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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.
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Melvin Van Peebles