Tuesday, August 24, 2010

L.A. STAYCATION - Pt. 2 - WEISMAN MUSEUM - a cultural jewel


A Cultural Jewel In Beverly Hills

Imagine waking up and looking at a portrait of yourself painted by Andy Warhol… or walking to the bathroom past a Cezanne, a Picasso or Rothko… or using the bathroom while staring at a Hockney! This was the life led by Frederick Weisman and his legacy proved to be our latest adventure in LaLaLand.

After a staycation day of pastrami, corned beef and matzo ball soup at Canter’s, the oldest Jewish Deli in Los Angeles and meandering through the elaborate, high-end outdoor mall, The Grove, and L.A.’s historic Farmer’s Market filled w/ food stalls, food stands, meat markets, gourmet and spice shops and produce, produce everywhere – Bob, Nguyen, Richard and I thought it was time to brush off L.A. commerce for some L.A. culture.

No… “Los Angeles culture” is not an oxymoron.  Besides the two magnificent Getty Museums, LACMA (the wonderful Los Angeles County Museum of Art), etc., etc. – there are cultural treasures hidden everywhere in this city… one jewel is the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation museum nestled in a Spanish villa in Beverly Hills.

A little background:

Frederick Weisman, a businessman and philanthropist, began his climb to wealth and art collecting as President of Hunts Foods. He founded a savings and loan, bought a racetrack, developed drugstore goods and established the first Toyota dealership in America. Talk about your diversification. His first wife was the sister of billionaire Norton Simon (who established his own museum in Pasadena, CA.) and, like her brother, the two became serious art collectors. When Frederick and his lst wife divorced they split the collection, but Frederick continued his patronage of artists. Over the years he donated artwork to museums around the country and established the Weisman Museum in his Carolwood Drive home in Beverly Hills. His second wife, Billie Milam Weisman has been running the Foundation and museum since his death in 1984.

To view the home and its collection costs nothing but a reservation and a promise to adhere to the ‘rules’. Our reservation was for 10:30am. The first rule is you cannot park on the street. It is Beverly Hills, after all, and unless you live there or are a gardener, the residents don’t like a lot of ‘miscellaneous’ cars parked on their streets. We arrived at the ‘villa’s’ gates promptly, pressed the intercom and was let onto the Weisman property where we parked our car on the semi-circular driveway in front of the house.

The second rule: leave all purses in your car. Nguyen and I complied.
As we stepped out of the car, the first things we saw were huge statues on the front lawn, one by the incomparable Henry Moore.

Facing the villa’s front door is a bronze sculpture (seemly escorted by two whimsical sheep) by artist Robert Graham who had been married to Angelica Huston since 1992. He died in 2008.

Before we entered the house, our docent pointed out a “not very flattering” sculpture of Picasso done by a woman artist. A spurned lover, perhaps? 

Sadly, I didn’t have my reporter’s notebook (in my purse, locked in my car), so I was unable to write down her name and find out more about her.

The third and fourth rule: No touching the art and, sadly, no pictures were allowed to be taken inside the house.

As we entered the house, the first thing that struck me was the dichotomy between the artwork and the home’s furnishings. The art was modern – the furnishing were not. In fact, the house looked like it was decorated by Mario Buatta, known in the design world as the “chintz king.” Overstuffed floral furniture and antiques sat proudly w/ Picassos and Noguchis and Rauschenbergs and Keith Harings.

Our docent explained that Weisman bought the house fully furnished. He wanted to keep all the plump, cheerful furniture so that he and his guests could lounge about comfortably while admiring the art. The furniture did look comfortable and did seem to cheer up some of the more ‘dark’ and ‘angry’ paintings.

There are more than 400 works displayed inside and outside of the house, as well as in a large modern barn-like structure built next door to the villa that contains a large collection of Warhols, painted motorcycles (and I mean real, actual Harley-type motorcycles) by Keith Haring, among other artworks.

A collection of large Warhol flowers w/ “diamond dust” framed a huge window in the cavernous room. Our docent explained to us how Andy had ground up coke bottles and glued them onto his paintings. When people mistook the glitter for diamond shavings, he neglected to correct them.

In Weisman’s collection you will find European modernists, including Cezanne, Picasso and Kandinsky and surrealists including Miro and Magritte. Among Weisman’s post war artists are Giacometti, Noguchi, Calder, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Abstract impressionists include deKooning, Francis, Still and Rothko and pop artists such as Lichtenstein, some very fun Oldenburg pieces (my favorite is one of a baked potato), Rosenquist and Andy Warhol, including many portraits of Weisman and his second wife, Milan. There are even some super surrealist sculptures by Hanson and de Andrea. To say that this is a stupendous collection is an understatement. Some of the greatest pieces of art from the 20th Century are on display here… not to mention that just one single piece of art from that house could easily finance my old age and pay off my mortgage.

Once the tour in the house was over, we entered the ‘backyard’ and gardens on the way to the ‘barn’ and were told we could now take pictures. I snapped away, but again, w/o my reporter’s notebook, have no memory of who all the artists are, but do remember rubbing elbows w/ a Brancusi and a couple of Segals … I’ll let the art speak for itself.

(sitting in the background is a white-washed bronze by Segal)

(this is not the gardener, but a sculpture "made to size" of a gardener)

Leaving the gardens we explored the 'barn' then found ourselves in yet another yard filled w/ more art.

(the white-washed bronze of a person sitting in a rocker is another Segal)

The tour over, we left thru the garage where we got to see a few cars that Weisman collected, including a vintage blue Rolls Royce…

before we got into our own car (not a Rolls). The gates opened and we drove away leaving the wonderful world of Weisman art behind. We had fed our souls, now it was time to feed out stomachs and dream of finding another cultural jewel tomorrow.

Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation
265 N. Carolwood Drive
Los Angeles, California  90077
(310) 27705075


Stu said...

You convinced me...I’m going to the Weisman.! What a group of classic works! There’s a Frederic Weisman Gallery at Pepperdine which put on a show of Claes Oldenburg’s drawings 4 years ago or so and we went to it since Sarah was involved in setting up the show. – But the Weisman house! That’s a different story. Eli Broad, eat your heart out!

Christine Kruttschnitt said...

The bronze sculpture of Picasso was done by Marisol Escobar, a French born American artist whose family was from Venezuela. She died last year, 2016, in New York. She was an original, strong artist, who, like so many women, was just not very good at her own PR. One should not belittle her by calling her just a "sporned lover", nameless even: Her artistic comment about Picasso – and his oh-so-busy hands – was fresh and feisty, yet affectionate, she reportedly admired Picasso, the artist, a lot (maybe not so much the man and womanizer). --- I think Mr Weisman loved Marisol's art for exactly that kind of humorous touch.