Apple's Jimmy Iovine Is Making a Splash in L.A.'s Art Scene

LACMA L.A.'s Art Scene - Inset of Jimmy-H 2018
Courtesy of © Museum Associates/LACMA; Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

The former Interscope Records CEO and Beats co-founder and his wife, Liberty Ross, are donating a painting by global superstar Mark Bradford to LACMA.

There's a new player making a splash on L.A.'s art scene: Jimmy Iovine. The former Interscope Records CEO and Beats co-founder, now an Apple exec, and wife Liberty Ross are donating a colossal painting by global superstar Mark Bradford to LACMA. The politically charged piece,150 Portrait Tone, has been on view at the museum since October and is composed of excerpts from the Facebook video Diamond Reynolds made during the fatal 2016 police shooting of her boyfriend, Philando Castile.

"It completely inspires me, the way some of the great music I love has inspired me. I just thought this needs to be out there and seen," says Iovine, 64, of the nearly 20-foot-tall work. While neither LACMA nor Iovine would comment on the dollar value, large-scale works by Bradford recently have sold in the $3 million to $5 million range at auction.

When the painting went on exhibition at LACMA in 2017, it was there as a short-term loan from the artist and his gallery Hauser & Wirth (where Bradford has a solo show of new work opening Feb. 17). But soon after it arrived, museum director Michael Govan, working with Hauser & Wirth, set about finding someone who would step up to purchase it for the permanent collection.   

"Through various connections, Jimmy and Liberty came to see it. It turned out weirdly the only time we could find was right at the 2017 Art + Film Gala and instead of being there during cocktails I was in a quiet gallery looking at the painting with them," says Govan. "Later that night I saw Jimmy and Mark talking together and that's how it kind of came together."

Iovine recalls that he came to the November gala, whose honorees were Bradford and George Lucas, with David Geffen (who had just a few weeks earlier pledged $150 million toward LACMA's capital campaign).

"David got me into art collecting about six years ago," says Iovine, who also counts friend Peter Morton as an informal adviser and often works with Sotheby's vp private sales Jackie Wachter on growing his collection. "I must admit it's addicting."

He and Ross have acquired works by such artists as Mark Grotjahn, David Hammond, Brice Marden, Claude Lalanne and Georgia O'Keeffe, and recently commissioned another political work — a new painting by Ed Ruscha titled Our Flag, 2017, an update of a 1987 piece by the L.A. master: In the original, an American flag waves proudly; in the new piece, it's in tatters. 

"Music is where I've lived my life, and I was always attracted to music that represented what was going on in society whether it be Bob Dylan or Kendrick Lamar," says Iovine. "I'm not getting a lot of it out of music these days, so I'm kind of hunting around for that feeling."

Bradford, whose works are also collected by Ari Emanuel, Michael Ovitz and Eli Broad, was the subject of a short film, Wild, Wild West: A Beautiful Rant by Mark Bradford, that screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival. 

In addition to his painting's commentary on police shootings,150 Portrait Tone makes a statement with its title, which is taken from a pink paint color (used in the work) which is marketed as a skin-tone standard. "While he was working on the piece, Mark sent me by text a picture of the label on the bucket of paint," says Govan, who recalls his own reaction as, "Pink is the definition of skin tone? Really?"

He believes the Bradford work — one of four now in LACMA's permanent collection — will become one of the museum's most important pieces. "It's Mark Bradford's Guernica. I don't think it's crazy to compare it to a work like that. There's a frustration and intensity about Guernica, which is about a war and an unfair bombing and you feel the screams of pain. In Mark's painting, you also feel the screams of pain."

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.