Industry Power Players Help LACMA Raise $2.8 Million to Acquire New Artworks

Stefanie Keenan/
Bob Daly, Willow Bay and Bob Iger

UPDATED: Terry Semel, Steve Tisch, Jamie McCourt and Bill and Colleen Bell were among those helping acquire works by Rauschenberg, Neshat and more at the museum's annual Collectors Committee weekend.

The entertainment business revolves around the art of the pitch in order to get a TV show or movie made. So perhaps it's no surprise that one of Los Angeles' premiere museums, LACMA, has created a similar way of acquiring new art.

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Dubbed the Collectors Committee Weekend, the annual event sees 79 members of the committee -- composed of deep-pocketed museum supporters and trustees -- hear pitches from staff curators. As in years past, each curator identifies an individual artwork or decorative-arts piece that they are passionate about the museum acquiring. The works are on offer for sale by commercial galleries, estates of artists, etc., often at a discount for the museum.

On Saturday, April 21, the curators individually made a case to the committee members on the value of the artwork to the museum's collection at a daytime pitch meeting, so to speak. The pieces being put forward included an Albrecht Durer engraving, a Robert Rauschenberg screenprint and an elevator surround from the Chicago Stock Exchange Building designed by Louis Sullivan. Another work is a video, Three Screen Ray, by the late multi-media artist Bruce Conner, made in 2006 based on a 1961 film he made called Cosmic Ray. It's a memerizingly edited collage of images with Ray Charles 1959 hit "What'd I Say" as soundtrack. "It's really the original music video,” said LACMA curator of modern art Carol Eliel. "Dennis Hopper talked about how the editing of Easy Rider could not have happened had he not known Bruce's films. We have work in his other media but for [us] not to have the great filmic work of a great video and film artist is not a good thing."

Later that day, LACMA threw a cocktail party and dinner at which the committee voted for their choices. Donors opened their checkbooks to the tune of $2.8 million to acquire seven of 10 artworks presented. New this year: most of the pieces were brought together in LACMA's BCAM building and staged as an exhibit.

Among the entertainment figures on hand were: Modern Family's Julie Bowen, Norman Lear, LACMA trustee Willow Bay with her husband, Disney chairman Robert Iger, songwriter and board member Carole Bayer Sager and AFI chairman Bob Daly, entertainment investor Harry Sloan, producer and board member Steve Tisch, former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, board co-chair Terry Semel and his wife Jane, producer Tony Ganz and The Bold and the Beautiful producers Brad and Colleen Bell and Bill and Maria Bell.

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The art that was chosen included the aforementioned pieces -- including the Conner video work, granting curator Eliel her wish --  plus a photo by Shirin Neshat, two oil-on-copper paintings by Nicolas Enriquez and a 12th-century Buddhist sculpture.

Brad and Colleen Bell and Tisch were among a group who stepped up to purchase the Conner. The Semels and Pom Wonderful and Fiji Water owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick helped by the Enriquez works. McCourt purchased the Neshat work for LACMA. And Ganz contributed to buying the Rauschenberg.

A live auction at the dinner raised further funds and was led by auctioneer Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, a LACMA trustee who is the wife of actor Will Ferrell.

LACMA turned the proceedings -- overseen by museum director Michael Govan, acquisitions committe chair Lynda Resnick and Collectors Committee chair, vintner Ann Colgin --  into an entire weekend of festivities by throwing exclusive dinners, personally repared by celebrity chefs, at the houses of eight museum trustees.

Bay and Iger and actress Jami Gertz and her husband Tony Ressler hosted one dinner -- with Top Chef's Tom Colicchio at the stove. The guests of the Semels were treated to food by Edoardo Baldi of Beverly Hills power lunch spot e. baldi.

But the dinner to be at was the 50-guest soiree thrown by Tisch, which was shut down by police later in the night for noise complaints. World-renowned event planner Ben Bourgeois recreated famous New York City restaurant Rao's for the night in a tent in Tisch's backyard in Beverly Hills, with Rao's chef Dino Gatto cooking for the night.

Among the guests were actress Melina Kanakaredes, Revenge actor Josh Bowman and artist Barbara Kruger. Gatto served up a classic menu of baked clams, meatballs and penne vodka and Uncle Vincent's Famous Lemon Chicken, with cheesecake driven in from the Rao's in Las Vegas. After dinner, a screen parted to reveal a stage and the guests were treated to a performance by New York crooner Steve Tyrell who sang a repertoire of Sinatra and Bacharach songs.

In closing, Tisch said that "LACMA is one of the greatest museums in the world and this weekend was all about fund-raising, having fun getting more art into the museum and I love bringing Rao's to Beverly Hills. If you try to get into Rao's in New York you can't, but if you try in Beverly Hills you can."

When asked to prioritze between his massive achievements, Tisch, whose Giants won the Super Bowl this year and who won an Oscar for producing Forrest Gump, said: "Super Bowl, table at Rao's and then Oscar!"