitan points out: "Great photography requires a mastery of light, composition and being in the right place at the right time."

Art and Hollywood have dovetailed so much that in January, UTA brought on high-powered art attorney Joshua Roth — son of CAA co-founder and collector Steven Roth — to head up a fine-arts division, the first of its kind, with rumors per­colating that other agencies could follow suit. (CAA's Thao Nguyen, who oversees art activities, cites fine- artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen's Oscar for 12 Years a Slave as a success: "We've been doing it already.") Roth, who has signed several artists, says: "UTA, with its broad-based platforms in everything from digital to film finance to branding, licensing and endorsement, can take artists in those directions with sophisticated representa­tion." The lawyer, who recently brokered a controversial $6.5 million anonymous deal that made Peter Lik the highest-priced photo­grapher in his­tory, adds: "My partner Jim Berkus fought for some of the most important creative voices in film. We want to do the same thing with artists."

Roth's own art collection with wife Sonya Roth, a California deputy attorney general, includes photography by Paul McCarthy and Robert Mapplethorpe, represented by Paris Photo vendor Al Moran of West Hollywood's OHWOW. "The relationship between Hollywood and the fine arts is strong," says Moran, adding: "I hope that it strengthens even more over time."

The Paris Photo Los Angeles show in 2014.

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'I Must Have It!' 3 Tips for Buying at Paris Photo

1. It's not about the name "Don't just buy a piece by a name artist because you want to say you own a piece by that artist," says Roth. "Really take your time and be selective."

2. Do your homework "Being an art collector implies connoisseurship," adds Roth, who recommends preshow studying. "Learn about an artist's work: What are the best things that they've done, what exemplifies an artist — then go after that. Try to get the best thing that you can." 

3.  Follow your feelings — "If you don't have a reaction, don't collect it," says Curtis. "Don't collect it because you think the color blue is going to be a big thing. Collect what you love."

8:46 a.m. Monday, May 4: Details about Levitan's purchase corrected.

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