Super-collectors

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The New York Times on Sunday surveys the world of L.A.'s super-collectors of art, wealthy buyers "who are, not altogether quietly, reconfiguring the social face of Los Angeles." Those named include Eugenio Lopez, the scion of a Mexican juice-bottling fortune who has filled his Trousdale home with modern art; Bill and Maria Bell, a young couple with a family fortune founded on a soap opera empire, whose collection is kept in their Wallace Neff in Bel Air; and Beth Swofford, the CAA agent for Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lucy Liu and Sam Mendes.

Few things have a more cleansing effect on wealth than art does, and Los Angeles, with its current surfeit of billionaires, seems better positioned than it has in a long time to steal some of the art-world thunder from cities like London and New York...

It is a town whose artists have definitively shed the taint of regionalism to become stars on the international scene. No contemporary art collection could be thought complete without Los Angeles artists like Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley or Nancy Rubins. And, after years of neglecting Ed Ruscha, the most emblematic of Los Angeles artists, collectors are now lining up to buy his works.

But perhaps as important to the city's current status is the emergence here of a cadre of super collectors, people like Mr. Lopez with pockets deep enough to match their aesthetic appetites. There are currently dozens of such collectors in Los Angeles, people whose preferred mode of transportation is likely to be a private Gulfstream V; whose department-store-sized houses require small armies to staff; whose acquisitive urges are consecrated to the consumption of art.

"Los Angeles isn't the way it was in the past, where people were totally focused on tennis courts and cars," said Jane Nathanson, a collector who was the chairwoman of a $1,000-a-ticket gala on Saturday night to commemorate the 25th anniversary of MOCA. It was one of those unusual events where the diverse vectors of the city's power population were expected to intersect, the producer Brian Glazer rubbing shoulders with the billionaire developer Eli Broad, and the artist Takashi Murakami seated cheek by jowl with Peter Morton or ChloŽ Sevigny.

Adds Nathanson: "The life and soul of this city now is art. People get really manic about it now." The piece is by Guy Trebay.


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