Industry Veteran Jerry Perenchio Bestows LACMA With Largest Single Art Gift Ever

Jerrold "Jerry" Perenchio - H 2014
Associated Press

Meanwhile, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Thursday to contribute $125 million toward the museum's progressive new master plan

The holidays came early for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Santa Claus has come in the form of billionaire Jerrold "Jerry" Perenchio. The museum has just received the largest gift of art in the museum’s history from the humble retired entertainment industry mogul – a collection of important paintings by Monet, Cezanne, Degas and other masters. The cherry on top of this Impressionist cake is the concurrent announcement that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to contribute $125 million toward LACMA’s progressive new master plan and the construction of the Peter Zumthor-designed central building.

LACMA Board of Trustees co-chair Andy Brandon-Gordon joined museum director Michael Govan; board vice chairs Lynda Resnick and William Ahmanson; and L.A. County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas in the BP Grand Entrance to thank Perenchio, who made a rare public appearance for the occasion.

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Known for his humble, out-of-the-spotlight charitable giving, Perenchio spoke about why he chose to make this gift publicly: “For over 35 years, I have been making charitable donations anonymously.  I decided to go public this time because I believe that it is extremely to LACMA and all of those who live in Southern California to raise the rest of the funds to build this new building. 

“I’ve lived in Los Angeles for more than 70 years, and you can tell it.  Los Angeles helped make my career possible. My family and I are honored to be able to give something back to a wonderful city. I hope the gift of my art collection to LACMA will inspire other collectors to do the same and encourage all types of donations large and small – hopefully more large than small. We have to make the Peter Zumthor building a reality and failure is not an option here. We’ve got to do it.  For the city and for everybody that lives here.”

Auctioneer and LACMA trustee Viveca Paulin-Ferrell was present for the announcement Thursday and spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how Perenchio’s gift might serve as an example to would-be collectors and future donors to the museum: ”I think it’s a real game changer. I think people want to know — if you have a major collection like Jerry’s — where do you send that?  Do you pass it on to your kids or what institution do you give it to?  We need people like Jerry to make major gifts like this. He could have easily sold all of this at auction – but he leaves it here for us; for education; and for the city to enjoy.  It’s going to inspire others to do the same thing.  It’s super exciting.”

Perenchio moved to Los Angeles from Fresno and began his career as a talent agent at MCA, representing stars Elizabeth Tayler and Marlon Brando. He moved on from this supporting role in the industry to the position of power player. With the help of Norman Lear, Perenchio founded Embassy Communications, producers of classic 1980s television hits Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life andSilver Spoons.  The company was sold to Coca-Cola in 1985 for $485 million. Perenchio’s greatest business accomplishment has been the acquisition and resale of Hispanic television enterprise Univision. Purchased with Emilio Azcarraga for $500 million, the company was sold in 2006 for $13.5 billion. 

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Yaroslavsky and Resnick were both moved by Perenchio's gift, which includes three significant canvases by the great French Impressionist Claude Monet, including a classic painting of water lilies; a portrait by Edouard Manet (the first work by the artist to enter LACMA’s collection); a luminous night café scene by Edgar Degas; three paintings by Camille Pissarro; and works by Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, René Magritte and others.

In his remarks during the announcement, Yaroslavsky addressed Perenchio directly: “From the bottom of my heart — I have known you since, I think, 1988. There is no citizen of this community who has been more generous, and has asked for less than you have. And all you ask of us now is to get this done and we will get it done.

Following the press conference Resnick told THR: “Jerry has always been the paragon of humility. He has been a role model for me and my husband in our giving our whole lives. But Jerry has always never asked for any public gratitude. I think the fact that he has done this today is so motivating to other people. We’re thrilled. If you saw me, I was crying on the stage — with tears of joy.”