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$1-million new year's gift to the Hammer

TV executive and his wife donate more than 40 contemporary pieces, most of them sculptures and mixed-media works.

January 05, 2007|Diane Haithman | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles television executive and media investor Dean Valentine and his wife, Amy Adelson, have donated to the UCLA Hammer Museum more than 40 contemporary artworks, most of them sculptures and mixed-media works, valued at more than $1 million.

Ann Philbin, director of the museum, said Thursday that the gift represents the Hammer's first significant holdings of contemporary sculpture. The museum's contemporary collection has been led by works on paper.

"What's wonderful about it is that, almost instantly, we have a collection representing sculpture in Los Angeles, and that is a fantastic opportunity," Philbin said of the gift.

The Valentine donation includes 42 works by 24 artists. Some are established figures with international reputations; they include Sam Durant, Rikrit Tiravanija and Jason Rhoades, who died of coronary disease and accidental drug intoxication in Los Angeles last year.

A number of the artists -- Xavier Cha, Liz Craft, Hannah Greely, Katie Grinnan, Evan Holloway, Matt Johnson, Nathan Mabry, Jason Meadows, Pentti Monkkonen, Paul Sietsema and Eric Wesley -- received fine arts degrees from UCLA and are considered emerging figures in contemporary art.

"I would say it's a very balanced collection" between established and emerging artists, said Gary Garrels, chief curator and deputy director of exhibitions and public programs for the Hammer. "All the artists are generally represented by key, seminal early works."

Among the highlights of the gift are Durant's "Upside-down and backwards, completely unburied" (1999); Greely's "Weaver" (2000); Grinnan's "Wizard" (2004); Mabry's "A Touching Moment (Tooting My Own Horn)" 2005; Meadows' "Partially Rendered Antagonist" (2001) and Rhoades' "Silver Set Shutter Model" (2000).

Valentine, a longtime collector, joined the Hammer Museum's board of overseers late last year. He served as a board member of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art for more than 10 years and stepped down in October.

"I think it's fair to say that, while MOCA is a wonderful institute, the Hammer is better suited in terms of my interests," Valentine said, citing the Hammer's strong focus on emerging artists.

Valentine said he has concentrated on collecting sculpture partly because he believes that in contemporary art "it is really where the most important work is being made." And, he added, sculpture "is hard to collect, unwieldy. I began collecting where other people were not."

Valentine is also a longtime friend of Philbin's. "I knew him when I was at the Drawing Center," Philbin said, referring to the New York institution where she served as director from 1990 to 1999. "He was an avid tracker of young, emerging artists and one of the first California collectors I ever met."

Garrels said that objects from the Valentine gift will not play a major role in the museum's upcoming exhibitions "Hammer Contemporary Collection Part I" (Jan. 16 through April 15) and "Part II" (April 21 through Aug. 5), which he described as an overview of gifts to the museum over the past few years.

The first show is primarily works on paper, and although Garrels said he is "hoping I can squeeze one or two" objects from the Valentine gift into the second show, the sheer scale and number of works goes beyond what is planned.

The shows will, however, include many works from other recent gifts.

Over the past two years, the Hammer has received donations of drawings from Valentine and Adelson; more than 80 works from Patrick Painter and Soo Jin Jeong-Painter, and 60 drawings from board member Werner Kramarsky and his wife Sarah-Ann, among other gifts.

Although no specific plans have been made for exhibiting the newest Valentine donation, Garrels said it might widen the scope of the museum's purchases in coming years.

"I make a distinction between gifts and purchases, and we have a much wider program for soliciting gifts, but our purchases have been predominantly works on paper," Garrels said.

"Certainly this gift of sculpture will lead us to consider sculpture in the future as potential purchases."

diane.haithman@latimes.com

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