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Marylouise Oates

Estate-of-the-Art Auction at Michael Jackson's Residence

April 08, 1988|Marylouise Oates

Singer Michael Jackson won't be there. His house will.

But guests at the $250-per-bidder art auction Sunday won't be allowed into the house, even though getting behind the intimidating iron gate and into the Encino home was admittedly used as a draw by organizers.

Set to benefit the South African Council of Churches, the auction at the Hayvenhurst Avenue estate hosted by Michael's parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson, will feature more than 100 pieces of art and "the world's second largest pearl, valued at $2 million."

But the large two-story house itself has now been declared off-limits to the 300-plus expected to attend the benefit, with the only possible exception stated at this time being the chance to write checks for purchased art in the dining room. Also, photographers and television crews have been barred from the event. Guests will be allowed to wander around the parklike setting that surrounds the two-story home, set behind high walls off busy Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.

There will be art--but those connected with coordinating the event said that "almost everything was on consignment," including the pearl, offered for sale by a private collector in New York. That would mean that the charity gets only a cut of what pictures (or the pearl) sell for. How much the event could net is very much up in the air. Also keeping it suspended is the question of whether the attendees, including some well-known names from the Los Angeles's Leftside, are also art lovers.

The event has been mostly a one-woman show, with an honorary committee and an executive committee, but mostly the energy of San Francisco's Lia Belli, Democratic party activist, advocate of civil rights in South Africa and "president of the Adelphia Society (sponsor of the event) and Creator/Producer of the Art Auction," according to the invitations.

Contradicting organizers, Belli said that "several hundred thousand dollars" worth of art had been donated outright. She also said Thursday that she had lined up $361,000 in underwriting and also "tens of thousands of dollars in loans"--money now apparently necessary since the expenses on the event have jumped. The afternoon features a preview cocktail party and the auction, to be held in a tent, but the expenses are now at least $150,000. The high costs, according to Events Unlimited, the recognized top-flight special events firm hired to coordinate the afternoon, came because of extensive shipping charges (some of the art came from New York) plus insurance for the art.

Asked if many well-known art lovers were among the RSVPs, some connected with the auction singled out "Doug Cramer's curator," Cramer being the well-known contemporary art collector and television producer.

Cramer seemed shocked when this was brought to his attention. "I had one phone call from that woman two months ago asking how I felt about having an auction of this kind in California and I told her that it was coming immediately after the Museum of Contemporary Art auction and was not a good idea," Cramer said. Her response, according to Cramer, was that with the Michael Jackson name, house and support, it really wouldn't make any difference and success was guaranteed. "I don't go to events on Sunday afternoon," the dapper producer finished up.

'Create a Feeding Frenzy'

The auction of the pearl will "create a feeding frenzy" for the rest of the auction, Belli said. The auction also includes a $95,000 Degas, she added. Among those present will be 15 Japanese who are art collectors and very interested in the pearl, Belli said.

The art has been ballyhooed as worth a total of millions of dollars. Does that mean that the auction could bring in millions? "I'm not using that word," Belli said. "I truly feel that on an art auction, if they don't go for a certain price they are pulled." But, she said, "we will have to make more than half a million."

One last note. The invitation to the event specifically pointed out that the address of the Jackson home would only be revealed when the check for a ticket was sent in. One problem--the card carrying the information required for charitable events by the Department of Social Services carefully gives the full address.

That's the way it goes.

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