I lived in Los Angeles for two years and had plenty to chew on, artwise, with its sprawling, ever-expanding art universe. There were world-class museums, artist studios to visit, tons of galleries with provocative programming.
All the while I was totally unaware that a little oasis packed with some of the 20th century’s most seminal works was situated just a few miles up the hills from my front door.
The Frederick R. Weisman Foundation doesn’t advertise, and is therefore something of an open secret. Weisman was a business magnate and a discerning collector of modern art. He and his first wife Marcia Simon Weisman assembled their collection over the course of several decades (and then split it when they divorced). His hacienda-style mansion in Beverly Hills is filled with some of the very best examples I’ve seen in a (formerly) domestic setting: Rothko, Pollock, Frankenthaler, Dubuffet, Still, Wesselman, Miro, Kline, Lichtenstein, Giacometti, and more. I mean, there are Ed Ruscha and Ken Noland works hung on the ceiling. Apparently, Weisman would enthusiastically rearrange the collection throughout his life, but the way the artworks are displayed now is as they were situated when he died.
With little knowledge of what lay within, over a short trip to LA in August, I called ahead and made an appointment (a must; each of the twice-daily docent-led tours are limited to a small number of visitors).
Even from the outside, where monumental sculpture by Henry Moore and Fernando Botero greet visitors, I was overwhelmed with the collection’s blue-chip, yet idiosynchratic, holdings. A Blue Period portrait of mother and child by Picasso hangs over the living room fireplace, directly beside Willem de Kooning‘s canonical canvas Pink Angels; while upstairs, a life-size sex doll table by Allen Jones holds court in the sitting room.
The collection is a breathtaking testament to the brave and truly engaged tastes of its architect.
An image from the gallery space adjacent to the home includes a monumental Morris Louis canvas, Andy Warhol’s portrait of Weisman and Flowers, a Donald Judd stack sculpture, James Rosenquist painting, and motorcycle personalized by Keith Haring.
Photographs are forbidden, which in truth was all the better, as it facilitated a totally engaged visit, no cellphone camera to intercept the experience.
The Foundation is currently run by Weisman’s second wife and widow, Billie Milam Weisman. More info can be found here. On your next visit to LA, prepare to be amazed.