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ART

Corralling the collectors

L.A.'s galleries are filled with masterworks. Then there are the great ones that got away.

November 27, 2005|Suzanne Muchnic | Times Staff Writer

Stuart and Judy Spence collection of 110 California contemporary works, donated in 1999

Peter and Eileen Norton collection of 124 works by young California artists, donated in 2000

Peter Krasnow estate donation of 517 paintings and sculptures by the artist, in 2000

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The lost art

Private art collections that ultimately went to distant institutions or individuals instead of being donated to Southern California museums:

Walter C. Arensberg's collection of 20th century and pre-Columbian art was offered to UCLA in 1944, on the condition that a building be provided for it within five years, but was withdrawn when that condition wasn't fulfilled. Arensberg gave the collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1951.

Edward G. Robinson's collection of Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings was loaned to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1956 but sold to Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos for $3.5 million in 1957 as part of a divorce settlement.

Joseph H. Hirshhorn's collection of modern and contemporary art was tentatively offered to the city of Beverly Hills in 1964, with a proposal that it be lodged at Greystone Mansion. In 1966, after exploring many possibilities, Hirshhorn gave his collection to the Smithsonian Institution, which built the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Trustees of Hal B. Wallis' foundation placed his collection of Impressionist paintings at LACMA in 1987, the year after the death of the film producer, who had been a trustee of the museum for 20 years. The arrangement was said to be a "permanent loan," but the collection was sold at auction for $39.6 million in 1989. The museum filed suit and reached an out-of-court settlement, receiving an undisclosed sum to purchase 19th century French art.

The collection of Impressionist and modern paintings built in L.A. by film producer William Goetz and his wife, Edith Mayer Goetz, was sold at auction for $85 million in 1988.

L.A. real estate developer Edwin Janss' collection of contemporary art was sold at auction for $16 million in 1989.

Film director and writer Billy Wilder's L.A.-based collection of modern and contemporary art was sold at auction for $32.6 million in 1989.

The Harry A. Franklin family's L.A.-based collection of African art was sold at auction for $7.1 million in 1990.

Actor Kirk Douglas' L.A.-based collection of Impressionist and modern art was sold at auction for $5.9 million in 1990.

Walter Annenberg's collection of Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings was displayed at his winter home in Rancho Mirage and exhibited at LACMA in a 1990 national traveling show, raising hopes that it might come there permanently. But Annenberg, whose primary residence was in Philadelphia and who had served as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, gave the collection to the Met in 1991.

Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert's collection of silver and mosaics was promised to LACMA but withdrawn when the museum refused Arthur Gilbert's escalating demands for exhibition space. He gave the collection to Britain's Department of National Heritage in 1996, for display at Somerset House in London.

Nathan and Marion Smooke's collection of modern art was exhibited at LACMA and published in a museum-funded catalog in 1987. Nathan Smooke, who died in 1991, was a longtime LACMA trustee, and his son, Michael, succeeded him on the board. But the collection was sold at auction for $86 million in 2001.

Walt Disney Corp.'s collection of African art, founded by real estate developer Paul Tishman, was given to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., in 2005.

L.A. real estate developer Edward R. Broida's collection of contemporary art was given to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2005.

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