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Betty Asher; Collector of Contemporary Art

May 14, 1994|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | TIMES ART WRITER

Betty Asher, a contemporary art collector and dealer who was a major force on Los Angeles' art scene for 30 years, died Wednesday at the age of 80 at her home in Beverly Hills.

She had suffered for several years from myelofibrosis, a blood disorder that causes fibrous tissue to replace the bone marrow.

An aficionado of Pop Art and a longtime affiliate of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ms. Asher was best known for amassing a huge collection of unorthodox cups created by artists. More sculptures than functional vessels, the cups epitomize the artists' styles while reflecting the collector's personality. A major portion of the collection is among the permanent holdings of the county museum.

"Betty Asher was a passionate collector with an unerring eye, always open to new art," said Stephanie Barron, head of curatorial affairs at the museum. "Her devotion to emerging artists was legendary and her collection of cups by artists was internationally renowned. Betty is the only person in the art world about whom I've never heard a negative comment."

Ms. Asher joined the museum's staff in 1966 as a curatorial assistant in the department of 20th-Century art and later helped to found the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, a private fund-raising group.

She resigned from the museum in 1979 to join art dealer Patricia Faure in launching the Asher/Faure Gallery. The West Hollywood showcase opened with an exhibition of paintings by New York artist Morris Louis and later presented works by such prominent artists as Joel Shapiro, Kenneth Noland, Sam Francis, Gwynn Murrill and Michael McMillen.

The daughter of pharmacist Edward Michael and his wife, Rayna DeCosta, Ms. Asher was born May 6, 1914, in Chicago and became a registered nurse at Michael Reese Hospital. She and her former husband, Dr. Leonard Asher, moved to Los Angeles during World War II. They had two children, Michael Asher, a conceptual artist, and the late Rayna Asher Allen.

In addition to her son, Ms. Asher is survived by four granddaughters.

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