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One Could Say It Was a Picture-Perfect Evening


Jan De Bont, one of the hottest directors in town, was a happy camper. No, not because of his summer blockbuster, "Twister."

When Richard Koshalek, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, was introduced to him, he started to congratulate De Bont on the success of "Speed" and "Twister."

"Yeah," De Bont interrupted, "but I had a good night tonight here too."

Here was the museum's seventh biennial art auction and dinner, the institution's major fund-raising effort, this time reaping $750,000 for its coffers.

De Bont and his wife, Trish, part of the gathering of 903 who attended the event at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, took home three pieces to add to their photography collection, including a 1963 Diane Arbus image of a Hollywood movie set.

The fete's move to the Westside from downtown, MOCA's home, was credited with reinvigorating the event, even though many said they would have preferred being in the museum. "We haven't had this many people at an event like this in a decade," said Cliff Einstein, an advertising executive who served as executive chairman of the evening.

Darren Star, creator of "Beverly Hills 90210," "Melrose Place" and "CPW," was one of the newcomers who helped push up the final tally. "I wouldn't be so presumptuous to call myself a collector, but I'm on hiatus so I have time to look," said Star, who bought two photographs, one a William Wegman picture of a dog poised on a diving board.

Collector Eli Broad made the evening's top bid of $80,000 for a John Chamberlain sculpture--"the star of this evening's show," maintained auctioneer Christopher Burge, chairman of Christie's--to add to his combined personal and foundation holdings of 700 works of art.

"We don't have a Chamberlain," said Broad as he and his wife, Edythe, inspected the wall-size piece afterward. "I've been looking for one for a number of years, so I'm delighted."

Einstein, with Clyde Beswick, who otherwise toils in direct marketing, combed the country's dealers for donations of 300 pieces of art to go on the block. (Doug Cramer and Bob Gersh held the notable job descriptions of executive co-chairmen emeriti.) "It was like a job. It took half a year," said Einstein, adding. "I think this marks the return of L.A. I don't think you could have had this event two years ago."

Still, the logistics of transforming a rather dismal parking lot into an alluring party site was a challenge. The art was on view in the Bergamot galleries, while two huge tents were erected, one for the auction and one for a sit-down dinner served on Lazy Susans. Pulling it all together, collectively sighed gala committee co-chairwomen Rhona Bader and Ellen Fox, was tough. Bader said their husbands claimed they never bought so much fax paper in their lives. So much, she added, "I introduced Ellen one time as Ellen Fax."

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