Will Ferrell, Ryan Seacrest Join for LACMA Collectors Committee 30th Anniversary Dinner

Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin-Ferrell LACMA - H 2016
Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for LACMA

Steve Tisch, Red Granite Pictures' Riza Aziz and other entertainment figures broke out their checkbooks for auction items including a private Lionel Richie concert and works by Eugene Delacroix, Claes Oldenburg and more.

With eight items up for acquisition Saturday at LACMA’s annual Collectors Committee dinner, there was one that struck an obvious chord with a number of industry players who would vote on which artworks to make part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“My favorite piece is the video collection. I’m a visual guy,” Will Ferrell told The Hollywood Reporter about a selection of 150 videos from the 1970s featuring artists like Nam June Paik, Mike Kelley and John Baldessari. At $350,000, it also was the favorite of Steve Tisch and Bryan Lourd of CAA. Needless to say, the collection quickly was acquired for the museum. “Any of us in the film business will get turned on by that. They’re fascinating,” said Ferrell.

A vintage movie poster collection, with titles including Casablanca, Stagecoach and A Clockwork Orange, also was a quick sell. So quick, in fact, that it sold before the event even began (all eight works were viewed and discussed during a breakfast, lunch and curator presentations earlier in the day). Owner Mike Kaplan and film producer Riza Aziz had already contributed several million on behalf of the museum, reducing the starting price to $1.1 million before the collection even came before the committee. Aziz, whose Red Granite Pictures is reportedly cooperating with a federal investigation into the financing around its film The Wolf of Wall Street, had promised LACMA CEO Michael Govan that he would lobby individual committee members for the final amount, but reportedly was stuck on a transatlantic flight and had to miss the event. To make good on his promise to Govan, Aziz decided to cover the balance himself. 

Also pre-sold was Underground, a series of 22 epic inkjet prints by Iranian artist Siamak Filizadeh. Made in 2014, the pieces draw on various old masters and pop references to recreate iconic scenes in the assassination of 17th century leader Nasir al-din Shah, whose reign symbolizes ineptitude. By noon. it was acquired for $170,000 by Kitzia and Richard Goodman on behalf of the museum.

That left a pair of 18th century Japanese screens priced at $1 million, Zen paintings with sanguine prospects as curator Robert T. Singer managed to secure $350,000 by lobbying committee members before it came up for consideration (Kyle MacLachlan showed keen interest). A Spanish colonial painting, Antonio de Torres’ The Elevation of the Cross, could be had for $225,000 (Julian Sands advocated for it) and a pair of pop art sculptures — Idelle Weber’s Jump Rope ($250,000) and Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser ($450,000) — also awaited consideration, as did Eugene Delacroix’s Still Life of Dahlias, Zinnias and Plums on a Table.

“For me, it’s very worthy of being shown in a museum. So my immediate reaction is we should consider that as a committee,” pop art collector and CAA agent Joel Lubin said, choosing Jump Rope over the Oldenburg. “Claes is pop art but I didn’t use the typewriter, so it’s not as familiar to me. So I like his other sculptures better cause they’re more recognizable to me.”

The Oldenburg is a soft sculpture from 1970, which, according to curator Stephanie Barron, is a prototype for a series that followed. It’s also a steal at $450,000 when you consider a slightly larger edition went just last year for $1 million. Plus, the Buddy Taub Foundation already had offered $50,000 toward acquiring it on behalf of the museum.

“It’s hard to choose,” said Ryan Seacrest, a first-time committee member and the evening’s emcee alongside committee chair Ann Colgin and auctioneer Vivica Paulin-Ferrell. “Now I know why I was voted onto the board — to host this event. We just rehearsed. I’ve got results to give later. I did this last Thursday night for the finale of Idol,” he joked.

The evening began with an acquisition budget of just over a million dollars, but an auction to get things started had members bidding on artwork and other items with proceeds adding to the budget. A Jonas Wood drawing was purchased by Ferrell for $35,000, and a private party in the museum’s Rain Room installation drew a three-way split with Tisch and two others each paying $25,000. The highest bid of the night was for a private concert with Lionel Richie, which fetched a whopping $265,000. When the smoke cleared, the museum’s acquisition budget had blossomed to nearly $1.7 million.

When you consider just one of the works, Delacroix’s Still Life, would eat up nearly the entire budget at $1.65 million, the committee would have to be pretty thrifty. Or would they?

In reality, from the start no one expected any of the lots to be bypassed. Over a steak dinner by chef Joachim Splichal and copious sips of Krug champagne, purse strings loosened, with bidders giddily kicking in a five- or six-digit balance to meet any asking price. By the end of the evening, a purse that began at just over $1 million had ballooned to a record-breaking $6.4 million.

“LACMA has been my friend since I first started coming to Los Angeles,” offered Sands, who has loaned numerous items from his decorative silver collection to the institution. “To have a museum with such a comprehensive collection, such a visionary director and such a positive and open intention for the future is very exciting, a very galvanizing powerhouse to have in the city.”