Art Brief: All in the Family

September 5, 2017
by Stephen J. Goldberg Esq.

In the past two years two art museums endowed by Los Angeles billionaires have opened. Eli Broad opened The Broad museum in 2015 and the owners of Guess Jeans, the Marciano Brothers, opened the Marciano Art Foundation in May of this year. While this is a huge boost to the contemporary art profile of Los Angeles, museumgoers should be aware that there’s more to this than the altruistic instincts of the Broads and the Marcianos. These institutions were set up as nonprofit artistic foundations which were designed to shelter their founders from estate, capital gains, and sales taxes on the art, stocks and bonds they donate to or acquire for their foundations. That said, there is little doubt that these two new institutions serve an artistic and educational purpose for the public good and are worthy endeavors.

Jim Shaw installation at Marciano.

A recent visit to the Marciano museum in Hancock Park was quite a treat—crowds were sparse (advance reservations are required) and the art, focused on works created in the past 20 years, was nicely displayed in the wonderful 1960s Millard Sheets-designed former Masonic Temple on Wilshire. The Marcianos left much of the bones of the building untouched, including the terrific first-floor-atrium lobby. The massive auditorium has been stripped down and given over to LA artist Jim Shaw who did wonders with the Masonic wigs and stage backdrops left behind.

The Marciano collection displays no more than 100 out of the 1,500 works of art estimated to be in the collection. Likewise The Broad museum, differing from the Marciano in displaying contemporary art dating back as far as the 1950s, also shows only a fraction of its collection. In fact you can get a glimpse of the storage facility in the bowels of The Broad when you climb up or down the staircase. There is nothing in the tax regulations indicating if all works of art, or any, ever have to be exhibited. Hopefully, foundation museums will not become tax-sheltered storage facilities for art collectors.

Exterior of BCAM at LACMA.

Eli Broad donated $56 million for a new building at LACMA bearing his name (known as BCAM) that opened in 2008 and expected at the time to house most of his 2,000-plus-piece collection. A considerable number of pieces from his collection were shown there until his museum opened in downtown Los Angeles. Broad said at the time that he was concerned that LACMA would display only 10 percent of his collection and the rest would be put in storage. Hopefully, the public will eventually get to see more of Broad’s collection at his downtown museum (A recent show, “Oracle,” is a promising start).

Concerns have been voiced about the proliferation of family foundations running small “museums” on their own estates. The New York Times Magazine raised eyebrows in a 2015 article focused on Peter M. Brant, the socialite newsprint mogul and publisher of Art in America, who opened an art museum (substantially smaller than some new LA galleries such as Hauser & Wirth) in an historic refurbished stone barn on his Greenwich, Connecticut estate. There were no identifying signs to indicate that an art museum existed on the property.The Brants can literally eat dinner at home, and then walk a few steps and have dessert in their art barn while enjoying a tax exemption for any art donated to their semi-private museum! It’s questionable whether the tax benefits enjoyed by the Brants are worth the art enlightenment bestowed on the small group of patrons who might visit this museum. However, the Brant Museum has recently expanded its profile with a substantial website and runs a lecture series with big-name guests from the art world.

There may now be more than 40 family art foundation museums operating in the U.S. While those operating on the scale of The Broad provide a public benefit, there are real questions about some of the smaller more private “museums.” Current federal tax regulations allow art foundations to be established without opening them to the public, as long as they are pursuing charitable purposes such as loaning art, making grants and making their archives and works available for research. This works well for fine artists, hundreds of whom have set up charitable foundations for the art they own, but should this regulation also apply to family art collections? If art collectors set up an art foundation, it seems only fair that it should be open to public view to justify their tax breaks.

The biggest problem of all may be that, if the proliferation of tax-exempt family art foundation museums continues, they may deprive public art institutions such as LACMA and MOCA from receiving art donations they would otherwise have received, and instead, ironically, force these public museums to compete with these family foundations to expand their holdings and maintain the broader public’s exposure to important art.

Read full article at artillerymag.com

The Naked City Sexual Politics, West Hollywood Style

by Stephen J. Goldberg Esq. ·

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The City of West Hollywood is well known as one of the most liberal cities in America, so it’s more than a little ironic that the city officials have been accused of censoring the artistic work of photographer Brooke Mason who curated shows of women’s artwork at three venues in that city in conjunction with Women’s History Month this March. The controversy reveals a double standard by the city when it comes to the display of male and female nudity.

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Why Art? DIEM Panel

DIEM: Talks Design symposium on November 13, 2015, curated by Mallery Roberts Morgan with KCRW’s Frances Anderton.
New York, Paris, London, LA, Berlin, Hong Kong… in major capitals the big story is art. Why? Is it pure commerce, a new form of spirituality or a branch of interior design? And how much of today’s “art” is any good? How much can the market bear? Panelists will ruminate on what art means to society today.

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Sacked and Pillaged; Simchowitz vs. Mahama

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Ibrahim Mahama’s massive jute-sack installation for the 2015 Venice Biennale.

by Stephen J. Goldberg Esq. ·
February 23, 2016

Stefan Simchowitz is a controversial figure in the art world. He doesn’t own an art gallery yet maintains a large network of art collectors. He eloquently expounds upon art theory but is not associated with an art institution. He provides advice and monetary support to numerous artists whom he claims to have discovered but isn’t a conventional art patron. He doesn’t like to be called an art dealer, but that is basically how he operates. The New York Times Magazine did a profile of Simchowitz early last year, in which they named him the “Patron Satan” of the art world. Simchowitz, who infamously appeared clad only in briefs in a photo accompanying the Times piece, told me that the article is “a work of fiction” typical of the Times’ “bias” against the Los Angeles art scene.

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Keeping it Real

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ART BRIEF: KEEPING IT REAL

January 5, 2016 · in Columns, January_2016

Last year I was invited to view a controversial painting that the owner claimed to be a genuine Rothko he bought at a small LA auction many years ago. The painting was not officially included in the Rothko catalogue raisonné despite the fact that the owner discovered photos in the Rothko archive which seemed to prove its authenticity as an early work; his attempts to persuade the catalog’s author, David Anfam, were in vain. Rothko is a favorite artist and I’ve seen many of his works over the years at art museums and Rothko retrospectives, but it was difficult for me be sure that this painting was authentic. To my eyes it looked like a Rothko, but without inclusion in the Rothko catalog, it was not authenticated. Perhaps in the past it would have been possible to find an appraiser who would go out on limb, but today’s art world makes it more difficult to take a chance.

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All That Glitters is Not Gold

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Danh Vo, Untitled, Coca-Cola, 2011. Sotheby’s New York.

ART BRIEF: All That Glitters is Not Gold

November 8, 2015 · in Columns, November_2015

In April I received a catalog for Sotheby’s May 2015 contemporary art auction with a cover image of a cardboard Coca-Cola crate embossed in gold leaf, an artwork created by Danish artist Danh Vo. This untitled 2011 work sold at that auction on May 13 for $466,000. I was puzzled by the hype for Vo since I thought this territory was covered in the ’60s by Andy Warhol and his Brillo boxes. I was further stunned when I discovered that a similar though larger work, Alphabet L, essentially a carton flattened into an “L” shape, also from 2011, sold at Sotheby’s May 15 evening auction for $700,000. The seller who admitted reaping a huge profit on Alphabet L was Bert Kreuk, a wealthy Dutch art collector.

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Is California’s Resale Royalty Act Doomed?

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait II, 2011, oil on canvas

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait II, 2011, oil on canvas

ART BRIEF: Is California’s Resale Royalty Act Doomed?

September 8, 2015 · in Columns, September 2015

In May of this year, headlines trumpeted that the contemporary art auctions in New York hit a new record of over $1.2 billion in sales for the major auction houses. There’s no doubt that a fair number of sellers of these marquee art works were California residents. And that means that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions in those proceeds, were due to the artists under a little-known (and now challenged) California law. Even though these sales by California sellers were made in New York, the artists would have been entitled to a 5% royalty on the sales price under the California Resale Royalty Act (CRRA).

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My Afternoon with Ed

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ART BRIEF: My Afternoon with Ed

June 30, 2015 · in Columns, July 2015

I’ve come to know Ed Moses as a result of a friendship with his son, artist Andy Moses. In the last few years Ed became my client and a friend who, at the age of 89, continues to work early each morning on his art. It’s been inspiring to witness an artist who continues to create fresh and innovative artwork after seven decades. Ed is one of the original group of Venice artists known as the “Cool School,” who were essential to the creation of contemporary art in Los Angeles as it exploded onto the world stage in the ’60s and ’70s. He experimented with a vast array of techniques and media, but he remains above all perhaps the most influential Abstract Expressionist of postwar Los Angeles. This interview took place in March at Ed’s Venice studio in conjunction with a retrospective of his drawings currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and solo exhibition at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica.

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Clash of the Titans

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Cy Twombly, Leaving Paphos Ringed with Waves, 2014.

ART BRIEF: Clash of the Titans

May 5, 2015 · in Columns, May 2015

The Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills had its annual Oscar week art opening in February with an after-party for its top Los Angeles patrons at nearby Mr. Chow’s. The show this year was a selection of eye-popping oil paintings by John Currin depicting Rubensesque young women in various states of undress—mostly in lace negligees. Among the well-dressed crowd, I noticed such celebrities as Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mick Jagger. Standing prominently near the front door was dapper proprietor Larry Gagosian, in his perpetual tan and bespoke suit, displaying one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. One can only wonder if Gagosian’s grin was due to his December, 2014, court victory over mega-billionaire art collector and Revlon chairman, Ron Perelman, (whose art collection has an estimated value of $1 billion) who had sued him for fraud in a New York court.

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The Disappearing Red Dot

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ART BRIEF: THE DISAPPEARING RED DOT

by Stephen J. Goldberg
March 3, 2015 in Columns, March 2015

Art Basel Miami was such a social swirl (what did that Miley Cyrus concert at the Raleigh Hotel have to do with art?), that it’s hard to remember the actual works of art that were on display. Collectors jostled to be seen at the first Art Basel viewing at 11 a.m. You dare not show your face at the next opening at 3 p.m. for fear of being regarded as a second-rate collector.
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