Barbra Streisand Donates $1M to Academy Museum to Put Name on a Pillar
J.J. Abrams and Jason Blum also have pledged money to claim a column in the forthcoming Saban Building in Los Angeles.
When visitors walk in to the forthcoming Saban Building at the Academy Museum — a soaring space that was once a May Company department store — they encounter towering square concrete pillars that had been obscured beneath the store's once-decorative columns. "It was a happy surprise, to be honest," says Daniel Hammerman, architect at Renzo Piano Building Workshop. "We didn't know what they would look like because they had been covered for so many years."
Once revealed, the square pillars had an appealing grained texture, with traces of the imprint from the wooden boards used to form them. In the original construction of the 1939 building, the concrete was used as fireproofing for the steel girders underneath. "That was a cost-effective means of fireproofing the steel," Hammerman says. "Nowadays, [concrete] would be a very nice finish and rather expensive."
The pillars became such an important feature of the redesign that newer supports duplicate them. But beyond the physical presence, they have taken on a symbolic importance, says museum fundraising chair Bob Iger. "Like the museum, they represent the past, the present and the future," he says. And now the pillars are part of a final sprint to get the museum to its total fundraising goal of $388 million, 80 percent of which has been raised.
Led by actress Laura Dern and Oscar-nominated producer Kimberly Steward, the Pillar Campaign offers column naming rights for a minimum pledge of $1 million. It already has brought in $35 million from naming 28 pillars (some donors gave more than a million; 35 more pillars are still available). "I'm excited to watch our community of pillars grow and can't wait to see who steps up next," says Dern. Those who already have include entertainment companies such as Cinépolis, MGM and Viacom and Hollywood heavyweights like Jason Blum, J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and Barbra Streisand. "It's wonderful that the museum is treating the pillars with such reverence and using the bones of a historic building to literally uphold its new chapter as a film center," Blum said in a statement to THR.
And apropos of the Academy Museum's status as a shrine to moviemaking, some donors are dedicating their pillars to legendary figures, both the widely known (Sophia Loren is honored by high-tech investor John Scully and his wife, producer Regina K. Scully) to the often-overlooked (another column has been dedicated to pioneering director Alice Guy-Blaché). "We're hoping that some other people will come along and dedicate pillars to some of the other directors or stars who should be better known than they are right now," says museum director Kerry Brougher. "When these pillars take on that kind of form, they become part of the history instead of being just about the donor."
This story first appeared in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.